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Defense buoys Syracuse in 30-7 win over Florida State

The win marks SU’s first over Florida State since 1966.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the Syracuse Orange’s matchup with the Florida State Seminoles, most predicted this game to be a nail-biter. Most betting lines had Syracuse as underdogs, but only by two or three points. However, the Orange shattered expectations today, shutting down Florida State 30-7 in the Carrier Dome.

The first half of play was dominated by the SU defense. Syracuse forced multiple Florida State three-and-outs and kept them off the scoreboard entirely. The defensive line, anchored by Alton Robinson, played a huge role in minimizing run plays and putting heavy pressure on Seminole quarterback Deondre Francois. This play continued throughout the entire game, with the Noles only scoring a touchdown late in the fourth with the game practically out of reach.

“Guys were locked in,” said Syracuse head coach Dino Babers after the game. “They were releasing the allotment of receivers they could release into a route. The defensive ends and defensive tackles were winning their one on one battles...and as a coach that gets you fired up.

Players on the defense agree with Babers’s sentiment, but also gave credit right back to the coaches who helped them get ready to take on the Noles.

“We studied our opponent, so we knew who we were going up against,” said DE Kendall Coleman. “We were coached really well...In week 3, we were able to really show out with what we can do. And it came from the preparation throughout the week.”

Meanwhile, Syracuse’s offense often got into great position, but failed to capitalize twice inside the red zone, including three straight runs by Strickland from the one-yard line stopped at the line of scrimmage. The first half would end with the Orange owning a 6-0 lead courtesy of a pair of Andre Szmyt field goals.

NCAA Football: Florida State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

But in the second half, the offense got thrown a curveball with quarterback Eric Dungey sidelined. Babers did not clarify what exactly led Dungey to exit the game, only hinting that he had blurred vision on a couple of plays near the end of the first half.

So redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito had to take the snaps in his first action against a Power Five school. Thankfully for the Orange, DeVito sparked an offensive rally, running for a touchdown and throwing for another in the third quarter. At the end of the day, the quarterback completed 11 of his 16 passes for 144 yards. In all, Syracuse’s offense totaled 24 points in the second, looking much crisper than they had early on.

DeVito did not expect to play today, but he said that getting back on the field for parts of the Western Michigan and Wagner games helped him to be better prepared when he needed to step up.

“It helped a lot as far as being comfortable,” DeVito said. “I redshirted last year so I haven’t played football in a while, so it was good to get my feet wet and when my number got called today I felt comfortable being out there.”

With the win today, Syracuse is now off to a 3-0 start to the 2018 season, the first 3-0 start with Babers at the helm (and first overall since 2015). Next week, the Orange have an opportunity to start a season 4-0 for the first time since 1991 when UConn comes to town. With the hot start and the win against a marquee opponent today, some players think that the program is really beginning to take a big turn in the right direction.

“I think that based off the drought we’ve had here at Syracuse with football, a bowl game would be nice and sounds nice to a lot,” said DE Alton Robinson. “But in the locker room, knowing who we are and what we can do and what happens when we come together and play as a unit, the sky’s the limit and I want to see how far we can take this.”