Pitt’s LeSean McCoy continued his run to the record books today, becoming Pitt’s third freshman and the fifth in Big East history to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing.
McCoy rushed for a game-high 140 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries, but Pitt had to survive Syracuse’s last-gasp drive for a 20-17 victory before 31,374 at Heinz Field.
McCoy scored on a 1-yard run to give Pitt a 20-10 lead, and Conor Lee’s 32-yard field goal gave the Panthers a 10-point cushion, but Syracuse stopped McCoy on a fourth-and-1 at the 30 with 43 seconds remaining.
Syracuse quarterback Cameron Dantley completed passes of 16 and 9 yards before being sacked for a 6-yard loss by Pitt end Greg Romeus on a second-and-1 at Pitt’s 45. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Dantley’s deep pass intended for Mike Williams was broken up by Aaron Berry.
McCoy became Pitt’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Kevan Barlow had 1,167 in 2000, and the first freshman to do so since Curvin Richards ran for 1,228 in 1988.
McCoy recorded his sixth 100-yard game, and now has 1,065 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tony Dorsett holds Pitt’s freshman rushing records with 1,686 yards and 13 touchdowns in 12 games in 1973.
McCoy is on pace to break the Big East freshman rushing record of 1,261 yards, set by Rutgers’ Terrell Willis in 1993. West Virignia’s Avon Cobourne (1,139), Steve Slaton (1,128) and Amos Zereoue (1,035) are the other freshman to accomplish the feat.
McCoy scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard run to give Pitt a 17-10 lead with 13:51 remaining after Syracuse had tied it on a 56-yard touchdown pass.
McCoy’s scoring run was important, considering the Panthers had been stopped three times at the Syracuse 1 in the first quarter after Pat Bostick completed 7 of 8 passes for 57 yards on a 15-play, 80-yard drive.
Fullback Conredge Collins was stopped by defensive tackle Anthony Perkins on second down. McCoy was stuffed by end Jameel McClain on third down. On fourth down, McCoy tried to bounce to the right but was stopped by linebacker Vincenzo Giruzzi and strong safety A.J. Brown.
Patrick Shadle’s 36-yard field goal gave Syracuse a 3-0 lead at 9:01 of the second quarter, but Lowell Robinson returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards to the Orange 23.
Bostick threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Oderick Turner to give the Panthers a 7-3 lead with 8:23 left in the half. Pitt then added a 32-yard field goal by Conor Lee for a 10-3 lead with 36 seconds remaining in the half.
Bostick was 14 of 20 for 101 yards passing in the first half, and finished 21 of 30 for 153 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.
Cameron Dantley replaced Andrew Robinson (4 of 9 for 46 yards) at quarterback for the Orange in the second half, and threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Taj Smith, as Syracuse pulled to a 10-10 tie at 8:45 of the third quarter.
Berry’s 53-yard punt return to the Syracuse 13 set up the Panthers’ next scoring drive. McCoy ran for 12 yards, but Collins was stopped for no gain at the 1. McCoy then took a toss left for his 11th touchdown of the season to give Pitt a 17-10 lead with 13:51 remaining.
Lee added a 32-yard field goal with 3:21 left for a 20-10 lead. Syracuse answered with a 10-play, 63-yard scoring drive capped by Dantley’s 3-yard fade pass to Mike Williams, who made a juggling catch in the left corner of the end zone to cut it to 20-17 with 1:46 remaining.
Syracuse’s onside kick attempt tipped off the hands of two Orange players before it went 10 yards, drawing a 5-yard penalty.