Welcome to the Pitt Panthers at Syracuse Orange Preview! This is your one-stop shop for everything you need to know about Pitt and their upcoming opponent! Mike Drakulich of Pittsburgh SportsNation brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a detailed breakdown of each team, game outlook, score prediction, individual stats, team stats, and even the weather at kickoff. The only thing you’re missing is a ticket into the stadium!
A look at the Pitt Panthers!
Overall Record: 2-3 | ACC Record: 1-1 | Rank: N/A
Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi (3rd Season with Pitt)
Lifetime Record: 18-13 (.580)
Last Week: Pitt 42 Rice 10
Breakdown of the Panthers
Quarterback- Senior graduate transfer Max Browne has a good arm and displays a nice touch on deep throws, but he is as mobile as a statue. He tends to lock onto his first read and abandon the rest of his reads. Browne finally broke out against Rice, amassing over 400 yards passing with only two incompletions, both of which were drops. Ben DiNucci is probably a better all-around QB than Browne. DiNucci has much better speed and can gain yards on the ground if he sees no throwing lanes open.
Running Backs- Pitt plenty of guys who can tote the rock. Qadree Ollison is the starter for now. He is more of a bruiser, as is Darrin Hall. Chawtez Moss has worked his way into the mix with his quickness. AJ Davis played in the opener, and sparingly since. Fullback George Aston is back from injury and hoping to start making a difference again in the offense. Colton Lively will back up Aston.
Wide Receivers- Jester Weah caught 36 passes for 872 yards and 10 scores last year. He has struggled to emulate those numbers in 2017. Quadree Henderson is a dynamic playmaker but hasn’t seen anywhere near the touches needed to produce. When he has gotten the ball, he hasn’t done much. To his credit, he is not playing anywhere near 100%. Maurice French will look to contribute on both the ground and in the air, as he can employ a style similar to Hendersen. Aaron Mathews is getting better and Raphael Araujo-Lopez leads the team with 19 receptions on the year.
Tight Ends- Matt Flanagan and Chris Clark are hoping to be a dynamic duo at tight end for the Panthers. Flanagan has put up decent numbers so far in 2017, and Clark, a huge target, is starting to make his presence known in the Pitt offense.
Defense- Dewayne Hendrix and Rashaad Weaver are co-starters at defensive end, with Allen Edwards on the other side. James Folston, Jr. and Patrick Jones II will also see plenty of action. In the middle, you’ll find Shane Roy and the impressive freshman Keyson Camp. Amir Watts and Kam Cater will be in the rotation.
At linebacker, Elijah Zeise, Saleem Brightwell, and Seun Idowu are the starters. Anthony McKee, Jr. and Chris Pine will get plenty of chances to make an impression, too.
The secondary was scorched game after game last year, and that trend has continued into 2017. Help is on the way as star safety Jordan Whitehead is back after being suspended for the first three games. Avonte Maddox will start at corner on one side and expect to see a rotation of Dane Jackson and Damarri Mathis until one stands above the other. With Whitehead back at SS, Dennis Briggs returns to being a back-up. Bricen Garner and highly touted Damar Hamlin will rotate at FS. Top recruit Paris Ford enrolled late, but his talent will eventually rise to the top and he will see action sooner than later.
Kicker- Freshman Alex Kessman takes over the kicking duties for Pitt and is getting better each week. Has already nailed a 55 yarder this year.
Kick/Punt Return- Quadree Henderson will be back deep for every kick.
A look at the Syracuse Orange!
Overall Record: 2-3 | ACC Record: 0-1 | Rank: N/A
Head Coach: Dino Babers (6th Season with Syracuse)
Lifetime Record: 43-27 (.614) | 6-11 (.352) at Syracuse
Last Week: NC State 33 Syracuse 25
Breakdown of the Orange
Quarterback- Eric Dungey is a dynamic player that can sling the pig and tote the rock…so to speak. Dungey has 277 yards rushing and seven touchdowns to go along with 1,437 yards passing.
Running Backs- Dontae Strickland and Moe Neal are the Orange’s primary ball carriers, aside from Dungey.
Wide Receivers- Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips are putting up PlayStation numbers so far this year. Ishmael has 51 catches for 632 yards and Phillips has gone for 44 for 420. Pitt’s secondary will be busy and had better be prepared to play.
