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November 21, 2013

Know Your Enemy: ARCHRIVAL ORANGE

Filed under: Football,Opponent(s) — Justin @ 12:59 pm

This week Pitt heads to the Carrier Dome for a no questions asked, must-win game. Pitt cannot rely upon a win over Miami next Friday to get to bowl eligibility. While Miami isn’t a top 10 team like they were a few weeks ago, they’re still a better team than Pitt across the board. Syracuse, however, is a flawed team still in transition after Doug Marrone left to coach the Buffalo Bills. The ACC set the ARCHRIVAL ORANGE up as Pitt’s cross-division rival, meaning the two teams will play annually even though they’re in different ACC divisions.

A few quick stats on Syracuse. Their offense is rather bad. They’re 99th in points per game (22.4) and 107th in passing (174.9 yards per game). Most offensive production comes on the ground, where they’re averaging 196.7 ypg. Their defense is statistically comparable to Pitt. Both teams allow around 26 points per game. The ARCHRIVAL ORANGE are a bit better in run defense but not quite as good against the pass. Overall, the numbers are quite close.

There is one area Syracuse jumps off of the charts: sacks. They’re tied for 9th in the nation with three sacks per game. This is obviously a big worry given Pitt’s OL struggles and Savage’s inability to get rid of the ball quickly. Thankfully the pass rush doesn’t turn into a ton of turnovers; the ARCHRIVAL ORANGE are forcing fewer than two turnovers per game and most of those are interceptions (13).

The ARCHRIVAL ORANGE are worse offensively than their stats would lead you to believe, which says a lot. It starts with a dreadful passing game. Sophomore Terrel Hunt is the man behind center and after an insanely good start (33/43 468 yards 7 TDs) he has dropped off the face of the Earth the past six games. Since their victory over Tulane, Hunt has gone 68/130 (52%) for 553 yards (4.2 yards per attempt) 0 TDs and 7 interceptions. That’s 92 yards per game.

Hunt’s only way to move the ball is with his feet. Including sacks, he has had 232 yards and two touchdowns on the ground during that same stretch of six games. The one dimensional aspect of Syracuse’s offense will make life a lot easier.

The downside to that one dimensional aspect is that the ARCHRIVAL ORANGE are pretty good on the ground. Jerome Smith and Prince Tyson-Gulley are a solid 1-2 punch. They’ve combined for 1,146 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Smith was on a very good run until he hit a brick wall against FSU (5 carries, 1 yard), but I won’t judge him harshly for that. In their two biggest wins of the season (NC State and Maryland), Smith was great. In those games he had 258 yards and 3 TDs.

The key to stopping Cuse’s offense will be containing Hunt and Smith on the ground. Tyson-Gulley is injured and his status for the game is up in the air. A lot of Hunt’s passes will be bubble screens. The ARCHVRIVAL ORANGE will try to pound the ball with Smith and Tyson-Gulley then pass off of that. When Syracuse tries to pass the ball several times in a row, the results aren’t pretty. They’ll try a trick play or two as well. Hunt is not very accurate deep, so the safeties can play up and gamble that Hunt will miss if someone is open over the top.

Plain and simple, stop Cuse on the ground and I don’t see how this offense will do anything. They’ve topped 20 points ONCE in the past six games and that was due to 362 rushing yards. If the defense can avoid huge mistakes and stop the rushing attack, I doubt Cuse will score 20.

On defense, Syracuse’s 4-3 has been a lot more impressive. However, they have two key injuries in the secondary, which will cause a lot of issues. The ARCHRIVAL ORANGE will be missing two of their top four CBs, Keon Lyn and Julian Whighman. Syracuse’s secondary is still chasing Devin Street from last season, where he torched them for 10 catches and 130 yards.

The main man to fear is DT Jay Bromley. Bromley’s has 9 sacks on the season, only one behind Aaron Donald. A DT that can penetrate is the best way to stop any offense (as anyone who has watched Aaron Donald nearly win games on his own can attest) and Bromley is obviously one of the best. After Bromley, it’s MLB Marquis Spruill and Robert Walsh with 3.5 and 3.0 sacks respectively. LB Dyshawn Davis has a sack in back to back games as well. Syracuse doesn’t have one guy who steps up when Bromley can’t get there, they have a variety of players, which is bad news for Tom Savage because the pressure will come from all angles.

The player to fear in the secondary (thanks to injuries) becomes safety Durell Eskridge and his four interceptions, two of which have come the past two weeks. His interception against Maryland was a huge play that halted Maryland on one of their better offensive drives of the day.

