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Pitt, Syracuse see more passing and scoring

| Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012,
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Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib looks to pass against USC on Sept. 8, 2012, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (Getty Images)

Pitt coach Paul Chryst was typically unmoved when told that passing productivity and scoring are up this season in college football.

“Haven't thought about it,” he said. “I've been in a couple games where it hasn't been up.”

True, but overall numbers paint a picture of throwing and scoring proficiency that could affect Pitt's Friday game against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.

Through the first month of the season, 25 schools are averaging 300 or more passing yards per game, including Syracuse. That's a dramatic increase from the previous five seasons when there was an average of only 10.8 teams surpassing that total.

The Orange are 10th (341.8), with quarterback Ryan Nassib first in the Big East and sixth in the nation. Pitt is 26th (299.2), with quarterback Tino Sunseri second and 20th (286).

Scoring is similarly on an upward track, with 20 teams averaging 40 or more points per game. Over the past five seasons, the average is 7.4 teams, with only two hitting that mark in 2009.

Pressed on the subject, Chryst admitted the game has changed.

“If you looked at it offensively and defensively, the film would look different than 10 years ago,” he said. “The spread has had an impact. Defensively, there are probably a lot more pressures (on the quarterback).”

Chryst said Nassib's numbers have less to do with Syracuse (1-3) trying to catch up late in games and more with the three-year starter's ability to make plays.

“I imagine they are saying, ‘Who's our best player?' It's a pretty good plan. Put it in his hands, a guy who can make good decisions,” Chryst said. “He's confident in what he's doing and knows where he wants to go with the ball. I think he likes those situations (at the end of the game). He has a lot of qualities from afar that you admire, or I do.”

Aside from the quarterbacks, the game will feature five of the top seven pass catchers in the Big East — Marcus Sales, Alec Lemon and Jarrod West of Syracuse and the Panthers' Mike Shanahan and Devin Street. West and Street helped Bethlehem Liberty High defeat Bethel Park in the PIAA Class AAAA title game in 2008.

Chryst is pleased with his pair but not surprised.

“They are two guys who should be making plays,” he said. “They both are talented, both played in a lot of games. For us to be as good as we can be, they have to be big contributors.

“You are glad that's happening and appreciate the work they are doing but also expect that out of them.”

Note: Chryst said he believes defensive tackle Aaron Donald will be ready against Syracuse. Donald missed the Gardner-Webb game with a knee injury.

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jdipaola@tribweb.com or 412-320-7997.

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