The Syracuse Orange jumped out to a 21-0 lead against the Western Michigan Broncos, then tried desperately to make things more interesting in a death-defying 52-33 victory at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.
You all remember last year’s very dumb, very stressful 55-42 Syracuse win over WMU, and this one tried to up the ante on that at various points as an injury-riddled Orange defense had very little left in the tank by the end of the game.
Tommy DeVito had a huge bounce-back effort on the afternoon, going 27-of-35 for 287 yards and four touchdown passes, and added 85 rushing yards, including a 36-yard touchdown run. Any lingering concerns about the quarterback being in sync with his receivers seems to be in the past at this point, especially with regard to Trishton Jackson, who had six catches for 141 yards and two scores (including a really nice 59-yarder).
Tight end Aaron Hackett also had two touchdown catches, and six grabs for 48 yards on the day. Taj Harris and Sean Riley each caught four balls, while Abdul Adams, Nykeim Johnson, Moe Neal and Cameron Jordan all caught at least one pass.
Neal ran the ball pretty well all day, with 26 carries for 123 yards and two scores. On top of DeVito’s gains, Adams also had eight rushes for 31 yards. Jarveon Howard added 20 yards in garbage time.
Though the Syracuse defense was beleaguered for much of the second half, they had their moments here and there. The group forced two fumbles in the first half (special teams recovered another), collected a late interception courtesy of Eric Coley, and also had three big fourth down stops to help the Orange stay ahead of the surging Broncos later in the game. SU led by as much as 19 in the final 30 minutes, but WMU was always one big play away from closing the gap. They got within five late in the third quarter, at 38-33, but Syracuse extended that advantage to 12 mid-way through the fourth quarter.
From there, SU made some big stops on defense, and then capped it with a clinching touchdown to finalize the 52-33 victory.
Without Ifeatu Melifonwu and Andre Cisco (plus McKinley Williams, who’s been out all year), Syracuse’s defense was under fire both through the air and on the ground. But Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman still managed to be incredibly disruptive up front, with six QB hurries between them (five for Robinson). Robinson also had 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble on Broncos QB Jon Wassink early on.
Safety Evan Foster led SU with eight tackles, while the team had four tackles for loss (two for Robinson, one for Foster and one for Lakiem Wiliams). Syracuse was outgained yardage-wise, but that didn’t matter on the scoreboard, and make sense given the short field they operated with in the first half.
So the Orange get to 2-2 on the year, and you have to at least feel some relief ending the two-game losing streak. The injuries certainly played a factor, and hopefully they’re all cleared up between the Holy Cross game and the bye week before ACC play starts vs. NC State in October.