Pitt Panthers at Syracuse Orange Game Day Preview

Pitt Panthers at Syracuse Orange Game Day 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 (@SportsNationPGH) brings you inside the huddle for both teams, providing all fans with a Game Story, Pitt’s Path to Success, Score Prediction, Game Information, a detailed breakdown of each team, Individual Stats, and Team Stats. Heck, you’ll even know the weather at kickoff! The only thing you’re missing is a game uniform!



In 2016, these two teams met at Heinz Field and put up a scoring display like none-other, with Pitt topping Syracuse 76-61.

Don’t expect to see anything resembling that game this Friday night when the Panthers (4-2, 1-1) travel to the Carrier Dome to take on the Orange (3-3, 0-2).

Pitt’s defense ranks 4th in the ACC, and 19th nationally, giving up just 298.7 yards per game. They are tops in the ACC and 2nd in the nation with 27 sacks.

That doesn’t bode well for Syracuse and their quarterback Tommy DeVito, who has been sacked 26 times this season. Pitt will be bringing the heat after DeVito.

“They get the ball out quick, run a ton of screens, hard to pressure them, so we’ve got to be careful when we do (blitz),” Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi. “And we’ve got to be able to get four-man pressure and get some coverage sacks.”

The biggest problem with the Pitt defense is playing an entire game. Against UCF, the defense couldn’t hold an early 21-0 lead, albeit bad turnovers and a punt return for a score certainly didn’t help.

Last game at Duke, the defense surrendered 27 second half points after the offense built a 26-3 lead. A late touchdown by the offense saved the defense from a long two weeks of looking in the mirror.

“At times they do and at times they don’t,” Narduzzi said after being asked if his defense was performing up to his standards. “We’ll find out. Nobody cares what you did in the first half at Duke, which was really good (giving up only a field goal).”

What’s the biggest problem holding the Pitt defense from becoming a great one?

“We have to get stops,” Narduzzi said. “Great defenses play championship defense every play, every minute of the game, every quarter. That’s what we’re trying to get to.”

Thanks to an utterly ridiculous call in the Duke game, Pitt will be without stud safety Paris Ford for the 1st half this Friday night. Ford was called for targeting while making a tackle.

Narduzzi was confused by the call as well.

“I just saw a lot of shoulder,” he said. “I saw (Bracey’s) head go inside of our guy’s head. It wasn’t our head going into his head.”

With calls like that, even the coach doesn’t know what to expect anymore regarding what is a good or bad hit.

“I don’t know how to officiate anymore. I don’t know what the calls are,” he said. “Players play, coaches coach, officials officiate and reporters report. That’s my quote for the day.”

With Ford out for a half, senior Jazzee Stocker will play in place of him.

“I feel good him,” Narduzzi said about Stocker. “I think Jay will do a great job. He’s back healthy, too. That’s the important thing.”

Offensively, wide receiver duo Tasir Mack and Maurice Ffrench are carving up secondaries week after week.

“We make each other’s jobs easier,” Mack said. “You can’t think about one without thinking about the other.”

Mack has 41 receptions for 511 yards while Ffrench has 50 catches for 396 yards. Those 91 combined receptions are tops in NCAA FBS.

Mack walks by replicas of Antonio Bryant and Larry Fitzgerald’s Biletnikoff Trophies every day on the way to practice.

“I tell myself, I’m coming for this,” Mack said.

Offensive Coordinator Mark Whipple’s offense is really rounding into form in his first year at Pitt, and his player’s dedication to their craft is paying dividends for their hard work.

“They see the system has given them opportunities they might not have had in the past,” wide receivers coach Chris Beatty said. “Those guys, they want to do well. They study. They work at it. It’s important to them. Every little detail they try to write down and take notes.”

The rest of the receiving corps, not to mention potential recruits see the potential they could achieve in Pitt’s new passing attack.

“At the end of the day, everybody wants touches,” he said, “and that’s what you sell people on … being able to get guys in so they can touch the ball and have opportunities to be Larry Fitzgerald or Antonio Bryant (Pitt’s two Biletnikoff winners).

“I hope they notice that. I definitely bring it up.”


Pitt’s Path to Success

  1. Bring the heat: Tommy DeVito has been sacked 26 times in 2019. Time to add to those totals Friday night.
  2. Gang tackle: Syracuse has some nice playmakers… as in previous games, the defense needs to swarm and attack. More turnovers will come as a result.
  3. Get the run game going: Syracuse gives up nearly 150 yards per game on the ground. This is a good week to get the rushing attack going, which will give more space for Kenny Pickett to attack downfield.
  4. Be bullies, but smart ones: Walking the walk after talking the talk is good, but know your limits. Don’t take any stupid penalties that you know the refs are itching to call.



