Syracuse University's football team made a loud statement by defeating South Florida 13-9 in a defensive battle on Oct. 8, but then took a giant step backward seven days later in the Carrier Dome.
The Orange's stumble came at the hands of Pittsburgh, as SU who wanted to be regarded as a Big East title contender, temporarily had that illusion stripped away in its sixth consecutive loss to the Panthers.
The Panthers (3-3, 1-1) crushed the Orange (4-2, 1-1) 45-14 with a superior offense and a relentless pressuring defense. It was obvious that Pitt executed a game plan identical to the one that Washington had used when It beat SU back in September.
First, SU's secondary was exposed as one with a lack of speed and discipline in coverage, allowing too many big plays. Second, the Orange had a hard time generating pressure on Panther quarterback Tino Sunseri.
Despite a leg injury that he sustained in the third quarter, Sunseri was impressive, completing 17 of 24 passes for 266 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.
In addition, the Panthers had stalwart performances from wide receivers Delvin Streets, Ray Gram, and Mike Shanahan. Streets led all receivers with three catches for 83 yards, while Shanahan pitched in with four receptions for 64 yards.
"They (Pittsburgh) beat us on offense, defense, and special teams" SU head coach Doug Marrone said. "We did not make plays. We did not perform. What I feel bad about is for people who came out today to watch the game".
Defensively, the Panthers pounced on SU neutralizing their high-powered offense. SU was forced on seven of 13 possessions to three-downs and out. The Orange's running attack was held to 77 yards. SU only got three first downs in the first half.
"It is disappointing," said tailback Delone Carter who was limited to 38 yards on the ground on 13 carries. "We knew what they were going to do. We just didn't execute."