Syracuse escapes with a 27-24 win over Pittsburgh despite slow first half

first_imgThere were two plays on Saturday that ended with a very animated Steve Ishmael in back-right corner of the far Carrier Dome end zone.The first came on the first drive of the game. The Orange had gone from its own 19 to the Pittsburgh 33 in just four plays. On fourth and one, after drawing the defense offsides, quarterback Eric Dungey lofted a pass to Ishamel who reeled it in. He got up and started celebrating on the sideline only to look at the referee in disbelief shortly after. The call was offensive pass interference and the touchdown was negated.The Orange offense didn’t bounce back from that for nearly the entire quarter. There was a stretch of four three-and-outs in five possessions. SU’s first possession went for 73 yards. The next six combined for 74. Running back Dontae Strickland only had four carries in the first half.Slow first halves have plagued Syracuse in each of the past two weeks, both losses at Louisiana State and North Carolina State. Head coach Dino Babers stressed both times that it’s something the Orange would need to correct, trying to do things differently to prevent a repeat performance.“We really changed up practice, we tried to do some different things,” Babers said. “We tried to lead with the pass, not with the run, to see if we could loosen it up and it still took us a little time to get going.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse (3-3, 1-1 Atlantic Coast) didn’t really correct that trend. It was sitting on three points for nearly the entire first half. But a late, 93-yard touchdown drive before the half ended gave SU its first sign of life, and it carried that into the second half in an eventual 27-24 win over Pittsburgh (2-4, 0-2).Both the Syracuse fans and players seemed lifeless in a first half that featured miserable first half performances. On one Pitt third down midway through the second quarter, the normally rowdy Syracuse sideline stood mostly motionless while a crowd that’s normally raucous on those downs struggled to get excited.Just like the last two weeks, though, things changed in the second half. Dungey started finding more running room, picking up yards himself. Ravian Pierce, who was barely involved in the first half, climbed his way up to the top of the Orange’s receptions and receiving yards list for the game. Strickland got 21 second-half carries, wearing out and gaining yardage against the Pitt defense, helping make other downs more manageable.Colin Davy | Staff Photographer“We always feel like we have it,” wide receiver Ervin Philips said. “We just feel like we’ve got to get going … we’ve got to start fast.”There was an injury timeout with 13:01 left in the fourth quarter. While trainers were on the field and play was stopped, a “Let’s Go Orange” chant broke out that was arguably the loudest the Carrier Dome had been all season. Orange players who had just been milling about beforehand started eagerly pumping up the crowd.Ishmael’s second catch in the back-right corner of the far end zone came later in that same drive. This time he was matched up Panthers cornerback Phillipie Motley. And this time, the pass interference was called was against the defense.But that didn’t matter to Ishmael. He turned his body toward the ball and got in front of Motley, catching it right outside the end zone and then falling back in for a touchdown. He high-stepped, pumped his hands and let out a few roars of delight. It was the score that would put SU up for good.“I felt like I really wanted to signal it to the ref as well,” Ishmael said. “I scored the touchdown, you can’t take away this one.”It wasn’t the most impressive performance of the season for SU. Dungey finished 33-for-49 with 365 yards and two passing touchdowns, and added 48 yards and a score on the ground. He said that the team should have made it easier for itself and put the game away sooner.Syracuse will need to rectify those mistakes if it wants to compete with defending national champion, No. 2 Clemson, next week in the Carrier Dome. The Orange knows the level it has to play at to compete with the best teams, it just needs to make sure it can reach it.“Once we got going,” Babers said, “we were a sight to see.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on October 7, 2017 at 4:15 pm Contact Tomer: [email protected] | @tomer_langerlast_img

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