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FB : Syracuse defense burned again by opposing backfield in season-ending loss to Pittsburgh

first_imgPITTSBURGH — As most of the Syracuse players trudged off the field, Kevyn Scott stood on the sideline, staring across the playing surface where disappointment had ensued for the Orange.He didn’t see anything in particular. His head swiveled from right to left at an emptying Heinz Field. Emotions ran whirlwind, just as they had all game for the Syracuse defense that failed to come up with enough stops.‘It’s tough. This is not the way that you would like to end your college career, but hey, that’s the way life is,’ Scott said. ‘Life is tough, but you have to keep on battling and realize everything happens for a reason.’Many of the problems that plagued Syracuse (5-7, 1-6 Big East) in four consecutive losses entering Saturday — an inability to stop running quarterbacks, letting running backs get in space off receptions, costly mismatches — surfaced once again against Pittsburgh (6-6, 4-3 Big East) as the Orange dropped its fifth in a row to the Panthers, 33-20 at Heinz Field. The SU defense was put in some precarious situations by Syracuse’s six turnovers, but it also broke too many times.Syracuse completed the collapse of its season as the defense struggled to win consistently for four quarters.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘I think it always hurts us when you can’t stop early,’ SU head coach Doug Marrone said. ‘I give credit to (Pittsburgh). We have to go back and look at the things that hurt us — the bubbles, the quick screens and getting our leverage.’That’s how it was from the start. After Pittsburgh recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff, the Panthers ran a play-action wheel route, and Pittsburgh quarterback Tino Sunseri hit Isaac Bennett in stride in the left flat.He scampered into the end zone from 22 yards out to put Pittsburgh up 7-0 10 seconds into the game.It was the same old story for the SU defense. Cincinnati’s Isaiah Pead burned the Orange last week, and Bennett and Corey Davis took their shots this week, combining for 11 catches for 119 yards for Pittsburgh.‘It’s tough when you get to athletes in open space,’ Scott said. ‘It’s going to be very hard to tackle them.’Tough. That’s how Scott described the feelings of disappointment and finality the senior co-captain was subjected to after the game. And it’s how he described the game’s momentum swings.Tough. At times, the Orange defense stayed tough. Sunseri was sacked four times. With the Panthers about to score for the second time in the game’s opening minutes, linebackers Marquis Spruill and Siriki Diabate combined on a sack to force Pittsburgh to settle for a field goal. It was a minor victory to be down 10 instead of 14 just 2:25 into the game.And when defensive end Chandler Jones leapt and picked off a Sunseri pass in the backfield in the third quarter, returning it to the Pittsburgh 28 and setting up an SU score to get within three points in the third quarter, SU showed resilience.But Syracuse just didn’t make enough of those plays.‘I feel like everyone on our team gave up 110 percent to win this game,’ Jones said, ‘and they just out-executed us.’Pittsburgh turned to a maneuver that the Orange couldn’t stop in the past few weeks: the running quarterback. Redshirt freshman Anthony Gonzalez, the second-string H-back, took snaps at quarterback as Sunseri — who did throw for 259 yards — was inconsistent.With Pittsburgh up 10-7 and driving in the first quarter, head coach Todd Graham went to Gonzalez for an energy burst. Gonzalez ran to his left and his offensive line sealed the edge. Meeting SU safety Jeremi Wilkes halfway on his trip to the end zone, Gonzalez gave him a strong stiff arm to the ground.And he dove into the left corner of the end zone before linebacker Dan Vaughan or safety Shamarko Thomas could reach him, summoning memories of when Connecticut quarterback Scott McCummings tormented Syracuse on Nov. 5.‘We had anticipated that he was going to be the Wildcat QB,’ SU linebackers coach Dan Conley said. ‘They came out with some new formations that we had to adjust to on the sideline.’The Orange defense never adjusted in time. The plays it did make became footnotes on an overall unsteady performance.Just like its season. While suffering key losses from the top 10 unit from a year ago, the defense never found consistency.Scott finally walked off the field, joining his teammates in the march to a somber locker room after embracing wide receiver Dorian Graham.‘No one was talking,’ Jones said. ‘It was a lot of tears, and I mean, like I told everyone, I said this one hurt the most.’[email protected] Comments Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on December 3, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Mark: [email protected] | @mark_cooperjrlast_img

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