Syracuse comes oh-so-close, loses 23-20 to No. 25 Pitt
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Syracuse was poised to beat a ranked team for the first time in nearly three years, then was undone by a trick play.
A fake punt for a first down helped set up Chris Blewitt’s 25-yard field goal on the final play of the game to lift No. 25 Pittsburgh over Syracuse 23-30 on Saturday.
“Anytime they convert a third down or fourth down on a trick play, it beats you down and you’ve got to fight back as quick as you can,” Orange coach Scott Shafer said. “Can’t let it linger.”
It lingered just long enough.
After punter Ryan Winslow hit linebacker Matt Galambos for 12 yards and a critical first down, Qadree Ollison took care of the rest, gaining 26 yards on seven straight carries to set up the winning kick.
Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC) has lost four straight.
“It really is just tough, the last four weeks,” said Syracuse linebacker Zaire Franklin, who had a game-high 11 tackles and two sacks. “Being in the position to win a game, but not being able to find that play. I feel like we’re close.”
Syracuse hasn’t beaten a ranked team since a 45-26 victory over No. 11 Louisville in November 2012 under former Orange coach Doug Marrone.
The Panthers (6-1, 4-0 ACC) have now won four of five on the road, with their only loss at Iowa on a 57-yard field goal on the final play of the game. The fourth-quarter comeback win was Pitt’s first since a 19-17 victory over North Carolina in 2009 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
“Shows our offense is resilient,” said Ollison, who had 98 yards rushing on 23 carries and scored twice. “We trusted the guy next to us. That’s all it is. It’s that trust and being resilient. We have that mindset that no one is going to stop us.”
The Panthers are off to their best start in six years. A reason for Pitt’s impressive start has been its ability to win close games. The Panthers are 5-1 in contests decided by single digits, including last week’s 31-28 victory at Georgia Tech on Blewitt’s school-record, 56-yard field goal with 1:11 left.
Freshman quarterback Eric Dungey kept the Orange in the game, going 21 of 30 for 210 yards passing and two scores. Steve Ishmael had seven catches for a career-high 114 yards and one TD.
The Orange had a scare on the first play of the second half when Dungey was hit hard on a keeper. Although he was face-down on the turf for a couple of seconds, he hopped up but was taken to the locker room to be evaluated.
Dungey, who missed the LSU game last month with a head injury suffered in a helmet-to-helmet hit against Central Michigan, returned to the bench moments later and on his first play back in hit Ishmael with a 33-yard completion while rolling out.
But Dungey, who led the ACC in pass efficiency (167.1), was intercepted twice after he returned and the offense managed only a Cole Murphy field goal after halftime.
Syracuse escaped the first pick, near midfield by Galambos, when the Panthers couldn’t overcome an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and were forced to punt. But Ollison scored his second touchdown early in the fourth after Dungey’s second pick.
“It’s tough. I’ve got to make good decisions,” Dungey said. “We’ve got playmakers all around as long as I can get the ball in their hands.”
Dungey sped untouched for 26 yards to set up Cole Murphy’s tying 37-yard field goal with 4:40 left.
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