Syracuse’s defense will rely on pressure and turnovers. If the ARCHRIVAL ORANGE are going to win this game, the defense has to keep Pitt out of the end zone and force turnovers. If Pitt’s offense keeps the ball and scores a few touchdowns, Cuse has a very small chance of winning. They won’t be able to keep up in a shootout.

The key will be to get good yards on first and second down to avoid third and long scenarios, which Pitt has not been too great at. Take advantage of Cuse’s depleted secondary on quick passes like bubble screens and slants. Don’t be afraid to run the ball even if it’s going nowhere. When you’re up against a struggling offense, play the field position game. 3rd and 12 on your own 40? Don’t try a deep pass and open up the chance for a sack. Play small ball, keep Savage upright, and don’t get risky. Even Cuse fans admit they’re going to have to win this one ugly with turnovers, sacks, and the running game.

I’m hoping I’m right and the ineptitude of Syracuse’s offense along with a conservative game plan is good enough. I think ARCHRIVAL ORANGE QB Terrel Hunt makes a mistake or two that prove to be critical and the offense avoids huge mistakes. Pitt wins 24-13 and avenges last year’s loss to the ARCHRIVAL ORANGE.

 





It’s going to be up to Savage and the OL.

Nothing strikes fear into my heart more than the phrase “Tied for 9th in the nation with 3 sacks per game”

What’s our Achilles’ heel? Pass Protection.

Hopefully our OL steps up in a big way.

Comment by Atlanta Panther 11.22.13 @ 10:16 am

@JR, true. However, the last 8 against Notre Dame, the series is 4-4.

Including several overtime games, and even Brent Musburger saying on national tv the Pitt-ND games the past years have always been some of the best games around, always very tight.

Do any ND fans have anger towards us as a rival, no, of course not, USC and Michigan are their two top rivals, and they’ve dropped Michigan.

We are the 5th most played team Notre Dame has faced starting in 1909 I believe.

So, do I think we are one of ND’s hated rivals, no, but I wouldn’t just fluff off the rivalry and history either.

Comment by Dan 11.22.13 @ 10:20 am

Dr. Tom, you hit the nail on the head with the early lead comment. A key to winning on the road is an early lead because it takes the crowd out of it.

Comment by Justin 11.22.13 @ 10:40 am

I would like to see Savage roll out of the pocket more like he did against ND, that was damn effective football. Couldn’t agree more with Dr. Tom on getting the lead. Hunt can’t throw the ball, so if we put them in a position where chewing up the clock won’t cut it, I really like our chances.

All in all though, I expect this to be a pretty low scoring and ugly affair. I think it’s likely the first team to 24 wins. Though, I think there’s a decent chance we win by 2 touchdowns. I look for Conner to have another 100 yd day.

Comment by PittHW 11.22.13 @ 11:10 am

Oy Vey,

If Street doesn’t play we could be in trouble.
Street had his first big game in the Carrier Dump back in 2010, he caught a short pass and went like 65-70 yards for a TD, I believe.

Allows them to also possibly take away Boyd by doubling him.
And somewhat negates their DB injury problem if they just have to deal with Tyler. Spoon is going to have to step up and make up for the boneheaded punt return plays from last week.

I don’t have a real good feeling about this game, haven’t since the schedule was released and it another home game for them, 2 years in a row, which seemed odd and still does. Plus I didn’t like the placement of this game on the schedule.
We had been playing them much earlier in the season, like the first or 2nd conf. game of the year.

Also as Justin noted, their strength(sacks) is our huge weakness(protection).

If Street can’t play I’d almost we rather just come out in a 2 TE power set, with Boyd split way wide and ram the ball down their Orangemen throats. After a steady diet of that, maybe catch them napping with a bomb to Tyler at some point after we see their coverage package.

Need to come out like last week and control the line of scrimmage but instead of scoring FG’s and fumbling, need to put 7’s on the board.

H2P !
VeV !
Crush the Orange !

Comment by EMel 11.22.13 @ 11:27 am

If Street can’t go, I believe it will be Garner getting Street’s touches not Spoon like the ODU game. I suspect Garner will be moved to WR formally next year. God I hope Street can go.

Comment by PittHW 11.22.13 @ 11:41 am

The Syracuse injury report should lighten our spirits. I’m sorry that anyone is injured, but it should help Pitt to win. I have a good feeling about the next 2 games, just like I did about the ND game.
link to syracuse.com

Comment by Caw Miller 11.22.13 @ 12:46 pm

I’m with PittHW, especially if Street is on the bench, I see the TEs playing a larger role in the “quick” passing game. Garner had been $$$$$ when depended on to catch the ball and let us not forget about Holtz. I wonder if that poor bastard that J.P. layed out last year, knocking his helmet clean off, is still playing ball for Syracuse. POI, would a play like that be called for OFFENSIVE targeting now, since Holtz clearly intended to take him on and definitly lowered his head before he turned out that guys lights with the helmet to helmet contact?

