PITTSBURGH — Pitt’s defense sacked Syracuse quarterback seven times and earned two takeaways, while the offense did just enough to lead the No. 25 Panthers over Syracuse, 21-10 to open ACC play at Heinz Field on Saturday.
The Pitt defense swarmed Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito, forcing him from the game at one point while harrying him throughout the day and holding the Orange starter to 9 of 15 passing for 32 yards.
Seven Pitt players combined for the seven sacks, with Rashad Weaver’s two leading the way in his return from COVID-19 protocol. Deslin Alexandre had a sack and recovered a fumble, while Paris Ford snagged his second interception of the game after a DeVito overthrow.
Syracuse finished with just 171 total yards, with three of the 10 Orange points coming after a Pitt turnover.
That takeaway was one of two on the day for the Orange and the Pitt offense failed to gain consistent traction. Pitt averaged 2.9 yards per carry on the ground with none of the Panthers’ four running backs used providing much of a spark.
With the running game flailing, Kenny Pickett used a couple of big plays to get Pitt into the end zone. After a Syracuse field goal opened the scoring, Pickett connected with freshman Jordan Addison for a 27-yard touchdown strike.
Syracuse backup Rex Culpepper, into the game after DeVito was crunched on a sack, took advantage of a missed assignment in the Pitt secondary and connected with Taj Harris for a 69-yard strike.
Pickett led Pitt back on a 14-play drive that culminated in a 1-yard quarterback keeper for a score to send Pitt into the break with the lead and a 17-yard strike to Jared Wayne in the third quarterback provided the final margin of victory.
As inconsistent as the Pitt offense was, the Panthers’ special teams was downright dreadful. Kicker Alex Kessman missed two field goals. Holder Kirk Christodoulou dropped the snap on a third attempt. Pitt also had two illegal formation penalties on punt teams and freshman linebacker Bangally Kamara was called for leaping.
With the win, the Panthers started their season 2-0 for the first time since 2016. Pitt will host No. 18 Louisville at Heinz Field next Saturday.