Pitt Football Runs Over Syracuse 30-7, Keeps Bowl Hopes Alive


Nov 22, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Tyler Boyd (23) runs after a pass reception as Syracuse Orange cornerback Brandon Reddish (4) defends during the third quarter at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh won 30-7. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On an icy, cold Saturday afternoon, the Pitt Panthers celebrated their 12 seniors and hoped to beat the Syracuse Orange to keep their bowl chances alive.

Sophomores Chad Voytik and Tyler Boyd, as well as freshmen Chris James, led the way for the Panthers in a 30-7 blowout win over a weak Syracuse Orange squad.

Pitt fans, used to a string of heartbreaking defeats, could finally relax during a game, as Pitt essentially had its way against another former Big East foe.

Before leaving the game with an apparent hip injury, sophomore James Conner ran into the end zone for his 22nd rushing touchdown of the season, tying a Pitt record set by the great Tony Dorsett, as well as setting a new ACC rushing touchdown record.

Conner would only have 11 carries for 38 yards prior to leaving the game.

Pitt freshmen running back Chris James replaced Conner and carried the ball 19 times for 122 yards. Voytik completed 14 of 20 passes for 189 yards and two TDs, and Boyd finished with 7 receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown.

James ran hard when given the chance, showcasing the continued lineage of successful running backs in the Pitt program. Senior running back Isaac Bennett also carried the ball 11 times for 75 yards on Senior Day. As most years, the future at running back is a key strength for Pitt.

For the Orange (3-8, 1-6 ACC), offense was hard to come by, as quarterback A.J. Long completed 10 of 19 passes for 149 yards and 1 interception.  No running backs rushed for more than 35 yards.   Whereas Pitt amassed 445 yards, the Orange only put up 255 total yards on offense.

For the Panthers, Lafayette Pitts and Bam Bradley each recorded an interception.  Playing in their last game at Heinz Field, seniors Todd Thomas, Anthony Gonzalez, Ray Vinopal, and David Durham were all over the field, making several huge hits and solo tackles.

On the opening kickoff of the game, Boyd returned the kick for a touchdown, but two holding penalties were called on Pitt, negating the score.

Conner opened up the scoring midway through the first quarter with a 1-yard TD run to put him in the Pitt and ACC rushing touchdown record books.

Late in the second quarter, Voytik connected with sophomore wide receiver Dontez Ford for an 11-yard TD and the first of his career.  This gave Pitt a 17-0 lead going into the half.

Nov 22, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers wide receiver Dontez Ford (19) catches an eleven yard touchdown pass against Syracuse Orange safety Ritchy Desir (left) and safety Darius Kelly (8) during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On the first drive of the third quarter, the Orange had its best possession, capped off with a Ron Thompson 1-yard TD run to make it 17-7.  This was the only score Syracuse would get.

Following “Sweet Caroline,” at the end of the third quarter, Voytik connected with Boyd on a 49-yard TD pass to essentially put the game away at 27-7.

For Pitt (5-6, 3-4 ACC), sophomore kicker Chris Blewitt was 3 for 5 kicking field goals.

The key player of the game was Tyler Boyd, who set the tone early with a kickoff return and a big punt return.  Calling out the effort of his team a few weeks ago, Boyd has continued to give it 110 percent and capped today’s game with a 49-yard score as he turned on another gear and flew past Orange defenders.

With the blowout victory, Pitt’s bowl chances remain alive and the Panthers will have to knock off the Miami Hurricanes on the road in order to become bowl eligible.

Though Pitt has fallen short of its goals for this season, the Panthers still aim to win their sixth game and be rewarded with another bowl appearance.