The Pittsburgh Panthers finally were able to get back into the win column with a win over the Syracuse Orange. It may not have been pretty but the only Pitt cares about is the Panthers got the W and improved to 5-4 on the season.
Let’s take a look at four takeaways from this game.
Without Israel Abanikanda, the running game still shined
The Pittsburgh Panthers had been carried all season long by the stellar play of running back Israel Abanikanda. In fact, the last 10 Panthers touchdowns coming into this game were all scored by the Maxwell award semi-finalist. It was enough to make some forget that Rodney Hammond was the starting running back coming into the season. This game was a reminder of why that was. Hammond finished the game with 124 yards and a touchdown on 28 attempts. Norte Dame transfer C’Bo Femister added another 42 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts and the Panthers controlled the game on the ground. The Panthers wanted to utilize their big offensive line and push Syracuse around and they did just that.
The defensive front seven controlled the game
The Panthers won the battle of the trenches on both sides of the ball. The Pitt defensive front harassed Carlos Del Rio-Wilson all game long in tune to a meager 28.4 QBR for the Orange quarterback. The Panthers were able to rack up 6 sacks, including the game-sealing safety by Deslin Alexander, and 9 tackles for loss to make life a nightmare for the Orange. Speaking of Alexandre, the Senior had his best game of the season. Alexandre had 2.5 sacks and seven total tackles on the day. Sean Tucker was the clear focus on offense and Pitt rallied. Tucker was held to just 24 yards on the day on 10 carries as Pitt rallied to the football.
Turnovers continue to be a problem
Thankfully the defense played about as good a game as can be played. The Panthers again lost the turnover battle, with both being pretty horrendous interceptions. The first was right during the first drive in the Syracuse red zone. Kedon Slovis apparently was trying to throw it away but threw another bad pass instead of just taking the sack and killing the Panthers’ drive in scoring position. The second was on an oddly designed trick play that had Jared Wayne throw across the field for an easy interception in zone coverage. The defense played well enough that these turnovers didn’t cost the Panthers the game as they had in previous weeks. Still, if the Panthers want to build on this game and string some wins together, they can not continue to keep losing the turnover battle.
Jared Wayne looks to be the deep threat the team sorely needs
It seemed like a lost season for the passing attack, Jared Wayne put together another good performance. The senior wide receiver followed up his seven-catch 161-yard performance last week with a six-catch 102-yard performance this week, Wayne had a 24-yard reception on the first touchdown drive and a 23-yard catch on the second touchdown drive and four of Wayne’s six catches went for 20 yards or longer. For an offense that has desperately needed a pass-catcher to step up, Wayne is starting to provide some hope.