Pitt Panthers vs Syracuse Orange Preview

Welcome to the most comprehensive Pitt Panthers Game Day Preview on the internet! 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 Game Preview, Pitt’s Keys to Victory, Score Prediction, a detailed breakdown of each team, Game Information, Individual Stats, and Team Stats. Heck, you’ll even know the weather at kickoff! The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!


If Pitt is ever going to turn their season around, the offense will need to find a way to be more consistent and balanced.

Pitt has a nice set of receivers, but has yet to see a total group effort yet in 2018. Shocky Jacques-Louis is just a freshman, but was expecting to make his mark early in his Pitt career.

For the year, Jacques-Louis has just five receptions for 48 yards.

“I’m going to give him all the explosiveness he needs. Whatever he needs, I got,” Jacques-Louis said upon hearing Kevin Sherman,  his wide receivers coach asking for “explosives” from his receiving corps.

“He’s a guy we’re looking for, to see what he can do in a game-type situation and create a big-time play,” Sherman said of his freshman wide-out.

Jacques-Louis feels he is close to making an impact game in and game out for the Panthers.

“I feel locked in,” he said. “When I first came in with my shoulder, I wasn’t really locked in.”

Then he had to adjust to how fast and hard hitting the game is at this level, a major step from torching high school defenses.

“He wasn’t even trying to hit me,” Jacques-Louis recalled of Panther’s corner Dane Jackson in practice. “I had a jet sweep, fake motion, running to the left and Dane just steps up and hits me and I’m like, ‘Whoa.’ That definitely felt different.

“I started getting my weight up more. Now, those hits don’t mean anything to me.”

Maurice Ffrench has taken his game to the next level the past three weeks, now 1st on the team with 14 receptions, and 2nd in receiving yards with 172.

“He’s a guy who’s really focused right now,” Sherman said. “He wants to be a good player. He wants to be a productive player. He wants to learn all the details of the position.”

Ffrench has turned two of those receptions into touchdowns.

“The last couple weeks, he’s been productive,” Sherman said. “Now, the thing we have to do is be consistent. Because we need guys to step up and make explosives. That’s where we have to do a better job of being explosive, and he’s a guy who can do that.”

Heading into their sixth game of the season, Sherman expects his receivers to level up and give Kenny Pickett some much needed confidence.

“They’ve been in big stadiums. They’ve been in big-time games,” he said. “So they know what it takes to play the speed of the game. It’s all about consistency.

“As a coach, I have to try to keep it simple, coach harder, coach better, get these guys to play fast on Saturday.”

One position that is severely lacking at production is at tight end. Combined, the group has netted just six receptions for a paltry 45 yards.

Defensively, head coach Pat Narduzzi tried to jump start his team with a little hitting this week in practice, “Bull in the Ring” to be specific.

Defense end Dewayne Hendrix enjoyed it.

We’re just trying to pick it up,” Hendrix said. “You can tell guys are slouching around a little bit. But we’re getting it back in the groove. We got the juice really going . Guys were a little dead at first, but we picked it up and got it going.

“Part of playing football is you’re going to have some adversity. You just have to stay positive. You have to keep pushing every week.”

After being humiliated by UCF last week 45-17, the coaches prodded the players to fight back from the depths of despair.

“One of our coaches said, ‘When your armor is starting to get all these chinks in it, when adversity is coming your way, how are you going to respond?” senior left guard Connor Dintino said. “Are you going to put your head down or are you going to fight through it?’ That’s going to show a lot of who we are as a team.”

Those questions will be answered come 12:20 pm this Saturday afternoon vs Syracuse.


Pitt Keys to Victory


  • Find a way!
  • Kenny Pickett needs to step his game up.
  • Can we utilize the tight end ever?


  • Knock Eric Dungey around.
  • Keep Dungey in the pocket.
  • Get off the field on 3rd and long!



Pitt has owned the Orange at home in the long series that began back in 1916. Pitt is 22-11 vs Syracuse playing in their house, including 7-1 at Heinz Field. The last time these two teams met here, the scoreboard nearly exploded from the points that were scored, as Pitt toppled the Orange 76-61!

It’s hard not to like Syracuse this week with how QB Eric Dungey is playing, and how bad Pitt has performed over the past two weeks.

