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Three takeaways from Syracuse’s 21-6 win against Boston College

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 30 Boston College at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange and Boston College Eagles basically played two different games of football today. The first half and second half of the 21-6 Orange victory were so diametrically opposed that there’s no real way to describe it other than two separate games. In the first half the two teams contributed a total of 240 yards of total offense and Boston College led 3-0. In the second half, The Orange woke up on offense and shut the Eagles down on defense, finishing with 293 rushing yards on the day.

Sean Tucker is still really good at football

I said last week I was going to make it my first takeaway whenever it was warranted. It was again warranted today. As has been the case all year, Tucker was one cut and gone, rarely going down on first contact, often pulling folks with him if he didn’t bust clean through a hole. He finished the day with 206 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. That’s his first career 200 yard game. As such, I think we were all pleased with his performance. Tucker’s 100-yard game puts him over the mark for the seventh straight time, eighth time this season and eleventh time in his career, tying Jim Brown’s career mark in Orange.

That said, they didn’t ride Tucker’s legs early. They tried a few different looks with Garrett Shrader, including attempting a good bit of passing in the first half. Boston College was running multiple spy looks early, containing Shrader’s legs and forcing him to beat them with his arm.

After the half, Tucker’s breakaway speed and constant threat opened up the offense a bit for both players, allowing Shrader to break an impressive run for the second score on the day for the Orange, seemingly igniting the Orange offense en-route to 293 rushing yards on the day. At the end of the day, Shrader only completed 5 of 14 passes for a total of 65 yards on the day, but did add 120 yards on the ground on 16 attempts, including that great touchdown run mentioned earlier.

The defense had to stay on their toes all game.

With the constant game of musical quarterbacks, the personnel and defensive coordinator Tony White both needed to constantly adjust to the looks they were given. Redshirt senior Dennis Grosel wasn’t a major threat through the air, but was a bit headier than the true freshman Emmet Morehead. Morehead was a much better passer, and his first throw almost connected downfield and his second to Zay Flowers hit him on a dime. Without a gameplan for the new quarterback it took the defense a few series to settle in. At one point, Morehead apparently left the game under concussion protocol, and the BC offense wasn’t able to attack downfield, leaving Flowers unable to catch the dimes that the freshman was dropping to him.

In the first half you could say that this defense doesn’t deserve this offense. Stefon Thompson was having an absolute day, constantly in the face of whichever quarterback trotted out for Boston College. He finished with 7 tackles and 1.5 sacks/2.5 TFL. Cody Roscoe joined the fun late in the first half as well, bringing pressure over the edge. The loss of probably NFL draft pick Tyler Vrabel, going down in the second quarter, opened the edge up and allowed the Orange to put pressure on Morehead when he returned to the game. Between Roscoe and Kingsley Jonathan the Orange battered the freshman through the second half. Jonathan finished with 3 sacks on the day and Roscoe added the other half of Thompson’s on the play that knocked out Morehead.

The burst of this team can be dangerous, but it can also be fleeting.

The only burst of anything that the Orange had in the first quarter was the bubble on excitement coming off the Virginia Tech win. The abysmal nature of the offense, including a rousing 12 plays for 12 yards in the second quarter, made for one of the worst performances in a half that we’d seen. Then a switch flipped.

Two quick offensive touchdowns in the second half fueled a defense that played a great three and out, then followed it up with a Courtney Jackson punt return for a touchdown. There’s no other way to say that swing happened other than crazy momentum and college football being college football. In a matter of two home run plays and a crazy return touchdown, the Orange were able to put the game on cruise control once the defense came up with a stop. The ability to keep the ball on the ground and grind the clock to the end of the game was instrumental in them walking away with a win.

We’ve seen the Orange get inside their own heads, we’ve seen them stop drives with stupid penalties, but this time, the momentum swung in the Syracuse direction. Outside of some frustrating false starts, the Orange played within themselves and were able to see out a game that probably confused anyone who watched it from tip to tail.