This game is very simple for the Panthers. There shouldn’t be a gigantic crowd at the Carrier Dome, but their fans will be loud, nonetheless. The key to quieting them quickly will be a balanced offense and a swarming defense.

With the Orange giving up 149 yards per game on the ground, it would be nice to see Pitt grind out some yards with A.J. Davis leading the way, with Todd Sibley, Vincent Davis, and V’Lique Carter adding their contributions, when called upon.

A good rushing attack should force Syracuse to bring up a few defenders to help, and when they do, that will give the NCAA’s top receiving duo in Taysir Mack and Maurice Ffrench plenty of room to soak up some yards from Kenny Pickett. Attacking the middle of the field with tight ends Nakia Griffin-Stewart and Will Gragg will help, too.

It will be time to bring the dogs defensively, as Syracuse QB Tommy DeVito has been sacked 26 times this year, something that the Panther defense should be licking their chops in anticipation for.

The biggest key will be playing a full 60 minutes on both sides of the ball. This team has picked some bad times to fall asleep on both sides of the ball in 2019. If this team is going to pursue a 2nd consecutive Coastal Division championship, then this unit will have to learn that you can’t take plays off, let alone a series or two. You play all out and give 100% effort no matter what.

As long as Pitt doesn’t turn the ball over, they should be able to cruise to a comfortable win.

Pitt 34 Syracuse 17



Game Information

Pitt Panthers at Syracuse Orange

  • Venue: Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY. | Field: FieldTurf
  • Game-time: Friday, October 18th, at 7:00 p.m. ET
  • Game Tickets Link
  • TV: ESPN | Announcers: Dave Flemming (play-by-play) Jim Mora (analyst) | Paul Carcaterra (reporter)
  • Local Radio: Pittsburgh- 93.7 The Fan | Announcers: Bill Hillgrove (play-by-play) Pat Bostick (analyst) | Larry Richert (reporter)
  • Online Radio:
  • Sirius XM Satellite Radio:Sirius Channel 137, XM Channel 193, Internet Channel 955
  • Weather at Kickoff: Dome
  • Vegas Line: Pitt -3.5



Pitt Panthers vs Syracuse Orange History

Series History: Began in 1916

Pitt is 39-32-3 overall vs Syracuse

  • At Home: 23-11
  • On Road: 16-19-3
  • Neutral Site: 0-2
  • ACC Series: 5-1
  • Streak: Pitt has won last meeting.
  • Last Regular Season Meeting: Oct. 6, 2018 (Pitt 44, Syracuse 37 [OT])


Did You Know?* 

  • Pitt and Syracuse have played every year since 1955, when both schools were independents. The Panthers and Orange began ACC play in 2013 and face each other annually as divisional crossover foes.
  • The Panthers have won 14 of the past 17 games in the series. However, tight games are commonplace. Five of the past seven contests have been decided by single digits, including Pitt’s 44-37 overtime win last year at Heinz Field.
  • Since taking over as Pitt’s head coach in 2015, Pat Narduzzi has directed the Panthers to 21 victories in ACC play, which trails only Clemson (34) and Miami (22) during this span. Narduzzi led Pitt to its first Coastal Division title in 2018.
  • he Panthers rank second in the nation in sacks with an average of 4.50 per game (27 total). Sophomore defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman leads Pitt’s pass rush with six sacks.
  • The Panthers boast the most productive pass-catching duo in the country. Senior Maurice Ffrench (50) and junior Taysir Mack (41) have combined for 91 receptions this season, the most of any Football Bowl Subdivision receiving duo.

    *Courtesy of



Scouting the Pitt Panthers!

Overall Record: 4-2 | ACC Record: 1-1 | Rank: N/A

Head Coach: Pat Narduzzi (5th Season with Pitt)

  • Lifetime Record: 32-26 (.551)

2019 Pitt Panthers Roster

Pitt Team Statistics

Previous Game: Pitt 33 Duke 30


OFFENSE (Pro Style)



Kenny Pickett*

Tough kid, good arm, and getting better each week under Mark Whipple’s offense. Utilizes his legs well and scrambles for extra yards.

  • Passing Yards: 1,370
  • TD Passes: 6
  • Interceptions: 4
  • Sacks: 12
  • Yards Rushing: 66
  • Rushing TD’s: 0
  • Receptions: 1
  • Receiving Yards: 3
  • Receiving TD’s: 1

Nick Patti

Filled in well for Pickett when he was out for the Delaware game.

  • Passing Yards: 287
  • TD Passes: 3
  • Interceptions: 1
  • Sacks: 0
  • Yards Rushing: 24
  • Rushing TD’s: 0



Running Backs

A.J. Davis*

Talented ball carrier who is dangerous on the ground and through the air, especially on screens.

