Connect with us
PSN is sponsored by Beaver County Auto

Pittsburgh Sports Now

Game Preview

Pitt Football Game 6 Preview: Scouting Syracuse

Pitt Football Game 6 Preview: Scouting Syracuse

THE MATCHUP: PITT (2-3) VS SYRACUSE (4-1)
WHEN: 12:20 P.M. EST
WHERE: HEINZ FIELD, PITTSBURGH, PA
HOW TO WATCH: RAYCOM SPORTS; WTAE (LOCALLY)
HOW TO LISTEN: 93.7 THE FAN & THE PITT IMG SPORTS NETWORK

For the second year in a row, Pitt will face the Syracuse Orange in its sixth game of the season. Last year, both teams entered the contest fielding 2-3 records, and Syracuse would edge out the Panthers, 27-24. Neither team would go on to reach a bowl game, with Pitt earning five wins and Syracuse earning four. Overall, the teams were in comparable states.

Fast forward to 2018 and this is no longer the case. While Pitt is once again entering its sixth game at 2-3, Syracuse – who suffered their first loss of the season last week to fourth-ranked Clemson – appears to be turning a corner in Dino Babers’ third year as head coach. With victories over Wagner, Western Michigan and Connecticut, the Orange have avoided early season losses to “beatable” opponents. After drubbing Florida State 30-7, they own an upset over one of the ACC’s top programs (although the Seminoles hardly resemble an elite team this year), and they nearly upset Clemson last week before blowing a 10-point fourth quarter lead. Though disappointing for the Orange fans, the loss to Clemson is excusable, and in many ways, rather encouraging.

With optimism surrounding the Syracuse program growing, the Orange will now look to defeat Pitt for the second year in a row and take one more step towards earning their first bowl appearance since 2003.

OFFENSE

When Dino Babers arrived at Syracuse, he installed an up-tempo, spread offense similar to that of Oklahoma State, and the effects of his system are showing on the field. Averaging 480.8 total yards-per-game, the Orange rank 26th nationally in that category and 3rd in the ACC. However, unlike last year when their passing attack drove the offense’s success (Syracuse was ranked 15th in the FBS when they played Pitt), it is the run game producing at a higher rate. With a 23rd-ranked rushing attack averaging 234.6 yards-per-game, they compile nearly as many yards on the ground as they do through the air (246.2 yards-per-game). Most importantly, though, is that all of those yards are leading to points; SU’s 44.2 points-per-game is tied for 16th in the FBS.

Returning at quarterback is 6-foot-4-inch, 226-pound senior Eric Dungey. Throughout his three seasons as the Orange’s starting quarterback, Dungey has battled injuries, yet still put forth some impressive performances along the way. As Clemson’s Dabo Swinney said a week ago, “This kid is a baller, man,” and he commandeers the Orange’s run-pass option at a high level. Through the air, Dungey has completed 84-of-132 passes for 1,013 yards, 9 touchdowns and 2 interceptions, and as a runner he has amassed 365 yards and a team-high 6 touchdowns on 64 carries. Last week, Central Florida’s McKenzie Milton extended pass plays and gained yardage with his legs against the Panthers, and Dungey has the potential to do the same.

SU lost a duo of All-ACC receivers in the offseason, Steve Ishmael and Ervin Phillips, but new receivers are stepping up in Babers’ offense. The Orange’s top receiver is Jamal Custis, a physically imposing target on the outside. At 6-feet-5-inches and 213 pounds, the redshirt-senior has 360 yards and 3 touchdowns on 22 receptions.

Complementing the giant Custis are two 5-foot-8-inch slot receivers, Sean Riley and Nykeim Johnson. Riley, a big-play threat who has been one of the top returnmen in the ACC the past two seasons, has 20 receptions for 217 yards and 2 touchdown. Johnson, although listed as Riley’s backup, contributes often with 15 catches for 192 yards and 1 touchdown.

At running back, junior Moe Neal is the primary ball carrier with 367 yards and 2 touchdowns on 77 carries, but Dontae Strickland is allotted his share of touches and has found the endzone 5 times. Also, true-freshman Jarveon Howard has earned a role in the offense by averaging 8.0 yards-per-carry.

