Troy Nunes threw three touchdown passes in the first half, one a desperation heave on a botched field-goal attempt, and No. 18 Syracuse held off Pittsburgh's second-half rally to win 24-17 Thursday night.
Nunes didn't start as the Orangemen (5-1, 2-0 Big East) stayed with a sometimes ineffective two-quarterback rotation, but came on to throw his scoring passes in less than a quarter to give Syracuse a 21-0 halftime lead.
"We got real lax in the second half," Syracuse cornerback Will Allen said. "We had a chance to end it in the third quarter and we didn't. You could just see the momentum shift."
"I'm sure when it was 24-0 a lot of people were headed to the house," Pitt coach Walt Harris said. "It wasn't a very good first half for us, but it was an extraordinary second half, and now it's up to us to build on it."
The Orangemen threatened to make it another rout they have outscored Pitt 325-154 during the winning streak by limiting Harris' pro-style offense to nine passing yards in the first half and driving quarterback John Turman to the bench.
Priestley, who started Pitt's opener but was benched by halftime, was much more effective as his throwing set up Kevan Barlow's 1-yard TD run and Barlow's 13-yard TD pass to Latef Grim on a halfback option. Priestley finished 9-of-20 for 133 yards.
Priestley also drove Pitt to the Syracuse 22 midway through the fourth quarter before settling for Nick Lotz's 39-yard field goal, and later led the Panthers to the 27 until he was sacked for a 12-yard loss by Duke Pettijohn. Priestley's final pass of the game was intercepted in the end zone as time ran out.
It was an uncharacteristically narrow escape against Pitt for Syracuse, which had averaged 44 points per game against the Panthers the last three years and is 14-1-1 against them since 1983.
Syracuse got off to a slow start as Trout missed a 36-yard field goal attempt his first miss in 16 attempts and center Mike Bennett's snap sailed 10 yards over holder Nunes' head on a later 24-yard attempt.
But Nunes scrambled back to the 40 to scoop up the ball, moved to his left to avoid three defenders and heaved the ball to fullback Kyle Johnson, who made the catch at the 7 and ran into the end zone untouched for an improbable touchdown. Statistically, the play went as an 8-yarder but was actually five times as long.
"The snap went over my head and, all of a sudden, my legs felt heavy and my arm felt heavy," said Nunes, a redshirt freshman from nearby Butler, Pa., who was 12-of-17 for 112 yards. "But I looked downfield and saw some receivers open, and I found one."
Instead of leading 3-0, the Orange found themselves up 7-0 with 15 seconds left in the first quarter, quieting the crowd of 45,455 at the last night game in Pitt Stadium history. The 74-year stadium will be torn down after this season to make room for a new basketball arena.
"I'll be glad when they knock this place down because it seems like we play this kind of game every time we come here," said Pasqualoni, whose team rallied to win 32-27 in the final minute in 1997.
Nunes later hit Stephen Brominski for a pair of touchdowns the tight end's first two this season. Brominski'1-yard catch at 7:43 of the second ended a 14-play drive and his 22-yarder finished off a nine-play, 99-yard drive highlighted by Dee Brown's 16-yard scramble.
Brown, a running back, lined up under center making him Syracuse's third quarterback of the half and took off on an option play for a first down at the 28.
Nunes was cheered on by two busloads of fans from his hometown, but said, "You've got to put that out of your mind because you can't get too excited. I had to settle down and play."
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed