*** First off, the football game was the highlight of the weekend in Syracuse, obviously, but there was a very close second. It happened at the team hotel in Syracuse on Saturday night. The team had already departed for Pittsburgh on a chartered flight, but I stuck around. I was standing in the lobby restaurant/lounge waiting to get a late dinner when actor Richard Gere walked right past me. So close I could have reached out and touched his perfectly coifed salt-and-pepper hair. I did a double take, of course. What is the star of American Gigolo, Pretty Woman and the Mothman Prophecies doing in a DoubleTree in East Syracuse? Well, turns out he’s from Syracuse and his mom still lives there, according to the nice ladies in the pool/sauna area.
Now to ,more relevant issues
*** The Syracuse game was considered a must-win, mainly because Pitt would have almost no chance of winning the Big East with an 0-1 start and the fall-out of a 2-4 overall start. But the way Pitt won the game will go a long way toward reaching some of their pre-season goals.
*** Pitt dominated Syracuse in all three categories, but the coaches will still have some troubles to go over at practice this week as the Panthers prepare for Rutgers. Pitt committed 10 penalties for a season-high 99 yards, including seven infractions for 79 yards after halftime. Among the flags were two holding penalties on Henry Hynoski, a personal foul on Ray Graham and a roughing the passer on T.J. Clemmings (for punching Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib in the face).
*** Buddy Jackson is becoming a special teams terror. Was there a punt return against Syracuse in which Jackson didn’t tackle the return guy? Actually, he had two punt return tackles and one kickoff return tackle, but it sure seemed like he was in on every play.
*** After starting slowly in each of its first four games, Pitt is getting off to a quick start the past two weeks. In the Panthers’ game-opening drive the first four weeks, they managed two first downs with three punts and a field goal (thanks to a turnover). Against Notre Dame and Syracuse, the Panthers had a 12-play, 68-yard drive that ended in a field goal and a 79-yard touchdown pass.
*** Reserve safety Kolby Gray, one of the Panthers’ best special teams players, sustained a concussion in the second half and had to be helped off the field.
*** Brock DeCicco and Shane Gordon made their first career starts at tight end and outside linebacker, respectively. But regular starters Mike Cruz and Greg Williams got most of the playing time. The benchings seemed to work. Cruz, playing opposite his brother, Syracuse tight end Jose Cruz, caught two passes for 17 yards (he had only four catches all season coming into the game). Williams had four tackles and returned a fumble 31 yards.