The Syracuse Orange (2-3) are back below .500 after losing 50 to 33 to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (2-3) on Saturday at MetLife Stadium. Despite Syracuse falling apart after an impressive first half, there are still some key lessons we can take away.
Here are three things we learned from Syracuse’s frustrating loss.
Special Teams Matter
The phrase “special teams matter” is one that is preached by coaches, players and media experts alike. Despite offense and defense being what fans come out to see, special teams also plays a pivotal role in a game’s outcome. Never was that made more evident then Saturday between Syracuse and Notre Dame.
Outside of a strong performance by Brisly Estime returning punts – including a 75-yard return – Syracuse struggled in every aspect on special teams. Cole Murphy missed his only field goal attempt, had one extra point blocked and failed to even attempt another extra point due to a muffed snap.
From a punting perspective, Sterling Hofrichter had another rough outing, shanking one punt for 13 yards. The punt coverage unit also allowed one of Hofrichter’s punts to bounce into the end zone rather than down it inside Notre Dame’s 10-yard line, despite having three Syracuse players in the vicinity.
Notre Dame, on the hand, dominated on special teams. The Irish converted two of three field goal attempts and all six of their extra points, returned one kickoff for a touchdown, returned Murphy’s blocked extra point attempt for two points and were able to pin Syracuse at their own one-yard line on a punt, leading to a three-and-out and great field possession on their next drive.
Both Syracuse and Notre Dame burst out of the gate to start the game, combining for 36 points in just five minutes of play. After trailing just 33-27 at the half, however, Syracuse’s offense was nonexistent in the game’s final two quarters.
The Orange were held scoreless in the third quarter, and only managed a garbage time touchdown run by quarterback Eric Dungey in the fourth. Syracuse punted on four of their six second half possessions, and turned it over on downs on Notre Dame’s five-yard line on another.
The disappearance of the offense was even more devastating considering the fact Syracuse entered the break with the momentum, having scored on a last-second touchdown and intercepted Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer on the ensuing possession.
However, even in the first half, despite Syracuse’s 27 points, the Orange weren’t exactly firing on all cylinders. Following their second touchdown in the first quarter at the 10:07 mark, Syracuse went scoreless for the game’s next 15 minutes. After scoring a touchdown early in the second quarter, the Orange offense once again disappeared until finally reaching the end zone with 30 seconds left in the half.
Unfortunately, this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon for the Orange. In Syracuse’s week three loss to USF, the Orange jumped out to an early 17-0 first quarter lead before scoring just three points the rest of the game and losing 45-20.
Secondary, What Secondary?
I’ll admit, this isn’t exactly something we finally learned today, but the disastrous performance by Syracuse’s secondary is worth mentioning here nonetheless. The Orange defensive backs were repeatedly burned play after play by Kizer and whoever he decided to play throw-and-catch with.
An incredible 10 different Notre Dame players finished the game with a reception, including four who finished with more than 50 receiving yards each.
While Notre Dame’s pass-catchers as a whole were impressive, no one was more devastating than Irish wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. Despite Syracuse knowing St. Brown was Notre Dame’s top target, and most likely game-planning for him all week, the 6’ 4” receiver burned the Orange for 182 yards and two touchdowns.
Corey Winfield, Cordell Hudson – no one was immune to being burned by Notre Dame’s receivers, as the Irish were recorded long passing plays of 79 yards, 54 yards and 44 yards against the Orange.
What else did you learn from Syracuse’s disappointing loss? Leave a comment below.