Tight Ends- Ravian Pierce handles the duties at tight end. He has 10 catches, two of them for scores, for 42 yards.
Defense- Beatable. ‘Cuse gives up an average of 357 yards a game, but they gave up 462 yards to N.C. State and 414 to LSU.
Chances are, if you went to grab a snack, to the restroom, or even blinked, you probably missed a touchdown in last year’s game between Pitt and Syracuse, in which the Panthers won by an astounding score of 76-61.
This time around, the scoreboard operator probably won’t need a month’s vacation to recover from weariness, but the winner of this game has a chance to get their team some positive momentum in what has been a disappointing season so far for both squads.
Max Browne was named the starter again last week against Rice, and this time he lived up to his billing, albeit against a lowly Conference USA team. Browne only had two incompletions last week, both of which were drops, in throwing for 410 yards and four touchdowns, as Pitt routed the Owls 42-10.
Coach Pat Narduzzi said Browne still must continue to produce or else…
“One week doesn’t define you as a football team or an offense,” he said. “Max has to continue to play well or Ben (DiNucci, the backup) will jump back in there. I trust Max will do that.”
This is a make or break game for the Panthers. If they have hopes of playing in a Bowl and gaining some positive momentum, this is a game they have to win. A loss could send them into a downward spiral they may not get out of. Pitt was able to get things rolling offensively last week vs Rice and will have a chance to duplicate those numbers against a very beatable Orange defense. The biggest question will be if the defense can find a way to contain Eric Dungey and stop Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips from padding their reception totals, of which they rank #1 and #2 in the NCAA in 2017.
Syracuse head coach Dino Babers will likely try to emulate what Oklahoma State did to the Panthers a few weeks ago.
“They’re very similar (to Oklahoma St),” Narduzzi said. “Because I think to attack us, they’re going to play three and four wideouts. A year ago, ‘empty’ was their favorite formation, so they’re going to line up in ‘empty’ and just dink, dink, dink, throw it around.”
It will help that Jordan Whitehead will be in the secondary this time to aid the Pitt secondary.
Redshirt junior cornerback Phillipie Motley should be back this week, as well.
“That would be big,” starting cornerback Dane Jackson said of Motley’s return. “He’s played a ton in the past, too. We got our young guys, as well, but Motley, he’s experienced, so that would be a big help.”
The best plan of action for Pitt is to get Browne going early so he continues the momentum he gained last week. The offensive line will have to get it’s act together and keep the slow-footed Browne upright and making plays downfield. It would behoove Pitt to get Quadree Henderson the ball in space and let him do what he does best. Expect to see Jordan Whitehead get more involved in the offense, as every time he touches the ball, he seems to make big plays.
It was good to see Jester Weah making plays last week, and if Pitt is to win this game, they’ll need him to continue that trend.
Expect another high scoring affair between the Panthers and Orange, with the team making the least amount of careless turnovers the likely victor. With Pitt’s defense getting a bit healthier and the offense showing some signs of life, Pitt should be able to produce their second straight victory and create a positive vibe for Homecoming next Saturday against N.C. State.
Prediction: Pitt 37 Syracuse 30
NCAA Week 6
Pitt Panthers (2-3, 1-1) vs Syracuse Orange (2-3, 0-1)
Venue: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY.
Game-time: Saturday, October 7th, 12:30 pm
TV: ACC Network (ATT SportsNet) | Announcers: Wes Durham (play-by-play) James Bates (analyst) | Lyndsay Rebecca Kaple (reporter)
Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 93.7 The Fan | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Bill Osborne (analyst) | Larry Richert (sideline)
National Radio: Sirius XM Internet Channel 967
Weather at Kickoff: Dome
Vegas Line: Syracuse -4.5
Pitt vs Syracuse History
- Series History: Began in 1916.
- Pitt is 38-31-3 against Syracuse.
- Pitt is 16-18-3 at Syracuse.
- Streak: Pitt won the previous four meetings.
- Last Regular Season Meeting: Nov. 26, 2016 (Pitt 76 Syracuse 61)
Graduate transfer quarterback Max Browne is coming off the finest performance of his collegiate career and one of the best in Pitt history. Browne hit 88% of his passes (28 of 32) for 410 yards and four touchdowns with zero interceptions in the victory over Rice.