Comment by Dr. Tom 11.22.13 @ 1:01 pm

That guy was trying to take JP out. Didn’t work out so well for him. Pitt really needs to get him the ball more.

Comment by Nick 11.22.13 @ 1:22 pm

This just sets up as another ‘classic’ Pitt disappointing road loss. I feel UCONN ’12 coming on. In my 25 or so yrs as a Pitt fan, we have NEVER been a good road team. Never. I hope I’m wrong and they wake up on time and play 4 quarters. It just sets up all wrong: ‘must win’. road game, vs ‘athletic qb’, vs a decent d-line. God, it’s hard being a Pitt fan……

Comment by Joe 11.22.13 @ 2:43 pm

How far off is Street from the yardage record?

Comment by gc 11.22.13 @ 3:19 pm

@CAW MIller, I’m cheering for you brother, because I have to work, and will only be able to peek in on the game, and I have that feeling that the first time I peek in on it probably mid first quarter, I’ll see, SYRACUSE 14 PITT 0.

I’m also cheering that my feeling for this game is waaaayyyyy offfff!!!

Would love to be wrong about this one, and happy to talk about how I was wrong tmrw night and Sunday.

H2P!!!

Comment by Dan 11.22.13 @ 4:51 pm

You should read how cocy these guys are on their message boards, they all believe that even with their injuries they’ll beat us by 2 touchdowns. Pricks. Watch their GT game and then watch ours… Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Comment by PittHW 11.22.13 @ 5:04 pm

That’s funny PittHW

They’re having to beg for their fans to show up to their last 2 games.

“The reason that people complain is that they want the team to win,” Joe Giansante, one of Syracuse’s senior associate athletic directors, said Wednesday afternoon. “Well, this is their chance. This is their chance to understand the moment, to understand the significance of the moment. If the community wants this program to win, this is their chance to do something about it.”

haha they’re having to package the football game tickets with a Cuse/Indiana basketball game ticket. too funny.

But there is no lack of fretting. SU has drawn more than 39,000 only once in four home contests to date, and it needed Clemson, then unbeaten and ranked No. 3, across the way to do it. And, uh oh, the Syracuse student body will disperse for the Thanksgiving holiday on Friday, which will leave its section wide open for the Pitt and BC tilts.

Thus, Giansante’s pitch to the public . . . and, yes, it does include an impressive offer wherein a three-pack of tickets to the Pittsburgh football game, the Boston College football game and the Indiana basketball game (on Dec. 3) can be had for a total of $79.

Comment by EMel 11.22.13 @ 5:09 pm

@ PittHW

That’s in keeping with mine and other bloggers experiences with their a-hole NY’er fans.
Until you slap them upside the head with some facts,like, “we’ve kicked you around 7 of the last 8 years in football”. Only Tiny saved them from it being 8 for 8.

Comment by EMel 11.22.13 @ 5:14 pm

Although I will give credit when due, Tiny had one of his better games ever in the 2010 Pitt/Syracuse games.

Comment by EMel 11.22.13 @ 5:24 pm

We’re not the only ones with seemingly a less than rabid fan base. Sans everyone on The Blather of course.

“We’re at that critical moment,” Joe Giansante declared. “Everybody wants a winning program. Our fans want it. Our players want it. Our coaches want it. We’ve got, essentially the lowest ticket prices in the ACC. So now we’re saying to the community: Help us. We can build this thing, but only if we do it together. It’s not a one-or-the-other deal. If you sit home, you’re not helping what you profess to love.”

The ticket windows are open. It’s time to belly up to them. Or not.

Your choice.

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Comment by EMel 11.22.13 @ 5:32 pm

Vote here for the winner of the game:

link to nunesmagician.com

Voting is below the end of the predictions, more than halfway down the page.

Comment by EMel 11.22.13 @ 5:42 pm

This website predicted a PITT win !!!

FINAL SCORE — Syracuse (2014): 7 – Pittsburgh (2014): 13

link to scacchoops.com

I’ll take it, Kill the Orangemen !!!

Comment by EMel 11.22.13 @ 5:49 pm

It could always be worse.
link to news.google.com

Comment by TonyinHouston 11.23.13 @ 12:54 am

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