Coming off a trouncing at the hands of the Boston College Eagles, the Syracuse Orange were left to look at themselves in the mirror and figure out how would the remainder of their season unfold following a devastating loss. No less than 24 hours later, Head Coach Dino Babers terminated the employment of Defensive Coordinator Brian Ward.
With Ward’s dismissal, the bye week came at the right time as interim DC Steve Stanard had more preparation time with a talented unit and used it wisely as a rejuvenated defense caused three Duke Blue Devils (4-6, 2-4) turnovers, tallied four sacks and held them to 5/20 on third down in a 43 point victory; a game in which the Orange entered as double-digit underdogs.
1. (10:49 - 1st) 2nd & 5 at Syracuse’s 31-yard line: Unfortunately for Duke, they don’t have an Andre Szmyt on their sideline. After missing a 43 yard field goal attempt, Syracuse got the ball back at their own 26. On the second play of the drive, Tommy DeVito’s found Trishton Jackson over the middle where the receiver would take the reception down to the Duke 19. The Orange scored two plays later to take the lead when DeVito and Jackson connected once more.
2. (8:08 - 1st) 2nd & 5 at Syracuse’s 41-yard line: A revamped Syracuse defense wanted to play fast and physical at Duke and before Quentin Harris could look down the field, Lakiem Williams exploded on him with a six yard sack. The Blue Devils were forced to punt two plays later to end what looked to be a promising drive.
3. (8:08 - 1st) 1st & 15 at Duke’s 36-yard line: In his second trip this season back to his home state of North Carolina, senior HB Moe Neal looked to make the return much better than the first appearance. Having run for 31 yards earlier in the drive, Neal would best it with a 35 yard run that was almost taken to the house. Using a misdirection to counter the Duke defense, Moe rushed to the goal line where he was called short. Tommy DeVito took it in himself for the Orange’s second score of the afternoon and extended their lead to 14-0.
4. (9:36 - 2nd) 1st & 10 at Syracuse’s 37-yard line: Dino Babers hoped that “subtle changes” made on the defensive side of the ball would allow his talented personnel to make plays. Continuing with the theme of fast and physical, Antwan Cordy blew up a play in the backfield after reading where Quentin Harris would be throwing the ball to. The Blue Devils made up for the tackle for loss later in the drive by getting themselves on the scoreboard via field goal.
5. (13:01 - 3rd) 2nd & 8 at Duke’s 44-yard line: If Quentin Harris could use a mulligan here, he would take it. Throwing into double coverage and putting his receiver in harm’s way is never a good thing, but throwing it into double coverage with an All-American safety in the secondary is even worse. Showing why the tip drill is practiced, Andre Cisco takes his third interception of the 2019 season to the house.
6. (11:47 - 3rd) 3rd & 3 at Duke’s 33-yard line: It wasn’t Quentin Harris’ night against Syracuse. Having thrown a pick six on the previous possession, the Duke quarterback would give the ball right back to the Orange courtesy of a Christopher Frederick interception on a poorly thrown ball.
7. (8:02 - 3rd) 3rd & 3 at Duke’s 22-yard line: The Orange defense wasn’t the only group to see an adjustment prior to Saturday’s contest at Duke. The much maligned offensive line also saw a tweak with Airon Servais moving to left tackle and Carlos Vettorello sliding over to center where he found much success in this spot. The adjustments along the line assisted not only in the ground game, but provided Tommy DeVito with enough time in the pocket to find Luke Benson with a swing pass for a 22 yard touchdown.
8. (7:06 - 3rd) 3rd & 3 at Duke’s 40-yard line: Three turnovers on three consecutive possessions wasn’t what Duke had drawn up. Their fate Saturday night was sealed by an aggressive, Stanard coached unit. Andrew Armstrong’s strip combined with Evan Foster’s return to the Duke 15 would be converted by Moe Neal to give the Orange a 35-6 advantage.
9. (2:54 - 3rd) 4th & 2 at Syracuse’s 43-yard line: Alton Robinson might not be having the best year statistically speaking, but his impact has been felt throughout the season as he’s been a focal point for offenses due to his ability to get to the quarterback. Robinson showed why he’ll be playing on Sundays in 2020 as he blew by Jacob Monk to add a sack to his ledger.
10. (8:55 - 4th) 1st & 10 at Duke’s 28-yard line: Jarveon Howard isn’t a name we’ve heard much of this season due to his position on the depth chart and the woes faced by the offensive line. However, with Moe Neal graduating, we got a glimpse of what a backfield of he and Abdul Adams can do if the line has the consistency in the trenches they had against the Blue Devils (286 yards on the ground). Using the hole that Evan Adams created, the sophomore HB was able to find daylight for a 28 yard touchdown run; his second of the year.
Having staved off the Grim Reaper for at least one more game, the Syracuse Orange will look to keep their postseason hopes alive when they face off against the resurgent Louisville Cardinals this Saturday at Papa John’s Stadium. The Orange will have a tough task ahead of them as the Cardinals are the only team in the ACC with a top five receiver in Tutu Atwell and running back in Javian Hawkins. Will the defense be able to contain the Cardinals explosive offense and continue their chance at redemption?