No. 25 Pittsburgh opens ACC play against Syracuse
No. 25 Pittsburgh is part of the national rankings as it opens ACC play with a visit from Syracuse on Saturday afternoon.
However, Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi isn’t the least bit impressed as the latest poll included the removal of nine teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12 due to their conferences not playing football at the moment.
“I don’t really care about it,” Narduzzi told reporters. “Doesn’t matter. I don’t want our kids to look at it. I’d rather be disrespected, play with a grudge and chip on our shoulder. We know what kind of football team we have in here. It doesn’t matter what people think on the outside. It’s what we do on the field.
“With less conferences out there, it doesn’t matter. Less people playing, matters less this year than a year ago. Our job is to go out and win football games on Saturdays.”
The Panthers (1-0, 0-0 ACC) opened their season with a 55-0 thrashing of overmatched FCS program Austin Peay. Syracuse (0-1, 0-1 ACC) had a much tougher first foe and lost 31-6 at then-No. 18 North Carolina.
Despite their game-long offensive ineptness, the Orange trailed just 10-6 entering the fourth quarter before the Tar Heels hammered them with three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“A lot of times we shot our own selves in the foot,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said. “That’s a good football team. We knew we had to really do things right to win down there in that situation, but I thought for three quarters it was a heck of a football game.”
The Orange allowed 463 yards against the Tar Heels but recorded two interceptions. Junior safety Andre Cisco grabbed the 13th of his career, the most among active FBS players and tied for fourth in school history with Walt Slovenski (1946-48).
Cisco has picked off passes in four straight games dating back to last season.
Panthers senior quarterback Kenny Pickett will surely keep tabs on where Cisco is at all times. Pickett began his season by completing 14 of 20 passes for 277 yards and one touchdown in the shellacking of Austin Peay.
Pickett needs 147 passing yards to become the seventh player in Pitt history to reach 6,000 career passing yards.
The Panthers allowed just 146 yards — and just 1 net yard on the ground — in the opener but their pass rush might be the biggest component against the Orange.
Last season, Pittsburgh recorded nine sacks in a 27-20 victory at Syracuse and the Panthers are again expected to try and make life difficult for Orange junior quarterback Tommy DeVito.
DeVito was just 13-of-31 passing for 112 yards against North Carolina and was sacked seven times. DeVito had a team-high 30 rushing yards and Syracuse totaled just 202 overall.
A struggling offense combined with a defense that wilted isn’t a good combination. But Syracuse senior defensive end Kingsley Jonathan saw enough good things from his side of the ball to expect improvement this Saturday.
“We’ve just got to come together as a defense and finish the game, just finish the game off strong and finish it how we started it,” Jonathan told reporters. “If guys keep running around and making plays, we’ll fix it and be ready to go.”
Narduzzi is expecting a battle. He points out that the Orange are in a better situation than his club due to the quality of their respective first-game opponents.
“Obviously Syracuse had a top-25 team they played. We didn’t have a top-25 team,” Narduzzi said. “I think to their advantage they’ve been in a war already. They were in a war for three quarters. They’re probably better prepared for Saturday than we are at noon.”
Pittsburgh has won 15 of the past 18 meetings in a series that dates back to 1916.
–Field Level Media