The Syracuse Orange (3-5, 0-4) and the Florida State Seminoles (4-4, 3-3) came into Saturday’s contest each needing a win to keep their postseason chances looking more optimistic. And for the Seminoles, there was the additional task of staving off rumors of coach Willie Taggart reaching the end of the road with the team.
FSU’s early offensive output put the Orange behind the 8-ball shortly after kickoff, And despite the final score of 35-17, the game wasn’t as close as advertised, with SU’s slide continuing for another week.
1. (14:57 - 1st) 2nd & 10 at Syracuse’s 25-yard line: Starting a game with a sack on the first play isn’t what Syracuse had drawn up. With Ryan Alexander having departed the team earlier in the week, a revamped offensive line took the field at Doak Campbell Stadium. Off of a play action pass, the Seminoles defense tested the new unit early by sending pressure. After evading the first rusher, Tommy DeVito was unable to make the second defender miss.
2. (11:54 - 1st) 1st & 10 at Syracuse’s 23-yard line: Following a reception by Tamorrion Terry, the Seminoles were positioned outside of the SU red zone. Florida State’s Cam Akers was the player the Orange had to worry about the most and in one carry, he showed why. With one cut in the opposite direction, the halfback broke an Alton Robinson tackle on his way for his first touchdown of the game.
3. (8:59 - 1st) 1st & 10 at Syracuse’s 31-yard line: Wisconsin transfer Alex Hornibrook was able to pick his spots against the Orange secondary this past Saturday. Using a deep out route, D.J. Matthews grabbed in a 19 yard reception at the SU 12. Cam Akers notched his second rushing touchdown of the day two plays later.
4. (12:55 - 1st) 2nd & 10 at Florida State’s 32-yard line: When it looked as if the Orange would have to send the defense out on the field again due to a three and out, a Florida State roughing the kicker penalty extended the drive for SU. Syracuse All-American kicker Andre Szmyt got Syracuse on board and brought them to within 10 with a field goal from 50 yards out following DeVito’s fourth sack of the first quarter.
5. (12:59 - 2nd) 2nd & 19 at Syracuse’s 45-yard line: Fool me once? Shame on you. Fool me twice? Shame on me. The Orange wouldn’t be duped again on the HB screen after falling for it on the first play of this FSU possession. Cam Akers was brought down for an eight yard loss to force a 3rd and 27 from the Seminoles 47.
6. (7:01 - 2nd) 2nd & 11 at Florida State’s 14-yard line: Much like the Syracuse Orange, for all of the talent that Florida State has, the team has been held back by the play of its offensive line for the past two seasons. As the Seminoles did throughout the first half, Brian Ward gave them a taste of their own medicine by siccing Antwan Cordy on Hornibrook via a CB blitz. The ‘Noles narrowly avoided a safety on the ensuing play as the quarterback got out of the end zone before he was brought down by Brandon Berry.
7. (4:28 - 2nd) 3rd & 6 at Florida State’s 28-yard line: Throughout the 2019 campaign, the fingers could be pointed at a number of people for the woes on the offensive side of the ball. The receiver play was the culprit on this drive as Tommy DeVito withstood the incoming Florida State blitz to find Trishton Jackson who was matched up one on one with Stanford Samuels III. What could have been a reception that placed the Orange inside the five yard line, was a drop that ultimately resulted in missed field goal from 46 yards out.
8. (3:29 - 2nd) 3rd & 8 at Florida State’s 30-yard line: To quote the Tootsie Pop owl, “A one, a two-hoo, a-three, a three!” What looked like a trick play that could have been dead to rights multiple times in the backfield turned into a 54 yard play by Tamorrion Terry. Cam Akers would score two plays later for his third rushing touchdown of the afternoon. The Orange would go into the half down 21-3.
9. (13:23 - 1st) 1st & Goal at Syracuse’s 7-yard line: The Orange didn’t start the second half out on the right foot as their attempt at an onside kick resulted in an illegal kicking penalty. With favorable field position, the Seminoles offense quickly found themselves in the SU red zone. Utilizing the wildcat, Cam Akers took it in the end zone himself for his fourth touchdown of the afternoon; a career high for the back.
10. (7:11 - 3rd) 4th & 3 at Florida State’s 13-yard line: Down 25, field goals weren’t going to get Syracuse back in the game. After an incomplete pass to Trishton Jackson, the Orange had no choice but to go for it on fourth down. Facing a blitz, Tommy DeVito got by two defenders before being brought down back at the line of scrimmage for a turnover on downs. Sean Riley’s wheel route provided a window for DeVito to get it to Taj Harris to extend the drive, but under duress, the QB didn’t see the open receiver.
11. (3:44 - 3rd) 1st & 10 at Syracuse’s 33-yard line: Nail meet coffin. Employing the wildcat formation once more, Cam Akers almost took it to the house for his fifth touchdown of the game, but not before he was tripped up by Andre Cisco. Khalan Laborn would scamper in from the two yard line to make an already large lead insurmountable.
12. (13:07 - 4th) 1st & Goal at Florida State’s 2-yard line: Despite it being too little, too late, the Orange didn’t pack it in on what was sure to be their third consecutive loss in conference play. To cap off their longest drive of the afternoon, Abdul Adams found his way into the end zone from two yards out.
13. (9:28 - 4th) 3rd & 6 at Syracuse’s 32-yard line: 2019 has been trial by fire for Tommy DeVito and while he has made mistakes that are to be expected of someone starting for the first time, he’s shown growth and development as the season has progressed. One piece of knowledge that the QB acquired was demonstrated on this run as sometimes you have to take what the defense gives you. Facing another blitz, DeVito stepped up in the pocket and ran 18 yards to midfield.
14. (6:40 - 4th) 3rd & 21 at Florida State’s 26-yard line: Coming into the season, we thought the combo of Abdul Adams and Moe Neal would form one of the more dynamic HB tandems in the ACC. Eight games into the season hasn’t brought that vision into fruition, but Neal showed us what could have been and could be with the remaining schedule yet to be played. Bursting through the hole created by the line, the senior back showed off his speed and shiftiness before being tackled at the FSU 1. He’d add a touchdown to his ledger on the next play from scrimmage.
With a record of 3-5 with four games remaining on the season, the margin for error for Syracuse is nearly at zero. Their next opponent, the Boston College Eagles, are in the same boat that Florida State was this past weekend; desperate for a win and dealing with a coach whose job could be on the line.
While the Orange are currently favored in this contest between former Big East rivals, both teams will come into their contest with much at stake. Will Syracuse be up to the task of stifling A.J. Dillon and the BC rushing attack? Tune in this Saturday to find out.