Syracuse football meets Pittsburgh in the Bronx on a historic anniversary
Syracuse football (4-5, 0-5 in Atlantic Coast Conference) makes a short trip south to face Pittsburgh (2-7, 1-4 in Atlantic Coast Conference) at Yankee Stadium on Saturday. The Orange and Panthers play 100 years after meeting in the very first football game at the iconic sports venue. SU won the 1923 contest 3-0.
A century later, the two squads might not be in any better shape offensively.
The ‘Cuse have averaged 8.8 points, 4.4 third-down conversions, and 229 yards during their five-game losing streak. An injury to Orange quarterback Garrett Shrader two weeks ago further complicates Jason Beck’s unit. Second-string signal caller Carlos Del Rio-Wilson struggled mightily in his first start of the season last week. The redshirt sophomore gained just 37 yards in the air and threw 4 interceptions against Boston College. Despite the poor performance, SU head coach Dino Babers still has confidence in the Atlanta native.
“Don't judge him by one outing,” Babers said. “There's a lot of good in him and we just need to be able to help him more.”
Shrader’s injury status for Saturday is still unknown, according to Babers. If Del-Rio Wilson takes the field, he’ll aim to redeem himself against the Panthers. In his only start last year, Pitt held the ‘Cuse backup to a 35% completion rate and just 120 yards in the air.
The quarterback situation in Pittsburgh isn’t much prettier. Boston College transfer Phil Jurkovec moved to the Steel City this year to lead Pitt’s offense. After the Panthers started off 1-4, the sixth-year senior found himself on the bench. Pittsburgh’s new signal caller, sophomore Christian Veilleux has been far from a perfect replacement. In four games as a starter, the Ottawa native has a 50% completion rate and as many interceptions as touchdown passes (5).
One player who could give the ‘Cuse defense some trouble is Pitt wideout Bub Means. The Louisiana Tech transfer has stood out in an otherwise struggling Panthers passing game. Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi says he’s been impressed with the senior.
“I think Bub is being real consistent, I really do,” Narduzzi said. “He's been pretty detailed, he's catching the ball well.”
In his last five games, Means has hauled 24 receptions for 416 yards and 4 touchdowns.
On Syracuse’s side, it’s running back LeQuint Allen who has provided hope for SU’s offense. The sophomore is a versatile weapon, leading the Orange in carries (138) and receptions (26). This season, the New Jersey product ranks 4th in the ACC in yards on the ground per game (77.2) and 7th in rushing touchdowns (7).
“He's one of those players that makes things happen when you touch the ball,” Babers said.
Allen is no stranger to “The House that Jeter Built.” In Syracuse’s 28-20 Pinstripe Bowl loss to Minnesota at Yankee Stadium last season, the running back recorded a career-high 154 all-purpose yards.
The Orange need to pick up two victories in their next three contests in order to return to a bowl game. Among SU’s remaining opponents, Pitt has the worst overall record this season. The ‘Cuse haven’t achieved bowl eligibility in back-to-back seasons since they joined the ACC in 2013.
The Syracuse-Pittsburgh rivalry continues at 3:30 p.m. WAER begins coverage at 3:00 p.m. with McClurg Remodeling Countdown to Kickoff.