NEW YORK (AP) — Dan Villari rushed for a career-high 154 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown on a direct snap early in the fourth quarter, Jayden Bellamy had a 23-yard interception return for a score as Syracuse pulled away in the second half and broke a five-game losing streak with a 28-13 victory over Pittsburgh on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
The game was played in the Bronx in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the first college game played at the original Yankee Stadium on Oct. 20, 1923, five days after the Yankees won their first World Series title.
“We wanted to go old school, to go back to 100 years to a 3-0 win, Syracuse versus Pitt in the old Yankee Stadium and see if we could stir up the ghosts,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said.
Villari, who entered with 38 career rushing yards and three this season, dominated Syracuse’s potent ground game. The heavy reliance on the ground occurred after Syracuse instituted the strategy at practice Tuesday to some initial skepticism and the players were sold on it by Wednesday.
“I’m used to running the ball wildcat like that. I tried my best to get everybody else on board,” Villari said.
Villari carried 17 times after entering the game with 11 career rushing attempts. He clinched Syracuse’s first win since beating Army on Sept. 23 by scampering down the left side untouched for his first career touchdown two plays after Syracuse recovered a fumble.
A Long Island native, Villari had his best game in front of about 75 friends and family after initially entering Syracuse as a backup quarterback following his transfer from Michigan. He switched from quarterback to tight end before last season and overcame injuries that limited his practice time until September.
“He is not surprising us,” Babers said. “It’s just that we had to wait until we saw it on the field.”
After his TD staked Syracuse to a 28-13 lead, Villari posed for fans sitting in the seats above the visiting bullpen.
Bellamy, who played in his sixth career game after transferring from Notre Dame, factored in the first two of Syracuse’s three TDs in the second half.
With 11:11 remaining near midfield, Bellamy recovered a fumble by Pitt quarterback Christian Veilleux and that set up Garrett Shrader’s 21-yard TD run that gave the Orange a 14-13 lead.
Syracuse nearly scored on its next drive but fell a half-yard short on 4th-and-2 and turned the ball over on downs. Two plays later, Bellamy tracked Veilleux’s motion and when Daejon Reynolds overran the route, he easily stepped in for the interception and was untouched as he ran down the right sideline.
“It was just a cover-two call and I was just doing my assignment,” said Bellamy, whose interception came in front of family and friends from his native New Jersey. “The opportunity came so I took it and ran with it.”
Shrader returned from an undisclosed injury that kept him out of last week’s 17-10 loss to Boston College but spent virtually the entire game running the ball or handing it off to Villari or LeQuint Allen. He also lined up as a wideout a few times and executed a backflip before the snap on one play in the first half.
“It was a really spur of the moment thing,” Shrader said of his viral moment.
Allen gained 102 yards on a career-high 28 attempts and Shrader ran 14 times for 96 yards as the Orange gained 382 of their 399 yards on the ground. The Orange held the ball for over 37 minutes and nearly gained 400 yards on the ground for the first time since 1994.
Shrader threw two passes, completing one for a 5-yard touchdown to Maximillan Meng less than five minutes into the game.
Veilleux completed 12 of 22 passes for 156 yards before being relieved by Nate Yarnell. Besides the interception, Veilleux also lost two fumbles.
Pittsburgh (2-8, 1-5) dropped its fourth straight contest. Since their 38-31 win over Louisville on Oct. 14, the Panthers have been outscored 131-44.
“Obviously they didn’t plan on passing,” Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi said. “I’m not sure Shrader could throw it.”
Shrader opened the game with a 16-yard scramble and Syracuse went up less than five minutes in when Mang was wide open for a diving grab.
Shrader’s fumble set up Ben Sauls’ 35-yard field goal with 1:19 remaining and Bub Means hauled in a 65-yard reception down the left sideline, setting up Mumpfield’s catch in the middle of the end zone.
Pitt went into halftime with a 13-7 lead after Sauls booted his second field goal — a 33-yarder where the ball easily cleared the netting and landed in front of the unused Legends Seats behind where home plate would normally be for Yankee games.
Syracuse: Syracuse is one win away from being bowl eligible for the second straight season. The Orange last went to bowls in consecutive seasons in 2012 and 2013 and must beat Georgia Tech or Wake Forest to qualify.
Pittsburgh: The quarterback situation remains uncertain. Veilleux replaced Phil Jurkovic last month and has completed 50 percent of his passes (93 of 185) but afterwards Narduzzi did not declare if he would start next week.
Pittsburgh: Nov. 16 vs. Boston College
Syracuse: Nov. 18 at Georgia Tech
Get alerts on the latest AP Top 25 poll throughout the season. Sign up here
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football