PITTSBURGH — Greg Williams' 51-yard interception
return for a touchdown late in the first half got slow-starting Pittsburgh
going, and the No. 14 Panthers extended their best start to a season since 1982
by beating Syracuse 37-10 on Saturday.
Dion Lewis ran for 110 yards and a touchdown for the
freshman's sixth 100-yard game, tight end Dorin Dickerson caught his 10th
touchdown pass this season and the Panthers (8-1, 5-0 in Big East) won their
fifth in a row heading into next Saturday's game against No. 19 Notre Dame.
Bill Stull was 16 of 23 for 225 yards and no
interceptions as the Panthers, who last were 8-1 during Dan Marino's senior
season 27 years ago, set themselves up for a possible Big East title-deciding
game against No. 4 Cincinnati on Dec. 5.
If the Bearcats defeat Connecticut on Saturday night and
West Virginia on Friday, the Cincinnati-Pitt game will determine the
conference's BCS bowl participant regardless of what happens in the Pitt-West
Virginia game on Nov. 27.
Pitt played much of the first half as if it was looking
ahead to those three upcoming games, stalling offensively while leading only 6-3
on two Dan Hutchins field goals – until Williams returned a Greg Paulus pass
tipped by Jabaal Sheard for his third career touchdown with 1:20 left in the
half. Pitt outscored Syracuse 24-7 in the second half, with the Orange's only TD
coming with barely a minute remaining.
Paulus to Williams normally is a productive combination
for Syracuse (3-6, 0-4), which lost its 29th in its last 32 Big East games. But
the Orange clearly missed leading receiver Mike Williams, who quit the team on
Monday after averaging 106.6 yards receiving per game.
Neither Paulus (12 of 18, 120 yards, 2 interceptions) nor
backup Ryan Nassib (5 of 16, 21 yards, 1 interception) did much as Delone
Carter's 143 yards rushing represented most of Syracuse's offense, which came
into the game ranked 106th nationally.
Syracuse not only played without Williams and three
suspended players – running back Antwon Bailey, defensive end Torrey Ball and
guard Andrew Tiller – but tight end Cody Catalina (knee) and safety Max Suter
(arm) didn't return after being injured in the first half.
The Orange were flagged for having 12 players on the
field once in the second half, but even the extra man might not have helped as
Pitt won its fifth in a row and seventh in eight games in the series. Syracuse
lost its ninth in a row to a ranked opponent.
Lewis, lightly recruited in prep school last season but
fourth nationally in rushing with 1,139 yards, finished off a 55-yard drive by
scoring from the 1 early in the third quarter. His 78 points on 13 touchdowns
tie Tony Dorsett (1973) for the second most by a Pitt freshman, trailing only
LeSean McCoy's 90 points two seasons ago.
Dickerson, who had two career TD catches coming into his
senior season, leads all Division I tight ends with his 10 touchdowns – the most
by any Pitt receiver since Greg Lee had 10 in 2004.