Of course, running behind an offensive line that returns four starters makes life easier for Dungey, Neal and company. The only lineman who did not start in 2017, left guard Aaron Roberts, missed the entire season with a knee injury after starting all 12 games in 2016.

DEFENSE

Syracuse’s depth chart suggests that they operate out of a base 4-3 defense, but their breakdown of starts-by-player reveals that they begin the game with a three-safety, 4-2-5 look. Their 402.6 total yards allowed-per-game ranks 89th in the FBS, with 239.4 of those yards coming through the air and 163.3 coming on the ground. Syracuse’s yardage totals may not impress, but the team does rank highly in a couple of game-changing categories; they are tied for 8th in the FBS with 8 team interceptions, and they rank 11th in sacks-per-game.

The Orange’s defensive line features a trio of disruptive defensive ends who are getting to the quarterback this season. Junior Kendall Coleman has emerged as one of the top pass rushers in the nation; his 6 sacks place him in a tie for fifth in the FBS. Alton Robinson, another junior, starts opposite of Coleman and has 4 sacks of his own, and rotational sophomore end Jonathan Kingsley adds 2 sacks as a rotational piece.

Meanwhile, on the inside of the line is a pair of 300-pounders, including redshirt-senior Chris Slayton. Capable of squatting 700 pounds, the 6-foot-4-inch, 309-pound redshirt-senior has strength comparable to professional power lifters, yet he can still move well for a 300+ pound lineman.

After losing all three starting linebackers this offseason, Syracuse needed someone to emerge behind the defensive line. Sam linebacker Kielan Whitner, a 6-foot, 215-pound senior, has done just that. Whitner may not be the biggest linebacker, but he can tackle; with 43 total tackles, his 9.0 tackles-per-game rank second in the ACC. He also has 2.0 tackles-for-loss, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 1 interception, impacting the game in multiple ways.

In the secondary, Scoop Bradshaw and Christopher Fredrick both return at cornerback for the Orange. At safety, Syracuse features a diverse trio of players who will all be on the field at once. Strong safety Evan Foster tracks down ball carriers, ranking second on the team in tackles with 32. Antwan Cordy, listed as the starting free safety, has missed much of the past two seasons due to injury, but is finally healthy as a redshirt-senior. And although listed behind Cordy on the depth chart, true-freshman Andre Cisco is the player most likely to make Kenny Pickett pay for bad decisions on Saturday. After enrolling early this year, the product of Florida’s IMG Academy has started every game for the Orange this season, and his 4  interceptions lead the FBS.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Four of the last six meetings between Pitt and Syracuse have been decided by three points or fewer. If this is to be the case once again, field goals may play a pivotal role in the game’s outcome. While Pitt’s Adam Kessman is 1-for-2 on the season, Syracuse’s Andre Szmyt is 13-of-14 and leads the nation in field goals per-game. Szmyt may be a redshirt-freshman, but his reliability has been that of an experienced veteran.

 SEASON STATS

PITT SYRACUSE
  PITT OPPONENTS SU OPPONENTS
POINTS SCORED 112 160 221 107
Points Per Game 22.4 32.0 44.2 21.4
FIRST DOWNS 88 115 115 93
Rushing 53 51 60 37
Passing 30 47 49 48
Penalty 5 17 6 8
RUSHING YARDAGE 958 1004 1173 816
Yards Gained Rushing 1078 1130 1278 974
Yards Lost Rushing 120 126 105 158
Rushing Attempts 189 202 234 184
Average Yards Per Rush 5.1 5.0 5.0 4.4
Average Yards Per Game 191.6 200.8 234.6 163.2
Rushing Touchdowns 9 11 14 8
PASSING YARDAGE 758 1149 1231 1197
Comp-Att-Int 77-123-4 79-140-3 101-167-2 90-164-8
Average Yards Per Game 151.6 229.8 246.2 239.4
Passing Touchdowns 5 10 10 6
TOTAL OFFENSE 1716 2153 2404 2013
Total Plays 312 342 401 348
Average Yards Per Play 5.5 6.3 6.0 5.8
Average Yards Per Game 343.2 430.6 480.8 402.6
KICK RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 11-254 4-94 12-238 12-180
PUNT RETURNS – RETURN YARDS 9-110 10-80 11-217 3- -1
INTERCEPTION – RETURN YARDS 3-99 4-67 8-29 2-20
KICK RETURN AVERAGE 23.1 23.5 19.8 15.0
PUNT RETURN AVERAGE 12.2 8.0 19.7 -0.3
INTERCEPTION RETURN AVERAGE 33.3 16.8 3.6 10.0
FUMBLES – FUMBLES LOST 7-4 10-4 4-2 10-4
PENALTIES – YARDS 40-379 28-231 34-259 36-255
Average Per Game 75.8 46.2 51.8 51.0
PUNTS – YARDS 26-992 20-839 23-1058 36-1448
NET YARDS PER PUNT 35.1 35.5 43.4 33.6
TIME OF POSSESSION PER GAME 30:50 29:10 29:55 30:05
3rd-DOWN CONVERSIONS 29/64 28/67 28/76 16/71
3rd-Down Percentage 45% 42% 37% 23%
4th-Down CONVERSIONS 2/6 4/8 6/10 5/9
4th Down Percentage 33% 50% 60% 56%
SACKS BY – YARDS 9-64 10-82 17-114 8-56
FIELD GOALS/ATTEMPTS 1/2 2/5 13/14 3/5
RED-ZONE TOUCHDOWNS/ATTEMPTS 10/14 14/20 19/33 7/13

