Sure, you don’t want to revisit any aspect of the Syracuse Orange’s brutal 63-20 drubbing at the hands of the Maryland Terrapins. But we can’t help ourselves but rehash in the immediate aftermath. So below, you’ll find three takeaways from the game that we’d like to forget, but also won’t let ourselves.
Linebackers are still a work in progress
Look, not to say I told you so, but there was a chance that the linebackers looked rough to start this year, and... yup, they certainly did today. Play-action worked from the start of the contest for Maryland, and it gave them ample opportunities to exploit the middle of the field. The run was also easy once they had the Syracuse defense on its heels. Maryland averaged 7.9 yards per carry on the day, to the tune of 354 yards. It’s a far cry from last week’s effort when Liberty rushed for minus-4.
Syracuse’s run defense struggled so much that it had to call on the safeties to come up repeatedly, which then allowed for extra space downfield. They threw the kitchen sink at the Terps to try and stop the fast-paced offense, and... nothing worked.
Sure, McKinley Williams was out on the line, but he alone can’t make up for the learning curve the linebackers are looking at. We could see more reps for younger players like Mikel Jones and Lee Kpogba as soon as next Saturday.
Offensive line struggles early again
For the second straight game, Tommy DeVito was under duress early and often, frequently trying to roll out of the pocket to avoid pressure. He wound up sacked four times, and fumbled once (we’ll get to him). But the line — which is already down a man without Sam Heckel — had holes throughout, and couldn’t create a pocket well for the decidedly pro-style QB.
DeVito was actually able to avoid pressure and roll out of the pocket perhaps better than Eric Dungey did for much of his career. However, DeVito also wasn’t looking to make things happen until he established himself out of the pocket. That’s a bit different than Dungey, who could improvise on the go. That may come with time, but DeVito needs to be protected better in the meantime.
Now, about DeVito...
Twitter was full of Syracuse fans blasting his play early, and I’ll agree, he certainly looked a bit shaky in his second start (again, on the road, so why did we do this to ourselves?). Still, despite the early turnovers, he still wound up with 330 yards and three touchdowns on 28-of-39 passing. That’s a pretty good line, and shows what can be for him — even if it isn’t at this very moment.
The chemistry issues from the first game appeared to be gone, as he and Trishton Jackson connected seven times for 157 yards and two touchdowns. He was in a better rhythm with the other wideouts too, so hopefully it’s a sign of what’s to come as he gets more and more comfortable in the passing game. That’s been hot and cold to-date, but if you recall, the same could be said for Dungey at this point in the Babers offense too.
Where the big questions come for DeVito, and hopefully they’re addressed with time, is around decision making. He has a cannon for an arm and can fit passes into tight spaces — BUT doesn’t always need to do so. That was evident on the pick, and the near-picks he’s thrown near the sidelines this year. He also threw away passes on fourth down when there’s really nothing to be lost from trying a downfield heave.
There’s only so much you can see on the traditional broadcast, vs. an all-22. But Syracuse.com’s Stephen Bailey pointed out how often receivers quit on plays, which didn’t help DeVito. The fact that he completed 71% of his passes just the same is equally remarkable. Not saying DeVito had an amazing game. But he wasn’t the problem here.
Have additional thoughts? Share’em below. Or go drink. I’ll be doing the latter.