SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Kenny Pickett threw for two touchdowns, including a trick play to Aaron Mathews, as Pitt defeated Syracuse, 27-13 on Friday night.
Pickett’s pass to Mathews came after a throwback lateral from running back A.J. Davis back to Pickett, and he found a wide-open Mathews for a 43-yard score late in the first quarter.
The touchdown, Mathews’ first of his four-year career, made it 10-3 and gave Pitt a lead it never relinquished.
The Panthers added on with a pair of second quarter touchdowns, when A.J. Davis scored on a five-yard carry and Pickett found Maurice French for a 14-yard score and Pitt took a 23-6 lead into the half. Pickett finished 18 of 33 for 232 yards.
Davis, making his return from an injury that has kept him out since Pitt’s Week 4 win over UCF, recorded his first career 100-yard game, finishing with 103 yards on 16 carries.
After Pitt safety Paris Ford knocked Syracuse starting quarterback Tommy DeVito out of the game with a big hit early in the second half, the Orange offense rallied around backup Clayton Welch.
Welch found Taj Harris over Pitt corner Dane Jackson for a 94-yard catch-and-run touchdown early in the second half to bring the Orange to within two score.
Syracuse then sustained a long drive that was helped by three Pitt defensive pass interference penalties, but All-American Syracuse kicker Andre Szmyt missed from 48 yards.
Outside of the penalties — Pitt finished with eight for 79 yards in total — Pitt’s defense was stellar, sacking the Syracuse quarterbacks a combined nine times, the most for the program since 2001.
After the defensive stop and the missed field goal, the Panthers’ offense responded with an over-seven-minute drive to add an Alex Kessman field goal and make it a two-touchdown game.
The Orange responded with 75-yard touchdown drive to draw back to within a score, but were unable to get the ball back.
Up next, Pitt will host Miami at Heinz Field in a noon kickoff next Saturday at Heinz Field.