While Pittsburgh was getting worn down, Syracuse was just getting warmed up.
And they warmed up by firing up the Way-Back Machine, again, focusing almost entirely on the ground game to pound the Panthers into submission, 28-13, on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
Orange quarterback Garrett Schrader, who was ruled out due to injury just before Syracuse’s loss to Boston College last week, was the primary signal-caller for the Orange in Yankee Stadium.
Tiptoeing around the passing game — throwing for just 17 yards in the game — Shrader mostly ran plays out of the Wildcat formation, reminiscent of popular offensive approaches when the two teams met a century ago.
“We wanted to get physical,” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said. “We wanted to go old school. We wanted to go back 100 years to a 3-0 win Syracuse versus Pitt in the first game in Yankee Stadium.”
The Syracuse-Pitt rivalry began in 1916, with this being the 79th meeting — the Panthers lead the series 43-33-3.
The first half was spent trading momentum, with Syracuse (5-5) ending the first quarter with 113 total yards and Pittsburgh (2-8) with just 40.
Then in the second quarter, the Panthers regained their run game, going into the half with 139 total yards, the Orange with 35 as the Panthers went into the break with a 13-7 edge.
Syracuse, which opened both its first- and second-half drives with a touchdown, went up early in the third quarter on a 21-yard TD run by Schrader.
A Jayden Bellamy pick-six toward the end of the period extended the lead to 21-13.
The Orange made sure to capitalize on the Panthers’ turnovers — scoring on three out of four.
The Wildcat’s run-centric and physical approach left the Orange beating their season-best rushing total by 100 yards, finishing with 382.
Pitt’s eight losses on the season mark the worst season for coach Pat Narduzzi in his nine years with the Panthers.
Pitt had 209 passing yards and 60 rushing yards on the day, with one touchdown from Konata Mumpfield.
As for Babers, his team will look to add one more win to their catalog this season to gain bowl eligibility for the second year in a row.
He would be the first Syracuse coach to go to back-to-back bowl games in 20 years.
As for the difference between the Syracuse team that took the field at Yankee Stadium last December versus the team that walked off with a win Saturday, there aren’t many, according to Shrader.
“It’s a really similar situation,” Shrader said. “We had a bunch of guys banged up last year. We had 19 surgeries. We have a bunch of guys out, two of our starting lineman and two receivers. I was a little beat up last week.
“At this point we are doing whatever it takes to win.”