  • Yards Rushing: 184
  • Rushing TD’s: 2
  • Receptions: 12
  • Yards Receiving: 179
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Vincent Davis

The ultra quick Vincent Davis looks to utilize his speed  and agility to be a game-breaker for the Panthers.

  • Yards Rushing: 96
  • Rushing TD’s: 2
  • Receptions: 1
  • Yards Receiving: 0
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Todd Sibley, Jr.

Like his fellow back Davis, yearning for a breakout season toting the rock for the Panthers.

  • Yards Rushing: 192
  • Rushing TD’s: 1
  • Receptions: 2
  • Yards Receiving: 18
  • Receiving TD’s: 0


Wide Receivers

Maurice Ffrench*

One of the best returners in the game. Has taken his receiving game to the next level in 2019.

  • Receptions: 50
  • Receiving Yards: 396
  • Receiving TD’s: 2

Taysir Mack*

Runs great routes and makes the big catches in traffic.

  • Receptions: 41
  • Receiving Yards: 511
  • Receiving TD’s: 2

Aaron Mathews*

Great blocker who would like to incorporate a few more catches intro his arsenal. Part time QB…

  • Receptions: 8
  • Receiving Yards: 113
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Tre Tipton

Injured and out for the season.

  • Receptions: 7
  • Receiving Yards: 81
  • Receiving TD’s: 1

Dontavius Butler-Jenkins

Butler-Jenkins has stepped up his game in the absence of the injured Tre Tipton.

  • Receptions: 6
  • Receiving Yards: 65
  • Receiving TD’s: 1

V’lique Carter

Versatile player who also moonlights as a RB and at cornerback. Special athlete.

  • Receptions: 9
  • Receiving Yards: 84
  • Receiving TD’s: 2
  • Yards Rushing: 93
  • Rushing TD’s: 0

Shocky Jaques-Louis

Has all the talent in the world. Will this be the year he displays all of it. Starts season not listed on the Two-Deep roster…

  • Receptions: 2
  • Receiving Yards: 26
  • Receiving TD’s: 0
  • Yards Rushing: 29
  • Rushing TD’s: 0



Tight Ends

Nakia Griffin-Stewart*

Physical player. A graduate transfer from Rutgers who will have one season of immediate eligibility at Pitt.

  • Receptions: 10
  • Receiving Yards: 92
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Will Gragg

Becoming a very reliable target across the middle for Kenny Pickett.

  • Receptions: 11
  • Receiving Yards: 71
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

Grant Carrigan

  • Receptions: 0
  • Receiving Yards: 0
  • Receiving TD’s: 0

*Denotes Starter


Left Tackle: Carter Warren

Left Guard: Bryce Hargrove

Center: Jimmy Morrissey

Right Guard: Gabe Houy

Right Tackle: Nolan Ulizio


DEFENSE (Base 4-3)

Defensive End: Patrick Jones II

Defensive Tackle: Jaylen Twyman

Defensive Tackle: Amir Watts/Devin Danielson

Defensive End: Deslin Alexandre

Money LB: Kylan Johnson

Mike LB: Saleem Brightwell/Elias Reynolds

Star LB: Cam Bright/Phil Campbell III

Cornerback: Dane Jackson

Strong Safety: Paris Ford

Free Safety: Damar Hamlin

Cornerback: Jason Pinnock/Damarri Mathis




Alex Kessman

Needs to find his confidence. Can’t miss field goals under 30 yards… period. 

  • Extra Points: 15-16
  • FG: 6-12
  • 0-19:  0-1 | 20-29:  3-3 | 30-39:  1-2 | 40-49:  2-4 | 50+:  0-2
  • Long: 43



Kirk Christodoulou

  • Yards per Punt: 43.6


Kickoff Returner

Maurice Ffrench

Ffrench averaged 27.4 yards per return last year with two touchdowns.

  • Yards per Kickoff Return: 23.0
  • Return TD’s: 0


Punt Returner

Maurice Ffrench

  • Yards per Kickoff Return: 6.1
  • Return TD’s: 0



Pitt Injury Report (10/16/19)

  • Out: DL Rashad Weaver (ACL), DE Keyshon Camp (Knee), WR Tre Tipton (knee)
  • Doubtful: None
  • Questionable: LB Elias Reynolds, LB Chase Pine, DB Jason Pinnock, LB Albert Tucker, WR Will Gipson
  • Probable: N/A



Scouting the Syracuse Orange!

