PITTSBURGH — I have a confession to make. I didn’t re-watch all 20 touchdowns that Pitt and Syracuse scored on Saturday in the Panthers’ absurd 76-61 victory.
But I did cut up a few of the big ones for you in the return of my Sunday film study.
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM
Pitt scored two touchdowns on the exact same play, which isn’t as uncommon as you’d think. It’s less common that both plays went for 60-plus yard touchdowns and even less common that they happened on consecutive offensive plays.
Quadree Henderson did it first, scoring on a 66-yard jet sweep. Pitt motioned into a tight formation with Aaron Mathews split out wide and Henderson and George Aston on the other side of the formation.
The play is Pitt’s bread-and-butter, which is an inside zone handoff to James Conner or the jet sweep to the flanker. It can be run either way and is blocked pretty similarly. Syracuse starts with eight men in the box. The outside linebacker bites hard on the fake to Conner, leaving Henderson with two blockers in Aston and O’Neill with just a safety to beat.
The beautiful part of the play is that if Syracuse had come out with fewer guys in the box, Peterman could have just handed to Conner. Pitt used the multiple motions to force Syracuse to reveal its intentions and then took advantage.
Mathews, who has had a few big blocks this year, continues to impress in that regard with another down field effort.
The second time around, it’s much of the same, as Ffrench and Aston were bunched to the left and Mathews on the right. This time, the safety bails out instead of rushing upfield into Aston.
That clears a ton of space down the right side and Aston and Brian O’Neill led Ffrench convoy-style into the end zone.
I wrote on Saturday that Dane Jackson’s pick six was a huge momentum changer, because not only was it one of Pitt’s rare defensive stops, but it provided Pitt a three-score cushion that made the second half drama-free as far as the result went.
The play was a gutsy one, as Pitt blitzed safety Reggie Mitchell on Jackson’s side of the field. Jackson and linebacker Mike Caprara, who came over to help in the spot vacated by Mitchell, both undercut their receiver’s routes.
If the pass rush hadn’t gotten home and Syracuse quarterback Zack Mahoney would have been able to hold onto the ball four another second or two, he would have had his pick of wide-open receivers to throw touchdown passes to. Instead, Jackson read his eyes, Mitchell provided pressure and the play worked perfectly.
It’s important to remember a play like this when you see a Pitt corner get beaten deep. Sometimes the play is designed for them to only have to hold their coverage for a second or two. If the Orange receiver had beaten Jackson deep, it would have been the fault of the pass rush for not pressuring Mahoney than Jackson’s coverage ability.