Time Machine: Devastating loss leaves bowl hopes in question

first_imgEditor’s note: The article below is a republished story from The Daily Orange’s Oct. 7 edition. Eli Saslow covered Syracuse’s 48-24 loss to Pittsburgh that put the Orange’s bowl aspirations in question.It took Keeon Walker two deep breaths and a quick gasp. Then he fumbled for the words.“I don’t know the reasons why, and I don’t have the answers,” Walker said. “This is the worst since I’ve been here. I’ve never seen anything like it here before.”Nobody on Syracuse’s football roster has. Not even head coach Paul Pasqualoni — who’s been at SU for more than 11 years — has seen a season start this poorly.No, it takes media guides and ancient statistic sheets to put Saturday’s 48-24 loss to Pittsburgh at the Carrier Dome on Saturday in perspective. A homecoming game that looked more like a Shakespearian comedy of errors, Saturday’s drubbing sends Syracuse to a 1-4 start, its worst since 1986.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I’ve been through the dog days and some of the best times,” senior receiver David Tyree said. “But it can’t get much lower than this.”With Big East powers Miami and Virginia Tech left on its 12-gamme schedule, Syracuse is in serious danger of finishing .500 or worse for the first time since that 1986. To be bowl eligible, Syracuse would have to finish the season at least 6-6, meaning it would need to close the year 5-2.The scenario could have been even worse. Before the season, the NCAA passed a provision allowing teams from conferences with bowl tie-ins to finish .500 and still make a bowl. In the past, SU would have needed at least six wins and a winning record to qualify.Before Saturday, Syracuse hadn’t lost to Pittsburgh in 11 years. It hadn’t fell to the Panthers at home since 1982, when Dan Marino quarterbacked the Panthers.“We’d always beaten Pitt,” tight end Joe Donnelly said. “The guys that have been here for a while, we didn’t want to leave with a loss to Pittsburgh. That makes it tough. We took pride in that streak. We really didn’t want that streak to end.”Worse yet, the streak ended in embarrassment.After causing an interception on Pitt’s opening possession— leading to a 28-yard field goal from Collin Barber — Syracuse surrendered 48 consecutive points.Pittsburgh quarterback Rod Rutherford — who completed 10 of 15 for 279 yards and two touchdowns — chewed apart the Syracuse secondary early.On the Panthers’ second drive, Rutherford twice found freshman wideout Larry Fitzgerald downfield. The first pass went for 36 yards. The next went for 27 and a touchdown.Rutherford also hit wideout Roosevelt Bynes for big plays. In the second quarter, Bynes found a 10-yard gap between cornerbacks Latroy Oliver and Will Hunter in the SU secondary. Rutherford found the gap, too, hitting Bynes for a 48-yard gain to the SU 1-yard line.But Bynes’ most impressive play came in the third quarter, when he ended Pitt’s scoring on an 82-yard touchdown catch. Hunter fell down trying to cover Slade on the fly pattern, leaving the receiver open and free to jog into the end zone.“Defensively, other than that first series of the game, we never really got going,” Pasqualoni said. “We just were so off-balance. (Rutherford) just really did a great job throwing the ball. We were on our backs.”“It seemed like every time they wanted to, they just punched it in,” quarterback Troy Nunes said. “And when we wanted to, we couldn’t.”During Pittsburgh’s 48-point run, Syracuse reached Panther territory twice. In a nine-series stretch, Syracuse fumbled four times and punted five.Starting quarterback R.J. Anderson — who went 3-of-10 passing for 11 yards — left the game with a sprained throwing shoulder in the last five minutes of the first half. Backup Nunes met a similar fate.Twice consecutively in the third quarter, Nunes fumbled deep in Syracuse territory. The Panthers capitalized with 10 points.Syracuse later scored three meaningless touchdowns to close the scoring. But, at one point in the third quarter, Pittsburgh had 46 plays for 341 yards. SU had 34 plays for 13.“Offensively, so many things went wrong,” Pasqualoni said. “Jeez, I can’t even remember all of the things that went wrong. Sometimes I don’t know how you explain it.”The crowd of 39,947 — SU’s lowest attendance for a Big East home opener — didn’t know how to react either.First it cheered. Then it booed. Then, when all seemed lost, some students threw T-shirts on the field.“It’s just disbelief,” defensive end Josh Thomas said. “We know we’re not as bad as we played today. We’re very frustrated.” Comments Published on October 22, 2015 at 9:20 pm Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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