Overall Record: 3-3 | ACC Record: 0-2 | Rank: N/A

Head Coach: Dino Babers (4th Season with Syracuse)

  • Lifetime Record: 58-38 (.604) | 21-22 (.488) with Syracuse

2019 Syracuse Orange Roster

Syracuse Team Statistics

Previous Game: N.C. State 16 Syracuse 10

OFFENSE (Spread)


Tommy DeVito*

DeVito can gouge you if you allow him time in the pocket, of which his team hasn’t been great at accomplishing. DeVito has been sacked 26 times so far in 2019!

  • Passing Yards: 1,534
  • TD Passes: 12
  • Interceptions: 5
  • Sacks: 26
  • Yards Rushing: 58
  • Rushing TD’s: 1



Running Backs

Moe Neal*

Neal is taking care of business in both the ground and air attack. He is sneaky out of the backfield with 20 receptions for 207 yards.

  • Yards Rushing: 348
  • Rushing TD’s: 3
  • Receptions: 20
  • Yards Receiving: 207
  • Receiving TD’s: 0


Abdul Adams

Adams has done well as Syracuse’s #2 option at RB. 

  • Yards Rushing: 210
  • Rushing TD’s: 2
  • Receptions: 10
  • Yards Receiving: 98
  • Receiving TD’s: 0


Jarveon Howard

  • Yards Rushing: 73
  • Rushing TD’s: 1
  • Receptions: 2
  • Yards Receiving: 12
  • Receiving TD’s: 0



Wide Receivers

Trishton Jackson*

Jackson is DeVito’s top weapon downfield. He is averaging 15.1 yards per catch and has six scores on the year. 

  • Receptions: 33
  • Receiving Yards: 499
  • Receiving TD’s: 6


Taj Harris*

Another deep threat for the ‘Cuse netting 17 yards per reception.

  • Receptions: 18
  • Receiving Yards: 306
  • Receiving TD’s: 1


Sean Riley

  • Receptions: 22
  • Receiving Yards: 169
  • Receiving TD’s: 1


Nykeim Johnson

  • Receptions: 12
  • Receiving Yards: 31
  • Receiving TD’s: 0


Tight Ends

Aaron Hackett*

Hackett is DeVito’s security blanket and has turned three of his 14 receptions into six points. 

  • Receptions: 14
  • Receiving Yards: 110
  • Receiving TD’s: 3


Luke Benson*

  • Receptions: 3
  • Receiving Yards: 96
  • Receiving TD’s: 1

*Denotes Starter



DEFENSE (Base 4-3)

Syracuse’s defense is giving up a whopping 425.8 yards per game, including 149 a pop on the ground. They are allowing just over 25 points per game.





Andre Szmyt

  • Extra Points: 17-18
  • FG: 6-7
  • 0-19: 0-0 | 20-29: 4-4 | 30-39: 1-1 | 40-49: 1-2 | 50+: 1-1
  • Long: 45



Syracuse Injury Report (10/16/19)

  • Out: TE Jesse Conners
  • Doubtful: None
  • Questionable: DB Andre Cisco, DB Ifeatu Melifonwu, DL McKinley Williams, RB Otto Zaccardo, OL Sam Heckel, DL Steve Linton
  • Probable: None




Total Yards per game 

  • Pitt: 393.2
  • Syracuse: 378.3

Passing Yards per game

  • Pitt: 276.7
  • Syracuse: 258.5

Rushing Yards per game

  • Pitt: 116.5
  • Syracuse: 119.8

Points per game

  • Pitt: 21.5
  • Syracuse: 25.5


Total Yards per game allowed

  • Pitt: 298.7
  • Syracuse: 425.8

Passing Yards per game allowed

  • Pitt: 201.7
  • Syracuse: 276.8

Rushing Yards per game allowed

  • Pitt: 97
  • Syracuse: 149

Points Allowed

  • Pitt: 22.5
  • Syracuse: 26


  • Sacks: 27
  • Interceptions: 6
  • Fumbles: 0


  • Sacks: 20
  • Interceptions: 7
  • Fumbles: 4



ACC Standings


Pitt Panthers 2019 Schedule

Regular Season: Overall: 4-2 |  ACC: 1-1

August 31: Virginia*, L- 30-14
September 7: Ohio, W- 20-10
September 14: at #13 Penn State, L- 17-10
September 21: #15 UCF, W- 35-34
September 28: Delaware, W- 17-14
October 5: at Duke*, W- 33-30
October 18: (Friday) at Syracuse* (ESPN), 7 p.m.
October 26: Miami* (HC), Noon
November 2: at Georgia Tech*, TBA
November 14: (Thursday) North Carolina* (ESPN), 8 p.m.
November 23: at Virginia Tech*, TBA
November 30: Boston College*, TBA

*ACC game | (HC) Homecoming | 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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