After starting the season in dismal fashion, losing by two touchdowns to Youngstown State, an FCS team, and Big East foe Cincinnati, Pitt had rallied nicely behind Chryst. The Panthers stunned then-No. 13 Virginia Tech 35-17, forcing the Hokies into four first-half turnovers, and two weeks ago evened the score against FCS teams with a 55-10 victory over Gardner-Webb.
The Panthers fell behind Syracuse by two touchdowns in the first quarter, managed to force only one turnover after getting seven the previous two games, and Sunseri couldn't rally them again.
"We've got to be able to figure out the protection," Sunseri said. "We have to know that. It's something you have to be able to recognize. Ultimately, it's my job to right the ship on that and I'll be able to next time."
Syracuse's ho-huddle offense had produced lots of yardage in the first four games, but much of it had come in spurts after the Orange had fallen behind. Nassib was flawless the first time Syracuse had the ball against Pitt.
After forcing the Panthers into a three-and-out on the game's first possession, Syracuse marched quickly for the first touchdown of the game, mixing the run with the pass as the Pitt defenders seemed to struggle to get a handle on the pace of play.
Nassib had four completions for 51 yards, while Smith and Gulley combined to rush for 18 yards to set up Moore's touchdown at 9:54. Moore's first career TD came on his first carry of the season.
Through four games, the Syracuse defense had produced only four turnovers (three interceptions and one fumble recovery) as the Orange struggled with one of the worst turnover margins in the country (minus-1.5).
Syracuse made it 14-0 late in the first on Davis' fumble return. Sunseri hit Drew Carswell for a short gain near midfield. Carswell lost the ball after a hit by Jeremi Wilkes, and Davis scooped it up and scored untouched down the right side.
Coming into the Syracuse game, Sunseri ranked as the Big East's most efficient passer (15th nationally) with a 166.80 rating, and he combined with Street to rally the Panthers.
Sunseri was 16 of 21 for 187 yards in the first half, and eight of those passes went to Street for 107 yards. Street's 14-yard catch over the middle on a third-and-7 from the Syracuse 20 set up Graham's 1-yard scoring run, which came on third down after some spirited play by the Orange front.
Kevin Harper's 40-yard field goal pulled Pitt within 14-10 at halftime and he hit a 27-yarder late in the third to make it 14-13. Sunseri set up the second with a gutsy throw as he was being hit, somehow finding Shanahan for a 46-yard gain down the left side.
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