Syracuse offense shines for season-best performance in 76-61 loss to Pittsburgh

first_img Published on November 26, 2016 at 9:08 pm Contact Chris: [email protected] | @ChrisLibonati PITTSBURGH — Former Pittsburgh head coach Johnny Majors slipped between people congregated outside the Pitt locker room. He marched with his head down and, to no one in particular, he boomed about the game he had just watched.Haven’t seen anything like it in my 48 years of coaching, he said as he walked through the high-ceiling bowels of Heinz Field.FBS football hadn’t seen anything like it either.Syracuse (4-8, 2-6 Atlantic Coast) and Pittsburgh (8-4, 5-3) combined for 137 points on Saturday — an FBS record — in the Panthers 76-61 victory over the Orange. While the 76 points allowed was a school record for SU, it reached new heights offensively as well. The 61 points were the most points a Dino Babers-coached Syracuse team scored all season. Quarterback Zack Mahoney narrowly missed a few records, finishing 42 yards shy of SU’s single-game passing yards record, two completions short of SU’s record for completions in a game and five attempts short of Ryan Nassib’s attempts record in a game.Mahoney completed 43-of-61 passes for five touchdowns and an interception. The quarterback’s performance turned on that interception. The SU quarterback played better after it, allowing SU to click better offensively.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“He threw that pick-six and came off the field with his shoulders down and all of that stuff. I told him, ‘If you don’t throw the ball, we can’t win,” Babers said. “So we are going to keep throwing the ball and if you throw a pick-six then you just throw a pick-six. But the next throw is going to be a touchdown. We can’t win without you. You are going to throw and you are going to throw well.’“I don’t know exactly what he did after that but I think he did a little bit better.”Syracuse came out of the half down, 35-21, and Pittsburgh was set up to receive the half’s opening kickoff. The Panthers had scored touchdowns on their previous four drives and it appeared SU wouldn’t be able to stop the Pitt offense. After allowing a quick first down on two plays, the Orange forced two incomplete passes and stuffed James Conner for a 1-yard gain.Mahoney dropped back to pass on third down and, looking to avoid the Panthers’ pass rush, tried to quickly throw the ball to the left sideline. Pitt’s Dane Jackson returned the interception for a touchdown and put the Panthers up, 42-21.With Syracuse down, 56-34, Mahoney and wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo went on a run of their own. Etta-Tawo finished off Syracuse’s final three drives of the season with a touchdown on each. In those drives, Etta-Tawo hauled in a combined six catches for 100 yards and three touchdowns. The touchdowns pushed his game total to five and his season total to 14, setting a program record for receiving touchdowns in a game and tying the program’s season touchdown receptions record.“Reality set in for the team,” Etta-Tawo said of what flipped the offense’s struggles in the prior three games. “The team realized that it was the seniors’ last game.”After the interception, Syracuse scored 40 points — more than it had scored in a game all year — in fewer than 30 minutes. In all, Syracuse racked up 668 yards. Its 440 passing yards and 228 rushing yards both set highs during Babers’ tenure as head coach.“We just started clicking,” Mahoney said. “I think when I saw them getting tired and us clicking, it was a big morale booster.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more