Quadree Hendersen is fourth in the country with 465 combined kick return yards. Henderson led the nation in that category as a consensus All-American last year with 1,166.
The Carrier Dome was at one time a place of futility for Pitt. Since 2002, however, the Panthers are 6-2 in their last eight visits. Overall, Pitt is 8-10-1 all-time in the Dome.
Last year’s meeting at Heinz Field was perhaps the wildest game of the 2016 college football season. The Panthers outlasted the Orange, 76-61, in the highest scoring Football Bowl Subdivision game ever (137 combined points).
QB- Max Browne (836 yards passing | 5 TD passes | 2 interceptions | 11 sacks | -67 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD)
QB- Ben DiNucci (387 yards passing | 2 TD passes | 2 interceptions | 5 sacks | 10 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD)
RB- Qadree Ollison (221 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s | 14 receptions | 125 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
RB- Chawntez Moss (113 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 5 receptions | 75 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
RB- Darrin Hall (72 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 7 receptions | 44 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
RB- Jordan Whitehead (59 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
RB- AJ Davis (14 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
FB- George Aston (0 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 0 receptions | 0 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
WR- Rafeal Araujo-Lopes (19 receptions | 235 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
WR- Maurice Ffrench (13 receptions | 91 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
WR- Jester Weah (13 receptions | 221 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s
WR- Aaron Matthews (12 receptions | 150 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
WR- Quadree Henderson (8 receptions | 121 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 94 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s)
WR- Ruben Flowers (0 receptions | 0 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
TE- Matt Flanagan (11 receptions | 116 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
TE- Chris Clark (8 receptions | 39 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
K- Alex Kessman (Extra Point: 15-15 | FG: 3-7 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 2-4 | 30-39: 0-0 | 40-49: 0-1 | 50+: 1-2 | Long: 55
QB- Eric Dungey (1,437 yards passing | 7 TD passes | 4 interceptions | 11 sacks | 277 yards rushing | 7 rushing TD )
RB- Dontae Strickland (140 yards rushing | 3 rushing TD’s | 7 receptions | 31 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
RB- Moe Neal (127 rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 8 receptions | 142 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)
WR- Steve Ishmael (51 receptions | 632 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Ervin Phillips (44 receptions | 420 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
WR- Devin C. Butler (9 receptions | 93 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
WR- Sean Riley (5 receptions | 90 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
TE- Ravian Pierce (10 receptions | 42 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
K- Cole Murphy (Extra Point: 16-17 | FG: 8-10 | 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 4-4 | 30-39: 1-1 | 40-49: 3-5 | 50+: 0-0 | Long: 42
Pitt – Syracuse: Offensive vs Defensive Comparison
Pitt Total Offense: Pitt averages 359 YPG | Syracuse allows 357.6 YPG
Rushing: Pitt averages 114.4 YPG | Syracuse allows 132 YPG
Passing: Pitt averages 244.6 YPG | Syracuse allows 225.6 YPG
Scoring: Pitt averages 24.4 PPG | Syracuse allows 24.4 PPG
Pitt Total Defense: Pitt allows 433.4 YPG | Syracuse averages 460 YPG
Rushing: Pitt allows 170 YPG | Syracuse averages 142.4 YPG
Passing: Pitt allows 263.4 YPG | Syracuse averages 317.6 YPG
Scoring: Pitt allows 31.6 PPG | Syracuse averages 33 PPG
Pitt Panthers 2017 Schedule
Regular Season (Overall: 2-3 | ACC: 1-1)
Saturday, September 2 Youngstown State W- 28-21 OT
Saturday, September 9 at #6 Penn State (ABC) L- 14-33
Saturday, September 16 #9 Oklahoma State (ESPN) L- 21-59
Saturday, September 23 at Georgia Tech* (ACC Network) L- 35-17
Saturday, September 30 Rice (ATT SportsNet) W- 42-10
Saturday, October 7 at Syracuse* (ATT SportsNet) at 12:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 14 NC State* (HC) at TBA
Saturday, October 21 at Duke* at TBA
Saturday, October 28 Virginia* at TBA
Thursday, November 9 North Carolina* (ESPN) at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 18 at Virginia Tech* at TBA
Friday, November 24 Miami* at TBA
*ACC game / (HC) Homecoming / Ranking as of that week
Bold = Home
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