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Offensive inefficiency hurts Pitt in 27-24 loss at Syracuse

| Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, 4:24 p.m.

A year after putting up 76 points and scoring with ease against Syracuse, Pitt's offensive inefficiency cost it the annual matchup and, along with it, most reasonable chances for a successful season.

Pitt rotated through nine offensive linemen during a 27-24 loss to Syracuse (3-3, 1-1) in the Carrier Dome. It used two quarterbacks because of injury. It tried three running backs, the most effective being the converted safety.

Outside of Jordan Whitehead's brief moments of electricity (seven carries for 73 yards), Pitt sputtered once again.

“It's making plays,” Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Each play is somebody else. We can sit there and blame the offensive line and say they're not blocking but they look pretty good when No. 9 (Whitehead) is in the game. Right? So, what is the problem? Is it rotating the line? Is it the guy carrying the ball? I don't know. No. 9 looks really good.”

Among the missed plays Saturday was Browne failing to connect with a wide-open Quadree Henderson behind the defense on a broken play and wide receiver Aaron Matthews failing to bring down a pass from backup quarterback Ben DiNucci behind the Syracuse defense in the third quarter.

Pitt finished the game converting just 3 of 13 third-down chances and, after setting a handful of single-game records while collecting 644 yards a year earlier, the Panthers settled for 358.

Six games into the season, the Panthers (2-4, 0-2) haven't shown enough offense as they head into the more challenging half of their schedule. Without a win over a power-five opponent, Pitt faces just one team with a losing record and next hosts North Carolina State, which will come to Heinz Field owning impressive wins over Florida State and Louisville.

It likely will do so without Browne, who Narduzzi said he expected would be out at least a couple of weeks with an injury to his throwing arm.

“We knew we needed to get two in a row,” left tackle Brian O'Neill said. “We try to take it one at a time and not look at the hole, at least I don't. Some guys might. … We needed to win this game, regardless of how many are left on the road. We needed to win this game and didn't get it done. Disappointing.”

For much of Saturday, Pitt's defense kept it in the game, but a pair of penalties helped sabotage an otherwise solid performance.

Syracuse tied the score just before halftime, driving down the field in the final 3 minutes with the help of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by Dewayne Hendrix, the only touchdown Pitt allowed in the first half.

Then, while holding a 13-10 lead early in the third quarter, Pitt looked to have halted another Syracuse drive when backup linebacker Chase Pine committed a personal foul, giving the Orange a first down after a third-down incompletion.

The Panthers flushed Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey from the pocket, and Pine raced up from the secondary, forcing an incomplete pass. Well after Dungey released the ball, Pine kept coming, hitting him in the chest and drawing the flag.

“We had two personal fouls,” Narduzzi said. “One on Chase Pine that was a late hit on the quarterback. Unacceptable. It hurts you on a third down. Another one on Dewayne Hendrix that we'll look at the tape on.”

Said Whitehead: “We missed a lot of tackles, a lot of execution. Had a lot of dumb penalties.”

Five plays after the worst of them, Dungey scrambled into the end zone from 10 yards, giving Syracuse its first lead of the game at 17-13 with 6 minutes, 59 seconds left in the third quarter.

After trading field goals, Syracuse scored its final touchdown, and Pitt had just one possession with a chance to tie the score. It came with 52 seconds left, a struggling offense given the ball on its 5-yard line. It ended like you would have expected.

Said Narduzzi: “We're probably going to be real sick on Sunday when we're watching tape.”

Chris Carlson is a freelance writer.

SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Wide receiver Devin C. Butler #5 of the Syracuse Orange makes a touchdown reception to the tie the game 10-10 during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Wide receiver Devin C. Butler #5 of the Syracuse Orange makes a touchdown reception to the tie the game 10-10 during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Running back Qadree Ollison #37 of the Pittsburgh Panthers carries the ball for a touchdown during the second half against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Running back Qadree Ollison #37 of the Pittsburgh Panthers carries the ball for a touchdown during the second half against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Place kicker Cole Murphy #48 of the Syracuse Orange lines up a field goal during the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Place kicker Cole Murphy #48 of the Syracuse Orange lines up a field goal during the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Quarterback Eric Dungey #2 of the Syracuse Orange is lifted by teammates in celebration after carrying the ball for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Quarterback Eric Dungey #2 of the Syracuse Orange is lifted by teammates in celebration after carrying the ball for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Wide receiver Steve Ishmael #8 of the Syracuse Orange makes a touchdown reception during the second half against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Wide receiver Steve Ishmael #8 of the Syracuse Orange makes a touchdown reception during the second half against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Syracuse tight end Ravian Pierce drags Pitt defensive back Jordan Whitehead during the second half October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, N.Y.
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Syracuse tight end Ravian Pierce drags Pitt defensive back Jordan Whitehead during the second half October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, N.Y.
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Wide receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes #82 of the Pittsburgh Panthers is forced out of bounds by defensive back Rodney Williams #6 of the Syracuse Orange during the second half at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Wide receiver Rafael Araujo-Lopes #82 of the Pittsburgh Panthers is forced out of bounds by defensive back Rodney Williams #6 of the Syracuse Orange during the second half at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Wide receiver Aaron Mathews #6 of the Pittsburgh Panthers drops a pass as defensive back Jordan Martin #2 and defensive back Christopher Fredrick #3 of the Syracuse Orange defend during the second half at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Wide receiver Aaron Mathews #6 of the Pittsburgh Panthers drops a pass as defensive back Jordan Martin #2 and defensive back Christopher Fredrick #3 of the Syracuse Orange defend during the second half at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Head coach Dino Babers of the Syracuse Orange calls the team's final timeout during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Head coach Dino Babers of the Syracuse Orange calls the team's final timeout during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Quarterback Eric Dungey #2 of the Syracuse Orange avoids a tackle by defensive lineman Shane Roy #93 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the fourth quarter at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Quarterback Eric Dungey #2 of the Syracuse Orange avoids a tackle by defensive lineman Shane Roy #93 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during the fourth quarter at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Quarterback Ben Dinucci #3 of the Pittsburgh Panthers puts his helmet on after losing it on the previous play during the second half against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Quarterback Ben Dinucci #3 of the Pittsburgh Panthers puts his helmet on after losing it on the previous play during the second half against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Wide receiver Steve Ishmael #8 of the Syracuse Orange makes a touchdown reception during the second half against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Wide receiver Steve Ishmael #8 of the Syracuse Orange makes a touchdown reception during the second half against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Pittsburgh 27-24. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Running back Qadree Ollison #37 of the Pittsburgh Panthers carries the ball during the first quarter against the Syracuse Orange at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Running back Qadree Ollison #37 of the Pittsburgh Panthers carries the ball during the first quarter against the Syracuse Orange at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Members of a Syracuse Orange student group kneel during the national anthem performance before the game between the Syracuse Orange and the Pittsburgh Panthers at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Members of a Syracuse Orange student group kneel during the national anthem performance before the game between the Syracuse Orange and the Pittsburgh Panthers at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Pitt's Jordan Whitehead trots into the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter against Syracuse on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, N.Y.
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Pitt's Jordan Whitehead trots into the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter against Syracuse on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, N.Y.
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Quarterback Max Browne #4 of the Pittsburgh Panthers passes the ball during the first half against the Syracuse Orange at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Quarterback Max Browne #4 of the Pittsburgh Panthers passes the ball during the first half against the Syracuse Orange at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Pitt's Max Browne is sacked by Syracuse linebacker Parris Bennett during the first half Oct. 7, 2017.
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Pitt's Max Browne is sacked by Syracuse linebacker Parris Bennett during the first half Oct. 7, 2017.
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Quarterback Eric Dungey #2 of the Syracuse Orange leaps over offensive lineman during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Quarterback Eric Dungey #2 of the Syracuse Orange leaps over offensive lineman during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Wide receiver Devin C. Butler #5 of the Syracuse Orange makes a touchdown reception to the tie the game 10-10 during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Wide receiver Devin C. Butler #5 of the Syracuse Orange makes a touchdown reception to the tie the game 10-10 during the second quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Syracuse receiver Steve Ishmael makes a touchdown reception in front of Pitt defensive back Avonte Maddox during the first quarter October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. It was called back due to penalty.
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Syracuse receiver Steve Ishmael makes a touchdown reception in front of Pitt defensive back Avonte Maddox during the first quarter October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. It was called back due to penalty.
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Head coach Pat Narduzzi of the Pittsburgh Panthers encourages his players on the sideline during the first half against the Syracuse Orange at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Head coach Pat Narduzzi of the Pittsburgh Panthers encourages his players on the sideline during the first half against the Syracuse Orange at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07:  Tight end Ravian Pierce #6 of the Syracuse Orange spins out of a tackle by defensive back Jordan Whitehead #9 of the Pittsburgh Panthers for yards after catch during the second quarter at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
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SYRACUSE, NY - OCTOBER 07: Tight end Ravian Pierce #6 of the Syracuse Orange spins out of a tackle by defensive back Jordan Whitehead #9 of the Pittsburgh Panthers for yards after catch during the second quarter at The Carrier Dome on October 7, 2017 in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Pitt quarterback Max Browne walks out of the locker room after leaving the game with an injury during the second half against Syracuse on Saturday at the Carrier Dome.
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Pitt quarterback Max Browne walks out of the locker room after leaving the game with an injury during the second half against Syracuse on Saturday at the Carrier Dome.
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