Pitt entered its Big East Conference opener a 14-point favorite over Syracuse, but the Panthers are trailing, 24-16, after three quarters this afternoon at the Carrier Dome.
Pitt opens the fourth quarter at the Syracuse 29, thanks to a season-long 34-yard run by LeSean McCoy that helped him break the 100-yard mark for the first time this season. McCoy has 108 yards on 21 carries.
The Orange stretched its four-point halftime lead to 24-13 when Cameron Dantley connected with Van Chew, who beat cornerback Aaron Berry and made a diving catch for a 36-yard touchdown pass with 12:40 remaining.
Curtis Brinkley became the second consecutive rusher to surpass the 100-yard mark against the Panthers. He has 106 yards on 13 carries. Iowa’s Shonn Greene had 147 yards in a 21-20 loss to Pitt last week.
Pitt answered with a scoring drive that ended with a 44-yard field goal by Conor Lee, who tied his career high for field goals in a game (three) to make it 24-16 with 7:20 left in the quarter.
Lee is 3-for-3 on field goals, with his 40-yarder giving Pitt a 3-0 lead at 10 minutes, 37 seconds of the first quarter. Mike Holmes returned the ensuing kickoff by Lucas Briggs 90 yards for a touchdown 10 seconds later to give the Orange a 7-3 lead. It marked the first time an opponent returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Pitt since the 2001 Tangerine Bowl, when North Carolina State’s Gregory Golden also scored on a 90-yard return.
Syracuse then forced a three-and-out, and took over at its own 45. Curtis Brinkley gained 24 yards on five carries before Cameron Dantley threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Donte Davis for a 14-3 lead at 5:42.
Pitt had a 10-play, 79-yard scoring drive capped by a 2-yard pass from Bill Stull to Dorin Dickerson to cut Syracuse’s lead to 14-13. Lee drilled a 43-yard field goal to make it 14-6 with 12:10 left.
Pitt got a break on its scoring drive when defensive end Mikhail Marinovich was called for a facemask on Stull, whose attempt to throw the ball out of bounds was intercepted. The Panthers converted a third-and-10 on a swing pass to LaRod Stephens-Howling, who gained 14 yards to the Orange 4.
Curtis Brinkley made five defenders miss in breaking a 37-yard run to the Pitt 12. But the Orange gained only 5 yards, and Patrick Shadle kicked a 25-yard field goal as the first half expired.