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Syracuse’s player of the game vs. Duke

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A second player of the game award this year for an Orange player

NCAA Football: Duke at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

I’m assuming there are many Syracuse Orange fans out there that cannot find any positives from Syracuse’s loss to Duke on Saturday. Likewise, most fans wouldn’t expect me to identify a player from the Orange that stood out against the Blue Devils.

However, I settled on a player pretty quickly and convincingly. Despite the youth of Syracuse’s team due to graduated players from 2019, injuries, and other factors outside SU’s control, the young players are still finding a way to make an impact. One in particular has been pretty consistent throughout the entire season, and that continued against Duke.

Geoff Cantin-Arku

The newest addition to Canada’s college team has settled nicely into the middle linebacker role and has commanded the starting role at that position since the start of spring ball. Many fans were probably surprised to see him ahead of Mikel Jones initially. That being said, Cantin-Arku has proven that his impact on the game forces opposing defense to pay attention to the sophomore.

The highlight plays he made against Duke cannot be ignored. Cantin-Arku forced the first of the four SU caused turnovers by forcing Deon Jackson to fumble in the first quarter. He then scooped up Chase Brice’s fumble after Cam Jonas’s big hit in the second quarter. Cantin-Arku then ran into the endzone untouched for only Syracuse’s second defensive touchdown of the season.

The influence that Cantin-Arku has on the defense cannot be overstated. He leads the Orange in solo tackles (26) and total tackles (32). The Canadian is also tied with Kingsley Jonathan for second on the team in quarterback hits with three.

Looking at PFF’s Premium Stats, he has the second highest pass rush grade among Syracuse players with at least 20 pass rushing attempts with a 72.3. Cantin-Arku just sits behind Jones in that category, who holds a 72.5 pass rushing grade. Finally, the Canadian is tied with Cody Roscoe for the most quarterback pressures on the team with seven.

I said in my grades yesterday that the linebackers are the most important group to unlock the success of the 3-3-5 defense. While that unit - and Syracuse in general - could be better on the run defense side, it’s clear that the linebackers excel at disturbing the opposing quarterback and making him feel uncomfortable.

Cantin-Arku isn’t a name many Syracuse fans would have been familiar with at the beginning of the season, but he is poised to help lead an effective linebacker group for the next couple of seasons. Hopefully the apparent knee injury that he suffered late in the game against Duke isn’t too serious, as his impact for the Orange this season has been noticeable.

Now it’s your turn. Who was Syracuse’s player of the game against Duke? Sound off in the comments below.