Following back to back blowout losses to Maryland and Clemson, the Syracuse Orange went into the Dome looking for a bounce back performance against Western Michigan.
What ensued was an absolute slugfest, including a 34-point third quarter. In the end, SU emerged on top to win 52-33 and move its record up to .500.
“We worked hard in practice this week trying to go faster,” said wide receiver Trishton Jackson, who finished with 141 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
For Syracuse, that emphasis paid dividends right out of the gate. On SU’s first possession, Tommy DeVito unleashed a 60-yard run on an option play to get to the WMU 21. Two plays later, the offensive line paved Moe Neal a clean 23-yard path to the end zone to put the Orange up 7-0 early.
After SU found the end zone on 10-yard shovel pass to Aaron Hackett and a 36-yard run from DeVito, Syracuse’s lead quickly grew to 21-0 at the beginning of the second quarter. But following that score, Western Michigan’s offense finally came alive.
Three minutes after DeVito’s long run, Broncos running back LeVante Bellamy broke away and punched his ticket from 47 yards out. Following an Andre Szmyt field goal and a Moe Neal fumble, WMU took advantage of the short field. On 4th and goal inside the five, Western Michigan QB Jon Wassink rifled a pass to Giovanni Ricci on an out route and the tight end snuck inside the right pylon to cut the deficit to 24-13 before half. (WMU missed the PAT)
Coming out of the locker room, defense looked like a foreign concept. The Orange and Broncos combined for five touchdowns in the third quarter, with all but one crossing the plane from more than 40 yards out. But the higher-scoring team was Western Michigan as Sean Tyler scampered in from eight yards out to slice Syracuse’s lead to 38-33.
“It felt like one minute we had control and then the next thing you know you were back in a football game,” Orange coach Dino Babers said.
But given the opportunity to take the lead, WMU could never capitalize. Electing to go for it on 4th and 1 on their own 41, Christopher Frederick and Kendall Coleman stonewalled the Broncos’ attempt and forced the turnover on downs. It was part of a tough day for risk-taking on the WMU side as they only converted once on five 4th down tries.
“To be able to get that field position and get that change in momentum when the crowd gets involved, that really just breaks another team,” DeVito said.
With the ball back in his hands, DeVito needed just five plays to float a nine-yard pass to Aaron Hackett in the back of the end zone and pad Syracuse’s lead to 45-33.
Western Michigan tried and failed to move the offense on two more offensive possessions before Moe Neal delivered the dagger on a 16-yard touchdown run.
Next week provides a much easier opponent in FCS’s Holy Cross before SU hits the bye week and then the start of the ACC slate. However, Coach Babers is locked in for everything coming up.
“We’re not taking anyone for granted,” he said. “We’re not listening to the noise or the media. We’re going to take it one game at a time.”