Meanwhile, what of Dorsett? As the game began, it became clear that Syracuse Coach Frank Maloney had decided to spare no men putting Tony under house arrest. On one play Dorsett was dropped even though he did not have the ball. On the next, as he drifted out for a flare pass, he was seized by the shoulders and pinned in his tracks, helpless, while the ball floated beyond him. And on the next, a reverse, as he handed the ball to his flanker, he was dealt a smash that sent him to the bench with a jammed elbow. Dorsett finished the first quarter with minus-five yards and his team trailing 7-3. "A dogfight," Tony called the game. Those 6,000 yards must have seemed far, far away.
"No. 33 turned it on when we needed it," Majors was to say later, and Pitt needed it throughout the rest of the game. On his first carry in the second quarter Dorsett zipped around left end from the Pitt 18 to the Syracuse 49. Six plays later he went 15 and then, with the ball on the Syracuse one, he dived over the middle for a touchdown. At halftime Pitt had a 10-7 lead and Dorsett had rushed for 78 yards.
At the start of the second half it was Dorsett, Dorsett, Dorsett for four, four and 15 yards, the last run giving him the alltime rushing record, surpassing the 5,297 of Howard Stevens, who played two years for Randolph-Macon, a small school, and two for Louisville. But on the fourth play of the half, Pitt tried Tom Yewcic, who fumbled, Syracuse recovering. When the pesky Hurley bolted up the middle for 18 yards, the Orangemen were in field-goal range, and Dave Jacobs tied the game at 10-10 with a 45-yard kick. A few minutes later Syracuse got a 55-yarder from Jacobs to move ahead 13-10.
Enough. Taking the kickoff, the Panthers marched slowly but steadily into Syracuse territory, helped by a holding penalty. Then, with a first down on the 33, there came a play that can be called Definitive Dorsett. Sweeping to his left, he took a pitch-back deep enough to permit him to have gathered all his speed as the ball met his fingers. Mind you, a dozen pro scouts—"the slowest clocks in the world," those skeptical scouts are called—had timed him in the spring in an incredibly unanimous 4.35 in the 40-yard dash. Now, he flew outside the end and linebacker as if they had been paralyzed. A safetyman angled toward him from the middle of the field. But Dorsett, whose open-field cuts often are executed so abruptly they tend to escape the naked eye, sharply swung right, almost directly into the safetyman's course, assuming the safetyman would shoot by him. Surely an instinctive reaction by Dorsett? Apparently not.
"I really know exactly what I'm doing," Dorsett said later in the locker room. "I can see every move around me and remember them later. Today, I sort of set up that safetyman. He was coming across, and I knew if I gave him a little cut he'd get only a hand on me and I knew a hand tackle wouldn't bring me down. If he'd have stopped on a dime, he'd have scared me to death."
Pitt was back in the lead, this time for good, but Syracuse and Hurley did have one last scare to throw at the Panthers. After a field goal by Carson Long had made it 20-13 Pittsburgh, Hurley engineered a march midway through the final period that gave Syracuse a third and one on the Pitt 11. From there Hurley handed off to James Sessler, his fullback. Nothing. On fourth down it was Sessler again. And again nothing.
Saved by its defense, Pitt gave the ball to Dorsett three straight times—four yards, 28 yards, 33 yards. That set up one more Carson Long field goal to ice the game 23-13.
After it was over, having difficulty straightening his left elbow, squinting through a right eye that was half shut and bloodshot, limping slightly from a helmet blow to his right thigh, Dorsett nonetheless cheerfully accommodated a swarm of reporters. And why not? He had rushed for 241 yards, giving him 5,447 for his career, more than three miles. More than that, he had all but locked up the 1976 Heisman Trophy as for the second week in a row USC's injury-hobbled Ricky Bell, his chief rival, was held to less than 100 yards. In his next three games Dorsett would be doing his running against Army, West Virginia and Penn State, and to reach his goal of 6,000 yards, he would need only 185 a game. For Tony Dorsett, that's a mere jog.