The offense has been stagnant, and the defense can’t ever find a way to make a big play or a big stop when needed.

After a week of self-reflection, can the Panthers right the ship again?

I say no, and prove me wrong, especially after watching the Orange kill Florida State earlier, and choking the game away last week vs Clemson.

I’m hoping for the best during Homecoming, but will be expecting the worst until this team proves otherwise to me, themselves, and the fans.

Syracuse 31 Pitt 21

Game Information

NCAA Week 6

Pitt Panthers vs Syracuse Orange

Venue: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA.

Game-time: Saturday, October 6th, 12:20 pm

Game Tickets Link

TV:  ABC (WTAE-TV, Channel 4, in Pittsburgh) | Announcers: Tom Werme (play-by-play)  Dave Archer (analyst) | Lericia Harris (reporter)

Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 93.7 The Fan | Announcers:  Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Pat Bostick (analyst) | Larry Richert (sideline)

National Radio: N/A | Announcers: 

Sirius XM Satellite Radio: Sirius Channel 98, XM Channel 194, Internet Channel 956

Weather at Kickoff: 82 with a 20% chance of storms. Winds 9 mph SSW.

Vegas Line: Syracuse -4


Pitt vs Syracuse History

  • Series History: Began in 1916
  • Pitt is 38-32-3 in the series vs Syracuse
  • Pitt is 22-11 at home vs Syracuse
  • Pitt is 4-1 vs Syracuse in ACC Play
  • Streak: Syracuse won last game
  • Last Regular Season Meeting: Oct. 7, 2017 (Syracuse 27 Pitt 24)

Game Notes* 

  • Pitt and Syracuse have played every year since 1955, when both schools were independents. Pitt has won 13 of the past 16 games in the series but dropped last year’s encounter, 27-24.
  • Third-year Syracuse head coach Dino Babers is very familiar with Pitt and Pittsburgh. During the 2003 season, Babers served as running backs coach under Panthers head coach Walt Harris.
  • Syracuse leads the ACC and ranks fourth nationally in turnovers gained with 12. The Orange are plus-8 in turnover margin for the season (12 gained, four lost). Pitt, in contrast, is minus-1 on the year (seven gained, eight lost).
  • Pitt has proven capable of big plays in the return game. The Panthers have scored touchdowns on a kickoff return (Maurice Ffrench) and punt return (Rafael Araujo-Lopes). Pitt is the only team in the ACC to score TDs on both a kickoff and punt this season.
  • Five Pitt opponents appear in this week’s Top 25 polls: Notre Dame (No. 6 Associated Press/No. 7 USA Today Coaches Poll), Penn State (No. 11/11), UCF (No. 12/13), Miami (No. 17/17) and Virginia Tech (No. 24/No. 23).

    *Courtesy of



A look at the Pitt Panthers!

Scouting the Panthers


Kenny Pickett played in four games last year, making one start as a true freshman. Gifted with a strong arm and the ability to run with the ball if no receivers are open. Must work on accuracy and decision making.

Running Backs

Darrin Hall (1,045 career rushing yards) and Qadree Ollison (1,646) will give the Panthers a 1-2 punch out of the backfield. Consider Hall lightning to Ollison’s thunder. George Aston is back at fullback after missing most of 2017. Aston was a beast in 2016 finishing third on the team in scoring (tied) with 60 points on 10 touchdowns (five rushing and five receiving). A.J. Davis will see plenty of time as well, and is excellent out of the backfield catching short passes from Pickett. Don’t be surprised if Davis becomes the #1 back before the end of the season.

Wide Receivers

Pitt is deep at WR, with Rafael-Araujo Lopes, juniors Tre Tipton, Maurice Ffrench, and Aaron Mathews, freshman Shocky Jacques-Louis, and Indiana transfer Taysir Mack, a sophomore who excelled in the Blue-Gold Game this past Spring. Mack played in 12 games, starting eight contests in 2017 for the Hoosiers…had 23 receptions for 310 yards (13.5 avg.) and three touchdowns.

Tight Ends

At tight end, sophomore Tyler Sear scored in his final two games last season and will start, but Arkansas transfer Will Gragg has really opened some eyes in camp. This position needs utilized more often.


