Just what the doctor ordered.
Pitt did what it needed to in order to show fans it was still capable of winning the Big East, winning big at Syracuse 45-14. All week the talk had been about defense, but the Panther offense couldn't be slowed down.
It all started with Tino Sunseri's short hookup with Devin Streetwhich turned into a 79-yard touchdown on the team's first play from scrimmage. Even though Syracuse went down the field on the next drive, after Pitt took the lead again, it never looked back. Sunseri had a good day and seems to get better and better. Today he had somewhat of a career day completing 70.8% of his passes and had four touchdowns- both career bests. He threw for 266 yards and his passer rating of 218.9 was by far a career best as well. Any remaining talk of removing Tino as the starter should clearly be out the window by now. As I said after the Utah game, not only do I think he's their best option, but I believe he'll end up being a pretty good quarterback for Pitt.
Pitt's defense really prevented Syracuse from doing much of anything offensively. QB Ryan Nassib struggled completing about 50% of his passes and throwing two interceptions. He'd only thrown two all season and other than the quick slant, the secondary did a decent job. Running the ball is where Syracuse really struggled, though. The two-headed rushing attack of Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey, who averaged about 150 yards a game, had only 63. Neither could get anything going and both combined for only a little more than 3 yards per carry.
If you're looking for a story of the game, it was probably turnovers. Add in two fumbles to Nassib's two interceptions and Syracuse had four on the day. Conversely, Pitt not only didn't turn the ball over. Pitt also got off the field on third downs, as Syracuse only converted 5-13 on the day forcing Syracuse to punt the ball away.
And about that problem Pitt had last week scoring touchdowns in the red zone? The team had four red zone trips today, scoring three touchdowns and kicking a field goal.
All week, we heard about how Syracuse was 4-1 and how Pitt was 2-3. But today showed exactly why you obviously can't look only at records. Pitt had a challenging schedule and while it lost all of its games against good teams, played competitively in two of them. Entering the game, Syracuse's win at South Florida was better than either of Pitt's two wins, but the Orange were bushwhacked at Washington in maybe it's toughest game of the season. A lot of times, I don't follow the other Big East teams too much after Pitt has played them, but I'll be curious to see how Syracuse responds as it has two tough road games coming up against West Virginia and Cincinnati.
This isn't to say Syracuse can't be a good team, it's merely to point out that Pitt had faced much tougher opponents. If these two teams played opposite schedules, I would expect the records would be opposite as well.
Pitt did exactly what it needed to do today and took a good first step in competing for the conference championship.