What was an offensive masterpiece by the Eagles one year ago turned into a boring, defensive slog of a football game this year.
Boston College eventually outlasted Syracuse by generating some offensive momentum in the second half. The Orange couldn’t match the Eagles and ultimately lost 16-13. Syracuse has now lost five straight games.
On Saturday afternoon, Syracuse started its third different quarterback of this season. Rex Culpepper didn’t dress for the game (though he was sporting a significant man bun beneath his baseball cap), which meant that true freshman JaCobian Morgan received the call to start under center.
The first half looked good for Morgan as he showed great ability to get out of the pocket and extend plays. He looked comfortable zipping the ball around the field and showed great variety in the types of throws he employed. There weren’t many plays where Morgan looked indecisive, which is impressive for a player starting his first game in his collegiate career.
“It didn’t look like he was too rattled,” said Dino Babers. “I thought he made some plays, escaped some things, and he took a shot. He’s got another box checked.”
As a result, the offense with Morgan looked to flow better as the signature tempo that has defined a Babers offense returned. However, Boston College adjusted and brought more pressure against Morgan and the inconsistent offensive line couldn’t keep the pressure at bay. The additional pressure forced Morgan to make more mistakes as the game developed which halted Syracuse’s drives and momentum.
Morgan ended the day with 188 passing yards and a late touchdown to Aaron Hackett. The Boston College pressure dropped the freshman’s completion percentage and eventually led to his only interception of the day. The offensive line eventually folded as well with Morgan sacked four times. His pocket movement and decision making when it came to what type of throws to make did inspire hope among Syracuse fans.
What didn’t help the Orange offense was the lack of running game that supported Morgan. Sean Tucker had his worst game as a starter but still found some limited success with 52 yards on 11 carries. His fumble in the fourth quarter, while aided by a questionable late whistle, didn’t help kickstart SU’s offense. Cooper Lutz couldn’t provide too much in the backfield either with three yards on two carries.
“We’re not running the ball effectively,” said Babers. “It’s hard to throw the ball every snap and win in college football. It’s a lot easier to win a game if you can find a way to run the football.”
The lack of offensive momentum generated by the Orange running game meant that Syracuse had trouble converting third downs, which ultimately stalled most drives. SU only converted three of 11 third down opportunities. BC, on the other hand, went 10-of-19 on third down.
What aided Boston College in that department was their run game, as the Eagles slowly figured out that the Orange run defense was still struggling. David Bailey went for 125 yards on 25 carries while Travis Levy added 73 yards on 17 carries. BC gained 139 more yards on the ground than SU.
Despite Boston College’s efficiency on the ground, the Syracuse defense clamped down in the red zone. The Eagles only scored one touchdown during the game despite stringing together six drives of seven plays or more, including four double-digit drives. SU forced BC to go for field goals five times, with Aaron Boumerhi splitting the uprights three times.
“We knew we weren’t gonna let them get anything easy,” said Garrett Williams.
The Orange defense did what it could in coverage as well. Phil Jurkovec only had 208 yards through the air as he constantly searched for targets that weren’t covered by Ifeatu Melifonwu. Jurkovec’s favorite target, Zay Flowers, found matchups against Syracuse’s non-Garrett Williams freshmen, which allowed him to break free for extra yards.
There were good and bad things to note from Syracuse in the Boston College game. What faces the Orange is a tremendous opportunity as they have two weeks to prepare for an inconsistent Louisville team. The Orange may have found a short-term solution at quarterback, but there are still mistakes and holes around the SU roster that need to be patched up if ‘Cuse wants to win another game this year.