Look for the versatile Paris Ford to see snaps at H-Back for the Panthers as Jordan Whitehead was known to do for the past two years. Ford is a threat to make a difference every time he touches the ball.


Dewayne Hendrix and Rashad Weaver are solidified as Pitt’s defensive ends.

Senior Shane Roy was a starter at nose tackle last year, Amir Watts and redshirt sophomore Keyshon Camps to see time as well. Jaylen Twyman, has been pushing the whole group as a redshirt freshman.

At LB, Oluwaseun Idowu is the starting outside “star” linebacker. Quintin Wirginis is your starter in the middle, with Redshirt senior Elijah Zeise and redshirt junior Saleem Brightwell battling for the “money” spot.

Redshirt junior Dane Jackson started all 12 games last year and will assume the same duties as a starting cornerback in 2018. Redshirt senior Phillipie Motley, sophomores Damarri Mathis and Jason Pinnock, and redshirt freshman Paris Ford are all battling for that 2nd spot.

Junior Damar Hamlin starts at free safety, with Dennis Briggs and redshirt sophomore Phil Campbell battling for the starting role at strong safety.


Alex Kessman took over Pitt’s starting placekicking duties in his first active season…converted 11-of-19 field goals (58%) and 34-of-34 PATs (100%) for a team-high 67 points. Now he looks to improve on those stats in year two.

Kick/Punt Return

Maurice Ffrench and Rafael Araujo-Lopes will provide the return duties for the Panthers. Ffrench returned the opening kickoff vs Albany, 97 yards to the house.

Individual Stats


  • Kenny Pickett (743 yards passing | 5 TD passes | 4 interceptions | 10 sacks | 111 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD)

Running Back

  • Qadree Ollison (404 yards rushing | 4 rushing TD’s | 4 receptions | 8 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Darrin Hall (207 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 7 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • AJ Davis (103 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 3 receptions | 17 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)


  • George Aston (-2 yards rushing | 0 rushing TD’s | 10 receptions | 58 yards receiving | 1 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

  • Maurice Ffrench (14 receptions | 172 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s | 20 yards rushing | 1 TD’s)
  • Taysir Mack  (12 receptions | 265 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Rafael Araujo-Lopes (11 receptions | 103 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s | 17 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
  • Shocky Jaques-Louis (5 receptions | 48 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 69 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
  • Dontavius Butler-Jenkins (4 receptions | 12 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s | 0 yards rushing | 0 TD’s)
  • Tre Tipton (2 receptions | 14 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Aaron Matthews (2 receptions | 21 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)

Tight Ends

  • Will Gragg (3 receptions | 21 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Tyler Sear (2 receptions | 9 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Jim Medure (1 receptions | 15 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)


  • Alex Kessman (Extra Point: 13-14 | FG: 1-2 | 0-19:  0-0 | 20-29:  0-0 | 30-39:  1-2 | 40-49:  0-0 | 50+:  0-0 | Long: 33)

Kickoff Returner

  • Maurice Ffrench (27.0 yards per kickoff return | 1 return TD’s)

Punt Returner

  • Rafael Araujo-Lopes (12.0 yards per punt return | 0 return TD’s)





A look at the Syracuse Orange!

Scouting the Orange


Eric Dungey is a dual threat quarterback. He has thrown for 1,013 yards in 2018 with nine TD’s and two INT’s. He amassed 365 yards on the ground with another six scores.

Running Back

Moe Neal is the lead back for the Orange. Dontae Strickland is who Syracuse utilizes in short yard and goal line situations. Jarveon Howard will give Neal a rest now and then.

Wide Receivers

Jamal Custis leads the team in both receptions, receiving yards, and receiving TD’s. The Orange like to spread the wealth as they also employ Sean Riley, Nykeim Johnson, Devin C. Butler, and Taj Harris from time to time.

Tight Ends

Ravian Pierce is the Orange’s option at tight end. He has six catches for 56 yard and two scores.


The Orange give up a lot of yards each week, but have down a decent job at limiting opponents to just 21 points per game.


