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Pitt wins regular season finale in 76-61 shootout over Syracuse

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Nate Peterman threw for 251 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another to lead Pitt to a wild 76-61 shootout win over Syracuse at Heinz Field on Saturday.

Forget that it was the highest scoring football game in FBS history.

Forget that 137 total points were scored with 1312 yards of total offense.

Oh, and forget that the Panthers, who were a 25 point favorite by kickoff scored 76 points…and failed to cover.

Let’s just sit back and take in the fact that what we saw on Saturday afternoon was indeed a regulation style American football game with eleven players on each side of the ball, and eight officials on the field.

The 76-61 victory for Pitt at Heinz Field was indeed one for the record books, and indeed one that nobody will soon forget.

“I’ve never been in a game like that and I never want to be like that in a game again,” said Coach Pat Narduzzi wearing a bittersweet mood.  “There is no such thing as a bad win, but half of me is jumping for joy, but the other half is making me sick.  We didn’t make enough plays on defense today and we have to go back to ground zero.”

Today marked the biggest win for Pitt since defeating Temple 76-0 back in 1977, and it was the most points given up in the history of Syracuse football, which dates back to 1899.

Since defeating Clemson on Nov. 12, the Panthers have since scored 19 total touchdowns in just eight quarters, including eight against Duke last week.

“We knew they had a good offense coming into the game,” said Conner.  “We were lucky our offense could score points too.  It was a high-scoring game, just thankful that we came out on top.”

The Panthers offense put up record-shattering numbers with 644 total yards, with 406 of those on the ground, with the bell-winner, James Conner racking up 115 of those yards on 19 carries, and Quadree Henderson going for a career-best 103 yards on 5 carries with a touchdown, a 66-yard jet sweep run on a drive that took all of a 11 seconds in midway through the 3rd quarter which gave Pitt a 49-21 advantage.

Nate Peterman capitalized on yet another solid performance slinging a 9 of 18 total on 251 yards and four touchdowns, including the first Panthers score of the game (which felt like it happened in 2015) on a slant route to Jester Weah that went 59-yards and knotted things up at 7 midway through the 1st quarter.

Weah led all receivers with 99 yards, while Dontez Ford topped out with 89 yards and a touchdown, a 79-yard strike from Peterman that gave Pitt a ridiculous 63-41 lead to start the 4th quarter scoring for the Panthers.

Maybe even more stunning than Pitt’s performance on offense was that of their opponents, where the Orange out-gained the home team with 668 total yards, earning 440 of those yards through the air.

Syracuse quarterback Zack Mahoney, who started for the injured Eric Dungey, went 43 of 61 and racked up five touchdowns with all of them going to the ACC’s leading receiver Amba Etta-Tawo, who caught 13 passes for 178 yards.

Etta-Tawo scored on the final three trips to the end zone for the Orange, including a 49-yard hookup from Mahoney that capped a 5-play- 69-yard drive with just 3:47 left in the game that brought Syracuse back to within two scores at 70-55.

“It’s fun being out there and putting up all those points,” said Mahoney.  “When it comes down to it, the only important stat at the end of the day is wins and losses.  Walking away with a loss in a game like this, it’s very disappointing.”

Narduzzi didn’t find the points on the other end as thrilling as Mahoney.

“We practiced the tempo all week, but you can never get it like it is in a game,” Narduzzi said.  “We didn’t win the possession which put us in a jam and we scored really fast.  We left our defense out there.  We never sustained the huge drives that eat up the clock.  But I’ll take the points.”

James Conner makes more history
The Junior stud back had his 17th career 100-yard rushing game with his 115 yards on 19 carries today.  He now topped the 1,000 yard plateau for the second time in his career, becoming the fifth Pitt player to achieve multiple 1,000 yard seasons in a career, joining Tony Dorsett, Curvin Richards, LeSean McCoy and Dion Lewis.

Beyond the spread
As you can imagine the over/under, which was set at 63 points was not only obliterated, it was literally doubled.  Pitt has now become the only team in D-1 football this year to have gone over in every game this season (Villanova was non-FBS and a no bet).

Next up
Pitt will wait until next week to see what their fate is and what bowl game they will be entered in too.  Among the bowls that could await the Panthers include the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City, the Sun Bowl in El Paso, TX and the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, NC.

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