Pittsburgh vs. Syracuse: 10 Things We Learned from the Orangemen's Win over Pitt

Zach DirlamSenior Analyst IIOctober 6, 2012

Pittsburgh vs. Syracuse: 10 Things We Learned from the Orangemen's Win over Pitt

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    The Syracuse Orangemen did not figure to be much of a factor in the Big East Conference this season, but after their first victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers since 2004, college football fans may be singing a different tune.

    Syracuse looked much improved on defense and the Panthers played well enough on defense to come away with a victory. Pittsburgh's offense could not come up with enough plays and fell 14-13 at the Carrier Dome.

    With all that being said, what did we really learn about Pittsburgh and Syracuse on Friday?

Ryan Nassib Does Not Have to Be Spectacular for Syracuse to Win Games

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    The Syracuse Orangemen's offense relies on effective quarterback play from Ryan Nassib, and although the senior signal-caller did not make many big plays against the Pittsburgh Panthers' defense, he did enough to win the game on Friday night.

    Nassib only completed 19-of-29 pass attempts for 185 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception, which is a far cry from the numbers he usually puts up on a weekly basis.

    The West Chester, Pennsylvania, native did avoid turnovers for the most part though, and scrambled for a critical first down in the fourth quarter that helped the Orangemen run out the clock.

    If Syracuse's defense continues to play the way it has the past two games, Nassib will just have to keep the chains moving and lead the Orangemen to a couple of touchdowns per game in order to win in the Big East Conference.

Tino Sunseri Is an Outstanding Quarterback

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    Although Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Tino Sunseri did not come away with a win on Friday night at the Carrier Dome, he proved that he is going to be tough to rattle.

    Sunseri was sacked five times by the Syracuse Orangemen, but never lost his composure and finished the game 25-of-33 for 319 yards. 

    Sunseri also did not have much help from Pittsburgh's ground game, which only netted 27 yards against a much improved Syracuse defense.

    Watch out for some more big games from Sunseri as the Panthers get deeper into Big East Conference play.

Syracuse's Offense Is Having an Identity Crisis

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    The Syracuse Orangemen's no-huddle offense looked as though it would gash the Pittsburgh Panthers early on, but did not produce a single scoring drive after their first offensive possession of the evening.

    Much of the troubles can be attributed to Ryan Nassib's struggles throwing the football and that forced the Orangemen to run the football a little bit more than they usually do. 

    At times, Jerome Smith appeared as though he could be effective on the ground and other times the Syracuse offensive line did not seem to have the talent required up front to allow the Orangemen to run the ball consistently.

    Opposing teams are going to continue to key in on the Syracuse passing game and force someone other than Nassib to beat them, which is something the Orangemen have to prepare for moving forward.

Pittsburgh's Defense Will Keep Them in Every Game This Season

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    After the Syracuse Orangemen's first offensive possession, the Pittsburgh Panthers defense only gave up 235 yards of total offense, picked off Ryan Nassib once and did not allow a single point.

    The Panthers held Marcus Sales and Jarrod West in check for the most part and gave the offense more than enough opportunities to win the ball game.

    Unfortunately the offense could not match the defense's strong performance, which kept the Panthers from earning their first conference win of the season.

Syracuse Has to Convert More Third Downs

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    The Syracuse Orangemen have enough offensive weapons to score 20 or more points against any defense, but until they find a way to convert more third downs, their offense will remain stagnant and will be spending too much time on the sidelines.

    Prior to Syracuse's final drive, the Orangemen were 2-for-10 on third downs, which is not going to help them win many games.

    Syracuse got themselves in too many 3rd-and-longs due to offensive inconsistency on first and second down. The Orangemen have to either throw more of their sideline routes, which were effective against Pittsburgh's defense all night, or establish a legitimate ground game to set themselves up with shorter third downs.

Devin Street Is Just Getting Warmed Up for Pittsburgh

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    After failing to haul in more than five passes in any of the Pittsburgh Panthers' first four games of the season, junior wide receiver Devin Street went off against the Syracuse Orangemen to the tune of 10 receptions for 130 yards.

    Streets finished last season with 754 receiving yards and could haul in a lot more than that this year. The 6'4", 190-pounder should be a matchup nightmare for just about every cornerback in the Big East Conference, and Friday night's game could be the start of a fantastic season for Streets if Tino Sunseri continues to look his way.

Syracuse Should Utilize Their Power Formation More Often

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    The ESPN commentators made sure to point out that the Syracuse Orangemen debuted a new power formation in their victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers.

    The way Syracuse's offense has struggled the past few games, it may need to try something different on earlier downs in order to put themselves in short yardage situations on second and third down.

    Adonis Ameen-Moore scored Syracuse's only offensive touchdown of the evening out of the formation, so it would not hurt at all to run it a few more times over the course of a game. 

Pittsburgh's Defense Has to Force More Turnovers

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    Although the Pittsburgh Panthers did an outstanding job at slowing down the Syracuse Orangemen's explosive offense, their defense did not force enough turnovers to win the game.

    In Pittsburgh's three losses this season they have a minus-four turnover margin, but in their two victories, the Panthers are plus-five in the turnover department.

    The Panthers picked off Ryan Nassib in the end zone and did not allow a single point after Syracuse's opening possession. However, the defense needs to make some offense of their own by forcing fumbles and forcing opposing quarterbacks into throwing more interceptions if they hope to finish with a winning record in the Big East Conference. 

Syracuse Is a Dark Horse to Win the Big East Conference

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    The Louisville Cardinals and Rutgers Scarlet Knights are the runaway favorites to win the Big East Conference, but if anyone else could challenge those two teams for the conference crown this season it's the Syracuse Orangemen.

    Ryan Nassib is still one of the Big East's top signal-callers, despite an off-game against the Pittsburgh Panthers, and Syracuse's defense has made major strides in its last two contests.

    Syracuse sacked Tino Sunseri five times and held Ray Graham to 57 yards on 24 carries, which is a great accomplishment for any defense.

    If the Orangemen continue to play strong defense, Syracuse has more than enough offensive weaponry to compete with anyone in the Big East this year. 

Pittsburgh Is Still One of the Most Mysterious Teams in the Country

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    The Pittsburgh Panthers were all but written off to start the 2012 college football season after their Week 1 loss to the Youngstown State Penguins, and things did not get much better after they were blown out by the Cincinnati Bearcats the following week.

    Pittsburgh rebounded with a convincing upset over the Virginia Tech Hokies and blew out the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs to get back to .500.

    The Panthers had not lost to the Syracuse Orangemen since 2004 and were expected to escape the Carrier Dome with their eighth straight win in the series, but never generated enough consistency on offense to come away with a victory.

    A low-scoring affair should have favored the Panthers against Syracuse. Instead, Pittsburgh created more questions than they answered in their loss to the Orangemen.