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Final Score: USF 45, Syracuse 20

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You probably have questions and/or exclamations about this one...

NCAA Football: South Florida at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange started out up 17-0 on the USF Bulls, who looked over-matched by the pace SU brought with them in the first quarter. After that, the game was all-South Florida, and stunningly so. USF beat the Orange 45-20, outscoring them 45-3 over the course of the final three quarters. SU now falls to 1-2 on the year, while USF improves to 3-0.

Once again, the Syracuse defense was prone to giving up huge plays, and Quinton Flowers and co. took full advantage of that tendency. After shaking off some early issues, Flowers completed 12 passes for 183 yards and a score. More importantly, his offense supported him with another 243 yards on the ground (51 going to him). Marlon Mack returned from injury after a one-game absence, and amassed 115 yards and two touchdowns on just nine carries.

Despite the Orange being used to speed on the other side of the football given the offense they practice against each week, the effort simply wasn’t enough for the injury-plagued defense. In the first half, all four of USF’s scoring drives all lasted less than two minutes...

On the other side of the ball, there was equal parts good and bad for Syracuse. While Eric Dungey completed 32-of-48 for 350 yards and two touchdowns, he also threw two picks and spent the game getting hit repeatedly. Considering that this year was supposed to feature less of that for the sophomore quarterback, it’s been shocking to see him get teed off on pretty regularly, take off on designed runs so often and even go out wide on a trick play.

The strong start for Syracuse was based largely on the run game, which looked much improved after two weeks of struggling vs. Colgate and Louisville. Dontae Strickland had a career-best 127 yards and 30 (why?) carries to lead the way. Moe Neal and Dungey both ran the ball regularly, but combined for just 30 yards on 18 carries. Jordan Fredericks ran seven times for 42 yards in garbage time. You’d think the latter runner would get some more regular burn than he has through three games.

Ervin Philips and Amba Etta-Tawo once again led the way for the Syracuse receiving corps. Philips brought in 10 catches for 95 yards and a very nice-looking touchdown grab in the first quarter, while Etta-Tawo had eight catches for 123 yards. Brisly Estime scored the other touchdown for Syracuse, a 47-yarder that included some shifty running after the reception.

The tale of the tape will be the defense and its continued inabilities to make stops, but you have to look at the offense a little bit in this one too. Scoring 20 points won’t cut it against most opponents no matter the scheme you run. Putting up 20 with this one, however, is a failure — especially when they’re largely confined to one quarter of football. Play-calling was questionable at times, and leaned heavily on simple handoffs to Strickland and designed runs for Dungey. While the team couldn’t protect Dungey on passing plays, his own decisions on those downs could use some polish as well (yes, despite the gaudy numbers once again).

Syracuse also had three turnovers, plus 10 penalties for 69 (nice.) yards. Those sorts of mistakes are hard to come back from, especially against a quality opponent like the Bulls.

***

So, yeah. That was bad. Next game is against UConn, a team that can’t really score points. But with this defense playing how it has, and the offense sputtering as we’ve seen against Louisville and USF now, there are no guarantees.

More recapping to come after this tough defeat.