Passing:

COMP ATT YDS TD INT EFFIC
PITT
Pickett, Kenny 76 122 743 5 4 120.4
SU
Dungey, Eric 84 132 1013 9 2 147.6

Rushing:

CAR YDS AVG TD LONG
PITT
Ollison, Qadree 68 404 5.9 4 63
Hall, Darrin 31 207 6.7 2 65
Pickett, Kenny 44 111 2.5 2 15
SU
Neal, Moe 77 367 4.8 2 26
Dungey, Eric 64 365 5.7 6 49
Howard, Jarveon 24 187 7.8 0 52
Strickland, Dontae 41 172 4.2 5 51

Receiving:

REC YDS TD LONG
PITT
Mack, Taysir 12 265 0 60
Ffrench, Maurice 14 172 2 58
Araujo-Lopes, Rafael 11 103 2 42
Aston, George 10 58 1 14
SU
Custis, Jamal 22 360 3 50
Riley, Sean 20 217 2 49
Johnson, Nykeim 15 192 1 28
Harris, Taj 6 125 1 51

Defense:

SOLO TOTAL TFL FF FR INT SACKS
PITT
Wirginis, Quintin 21 33 6.0 1 0 0 2.0
Idowu, Oluwaseun 15 25 5.0 1 0 0 1.0
Weaver, Rashad 15 22 5.0 1 3 0 1.0
Hamlin, Damar 18 21 3.0 0 0 1 0.0
Briggs, Dennis 15 18 0.0 0 0 0 0.0
Stocker, Jazzee 14 17 0.0 1 0 0 0.0
Camp, Keyshon 8 12 2.0 0 0 0 2.0
SU
Whitner, Kielan 30 43 2.0 1 0 1 1.0
Foster, Evan 22 32 3.0 0 0 0 1.0
Guthrie, Ryan 15 29 3.0 0 0 0 0.0
Armstrong, Andrew 11 22 0.0 0 1 0 0.0
Cisco, Andre 12 15 0.0 0 0 4 0.0
Coleman, Kendall 11 14 7.0 0 0 0 6.0
Robinson, Alton 7 12 4.0 0 1 0 4.0
Kingsley, Jonathan 5 9 2.0 1 0 0 2.0

THE WRAP

This weekend’s game, which is the Homecoming game for Pitt, kicks off at 12:20pm. It will be the 74th meeting between the two teams, with Pitt leading the all-time series 38-32-3. Fans can watch the game on Raycom Sports (WTAE locally), and can hear it on 93.7 the Fan. As always, Pittsburgh Sports Now and its staff will provide in-game updates and observations via Twitter.

Get PSN in your inbox!

Enter your email and get all of our posts delivered straight to your inbox.

Our Sponsors

Dunkin' Donuts proudly supports Western Pennsylvania high school football
Duquesne Football
Duquesne Men's Basketball
The Travel Company
Walnut Grill - Robinson
Archie's Southside
To Top

Send this to a friend