Individual Stats


  • Eric Dungey (1,013 yards passing | 9 TD passes | 2 interceptions | 4 sacks | 365 yards rushing | 6 rushing TD)

Running Back

  • Moe Neal (367 yards rushing | 2 rushing TD’s | 8 receptions | 52 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Jarveon Howard (187 yards rushing | 1 rushing TD’s | 1 receptions | 16 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Dontae Strickland (172 yards rushing | 5 rushing TD’s | 7 receptions | 68 yards receiving | 0 receiving TD’s)

Wide Receivers

  • Jamal Custis (22 receptions | 360 receiving yards | 3 receiving TD’s)
  • Sean Riley (20 receptions | 217 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)
  • Nykeim Johnson (15 receptions | 192 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)
  • Devin C. Butler (12 receptions | 120 receiving yards | 0 receiving TD’s)
  • Taj Harris (6 receptions | 125 receiving yards | 1 receiving TD’s)

Tight Ends

  • Ravian Pierce (6 receptions | 56 receiving yards | 2 receiving TD’s)


  • Andre Szmyt (Extra Point: 26-26 | FG: 13-14 | 0-19:  1-1 | 20-29:  5-5 | 30-39:  4-4 | 40-49:  1-2 | 50+:  2-2 | Long: 51)



Pitt – Syracuse: Offense vs Defense Match-Ups

Pitt Total Offense: Pitt averages 343.2 YPG | Syracuse allows 402.6 YPG

Rushing: Pitt averages 191.6 YPG | Syracuse allows 163.2 YPG

Passing: Pitt averages 151.6 YPG | Syracuse allows 239.4 YPG

Scoring: Pitt averages 22.4 PPG | Syracuse allows 21.4 PPG


Pitt Total Defense: Pitt allows 430.6 YPG | Syracuse averages 480.8 YPG

Rushing: Pitt allows 200.8 YPG | Syracuse averages 234.6 YPG

Passing: Pitt allows 229.8 YPG | Syracuse averages 246.2 YPG

Scoring: Pitt allows 32 PPG | Syracuse averages 44.2 PPG


Injury Report (10/3/2018)

Pitt Panthers

  • Out:None
  • Doubtful:None
  • Questionable: None

Syracuse Orange

  • Out: LS Matt Keller (Ankle), WR Ed Hendrix, DL Zach Morton
  • Doubtful: N/A
  • Questionable: DB Devon Clarke (Undisclosed), TE Gabe Horan, DE Jake Pickard, LB Lakiem Williams, TE Ravian Pierce
  • Probable: DB Antwan Cordy (Arm), FB Chris Elmore (Undisclosed),


ACC Standings



























Pitt Panthers 2018 Schedule

Regular Season (Overall: 2-3 |  ACC: 1-1)

Sept. 1 Albany (ACCNE) | W- 33-7
Sept. 8 #13 Penn State (ABC) | L- 51-6
Sept. 15 Georgia Tech* (RSN) | W- 24-19
Sept. 22 at North Carolina* | L- 38-35
Sept. 29 at #13 UCF | L- 45-14
Oct. 6 Syracuse* (HC) at 12:20 p.m.
Oct. 13 at #6 Notre Dame (NBC) at 2:30 p.m.
Oct. 27 Duke* at TBA
Nov. 2 (Fri.) at Virginia* (ESPN2) at 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 10 #24 Virginia Tech* at TBA
Nov. 17 at Wake Forest* at TBA
Nov. 24 at #17 Miami* at TBA

*ACC game /  (HC) Homecoming  / Ranking as of this week

Bold = Home Game

Author Profile

Mike DrakulichYour source for Pittsburgh sports!
From Midland, "The Basketball Capital of Pennsylvania", located 35 miles NW of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. This former steel town was home to storied athletes such as Dave Alston, Norm Van Lier, Simmie Hill, and the legendary 1965 Midland High School Basketball Team.

There's nowhere on earth that is more dedicated to its sports teams like Western Pennsylvania and the city of Pittsburgh. The passion and pride of Pittsburgh's fan base is second to no one. From the NFL, NHL, MLB, NCAA football and basketball, to W.P.I.A.L. high school sports, "The City of Champions" has it all!

As Editor of Pittsburgh SportsNation, Mike Drakulich provides top notch opinions and coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Pitt Panthers football & basketball, Robert Morris Colonials basketball, and Duquesne Dukes basketball, as well as all sports teams that represent Western Pennsylvania, including WPIAL High School Football.

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