Nov 20, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) scrambles with the ball against the Virginia Cavaliers during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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No. 17 Pitt, shooting for 10-win season, meets Syracuse

While Pat Narduzzi is focused on the 2021 season, there are two other years the coach of No. 17 Pitt is keeping in mind heading into Saturday’s road game against Syracuse.

The first is 1981. The second is 2018.

Regarding 1981, that was the last time Pitt won 10 games in a regular season. The Panthers sit at 9-2, 6-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, heading into their regular-season finale.

“It’s been a long time,” Narduzzi said. “To me, that means something. In 40 years, there’s something to prove when we go up there this weekend.”

As for 2018, Pitt wrapped up the ACC Coastal Division with one game to play that year — the same scenario the team is in now. The 2018 Panthers ended up losing their regular-season finale to Miami before getting hammered by Clemson in the ACC title game and then falling to Stanford in the Sun Bowl.

Narduzzi did not rest his starters in that game against Miami and doesn’t plan to do it this time around either, even with the ACC championship game awaiting in early December.

“(Whether we’ll rest our starters) would be a natural question: ‘Let’s go up there and keep them all healthy and play our backups and get ready for the championship game,'” Narduzzi said. “I would love to do that, but I don’t see us doing that.”

Pitt has not been held below 27 points in any game this season and enters the weekend averaging 43.9 points — third best in the nation — and 370.1 passing yards, which ranks fifth in Division I FBS.

Quarterback Kenny Pickett and wide receiver Jordan Addison hooked up for 202 yards and four touchdowns in last week’s 48-38 triumph over Virginia. Pickett was announced this week as a finalist for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding player, while Addison is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, an honor that goes to the most outstanding receiver.

“This is a doggone good football team that’s going to have an opportunity to play in the title game of the ACC,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. “And they definitely deserve it.”

The Orange (5-6, 2-5), meanwhile, need a win to guarantee their first bowl berth since 2018. They have absorbed consecutive losses to Louisville and North Carolina State by a combined 82-20 margin, giving them one last shot to prove the doubters wrong before the regular season concludes.

“I remember when the season started,” Babers said to reporters. “I remember who was on the hot seat. I remember we weren’t supposed to win more than three games. I read all your articles, everybody in here. And then all of a sudden, we decided we weren’t going to be bad, we were going to be good, and everybody changed their expectations.

“Our expectations in here have never changed, and our goal has always been the same.”

One highlight of Syracuse’s season has been the play of running back Sean Tucker, who last week broke the school’s 42-year-old record for rushing yards in a season. The freshman has 1,467 rushing yards, 49 yards shy of Central Michigan’s Lew Nichols for the FBS lead.

Pitt has won 14 of the last 16 matchups, including a 21-10 win last season. Pickett threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score in that victory.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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