No. 25 Pitt stuns Syracuse with late fake punt, leading to last-second FG to win
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Pat Narduzzi passed the audition. So did his punter, and kicker.
The coach of No. 25 Pittsburgh displayed his disgust by walking down the sideline wondering why his team was unable to convert a third down play with the score tied and time running down.
But the Panthers never planned to punt the ball away to Syracuse. Instead, the first-year coach called for a fake punt, Ryan Winslow hit linebacker Matt Galambos for 12 yards and a first down and Chris Blewitt kicked a 25-yard field goal on the final play for a 23-20 win on Saturday.
"I did a good job acting," said Narduzzi, who was on the Rhode Island staff with Syracuse coach Scott Shafer in the 1990s. "I know Scott was probably looking over, so I walked down the sideline — how come we couldn’t get that first down? Didn’t matter where on the field. I had a lot of confidence in that punt fake."
After the first down pass from punter Winslow to Galambos, Qadree Ollison took care of the rest with 26 yards on seven straight carries to set up the winning kick.
"To be honest, I didn’t even think about it," Winslow said. "We had practiced it so much during the week that it was second nature at that point. It worked perfectly."
The Panthers (6-1, 4-0 ACC) have now won four of five on the road, with their only loss at Iowa on a 57-yard field goal on the final play of the game. The fourth-quarter comeback win was Pitt’s first since a 19-17 victory over North Carolina in 2009 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
"Shows our offense is resilient," said Ollison, who had 98 yards on 23 carries and scored twice. "We trusted the guy next to us. That’s all it is. It’s that trust and being resilient. We have that mindset that no one is going to stop us."
Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC) has lost four straight.
"It was a good call by them," Shafer said. "At the end of the day, we came up short and it’s disappointing. I like the way our kids are playing. I like the way they’re competing."
The Panthers are off to their best start in six years. A reason for Pitt’s impressive start has been its ability to win close games. The Panthers are 5-1 in contests decided by single digits, including last week’s 31-28 victory at Georgia Tech on Blewitt’s school-record, 56-yard field goal with 1:11 left.
Freshman quarterback Eric Dungey kept the Orange in the game, going 21 of 30 for 210 yards passing and two scores. Steve Ishmael had seven catches for a career-high 114 yards and one TD.
The Orange had a scare on the first play of the second half when Dungey was hit hard on a keeper. Although he was face-down on the turf for a couple of seconds, he hopped up but was taken to the locker room to be evaluated.
Dungey, who missed the LSU game last month with a head injury suffered in a helmet-to-helmet hit against Central Michigan, returned to the bench moments later and on his first play back in hit Ishmael with a 33-yard completion while rolling out.
But Dungey, who led the ACC in pass efficiency (167.1), was intercepted twice after he returned and the offense managed only a Cole Murphy field goal after halftime.
Syracuse escaped the first pick, near midfield by Galambos, when the Panthers couldn’t overcome an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and were forced to punt. But Ollison scored his second touchdown early in the fourth after Dungey threw his second pick.
"It’s tough. I’ve got to make good decisions," Dungey said. "We’ve got playmakers all around as long as I can get the ball in their hands."
Dungey sped untouched for 26 yards to set up Murphy’s tying 37-yard field goal with 4:40 left.