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    Default Pitt runs over Syracuse

    Pitt runs over Syracuse, 37-10
    Sunday, November 08, 2009
    By Paul Zeise, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    Pitt's Greg Williams intercepts a ball intended for Syracuse's Mike Jones in the second quarter yesterday at Heinz Field. Williams then returned the ball for a touchdown.

    Syracuse has one of the top rush defenses in the Big East and yesterday certainly seemed determined to stop the Pitt Panthers' vaunted rushing attack.

    The Orange defense lined up with eight and nine men near the line of scrimmage and used a variety of run blitzes, but the Syracuse efforts failed miserably, as the 14th-ranked Panthers rolled up 247 yards rushing and ran away with a 37-10 win before a crowd of 46,885 at Heinz Field.

    The win kept Pitt (8-1, 5-0 in the Big East Conference) in the hunt for its first outright Big East championship, especially since its final two games are against the other two teams fighting for it -- No. 4 Cincinnati (8-0, 4-0) and West Virginia (7-2, 3-1).

    Not surprisingly, Pitt's rushing attack was led by freshman Dion Lewis, who ran 18 times for 110 yards and a touchdown, but it also got a big boost from a few reverses that coach Dave Wannstedt said were used to take advantage of the Orange's aggressive interior defense.

    "They were getting the safeties [up] and forcing us inside so much with safeties and corners," Wannstedt said. "And that's why the plan coming in was to run some reverses and some tosses and do some things to get out on the edge a little bit, and that's where the plays would be. So, that was the thinking behind that.

    "We also had a little package where we actually used three tight ends to try to take them a little bit out of their blitz package. The run game, if you stay with it and are committed to it as we are, it won't be easy, but everyone knows that is going to be our lifeline."

    The biggest play -- or at least the turning point -- came not from a running play, but a 51-yard interception return for a touchdown by Pitt linebacker Greg Williams. It gave the Panthers a 13-3 lead right before halftime.

    Before that play, Pitt, returning for an off week, seemed a little bit sluggish while building a 6-3 lead on two Dan Hutchins field goals.

    But Williams' touchdown seemed to settle the Panthers down, the momentum carried over into the second half.

    So much so that Pitt marched down the field and scored a touchdown -- on a 1-yard run by Lewis -- on its first possession of the third quarter.

    "Absolutely, that was a big play for us," Pitt quarterback Bill Stull said.

    "Big-play guys make big plays at big moments and, up to that point, we were struggling a little bit. But to get that play and get up by 10 right before the half, it was a big boost."

    Wannstedt added, "probably the biggest play of the game was [Williams'] interception for a touchdown. At that point, it is a 6-3 game going back and forth."

    And, after Lewis' touchdown made it 20-3, the Panthers were in good shape because by then it was clear that Syracuse's offense was struggling to score.

    The Panthers put the game out of reach with a two-play, 75-yard drive midway through the third quarter.

    The first play was a reverse to Jonathan Baldwin that went for 61 yards, the second was a 14-yard touchdown pass from Stull to tight end Dorin Dickerson, who had a record-setting day.

    Dickerson caught seven passes for 118 yards and a touchdown and became the first Pitt tight end to have 100 yards receiving in a game since 2004. He has caught 10 touchdown passes this season, breaking Kris Wilson's school record for touchdowns by a tight end in a season. Wilson had nine in 2003.

    Pitt's defense also had a stellar day, limiting the Orange to three points until late in the game when the reserves were in. The Panthers had six sacks, forced three turnovers and limited Syracuse to 285 yards.

    Hutchins added a third field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it 30-3, and, at that point, Wannstedt emptied the bench.

    [HIGH-LIGHT]NOTES[/HIGH-LIGHT] -- Pitt's 8-1 start is the best for the Panthers since 1982. ... Williams' interception for a touchdown was the third of his career. ... Lewis has 13 touchdowns for 78 points, and that ties him with Tony Dorsett for the second-most points scored by a Pitt freshman. ... Pitt entered the game averaging a nation-best 4.13 sacks per game and had six more, raising the Panthers' season total to 39.
    Last edited by Palmetto Steel; Nov-08-2009 at 10:58 AM.
    "You only have one life, and you will not get out alive. Make the most of your time and have no regrets." - Me.

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