The Syracuse Orange football team lost, 17-7 to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday afternoon in a game that was just as ugly as these team’s recent history would indicate. Worse still, it didn’t need to be that way.
Things started weird with a blocked punt and missed opportunities for touchdowns on both sides. You could point to a ton of moments from the fumble call on Taj Harris near the 10-yard line to Luke Benson’s holding call that derailed an otherwise strong drive for the Orange. The penalties — eight for 55 yards — will certainly stand out and should. But the biggest question mark really seems to be the offensive decision-making.
While Tommy DeVito wasn’t lighting the world on fire in the first half, he had completed seven of his first eight passes. The team was moving the ball reasonably well and though they’d yet to punch it in, you felt them knocking on the door.
Then Garrett Shrader got the ball deep in SU territory for two straight three-and-outs, followed by an interesting drive that got into Rutgers territory and missed a couple touchdowns. DeVito came back in after the break and remained in for the rest of the game. He ended up 15-of-26 for 149 yards — including a 51-yard strike to Taj Harris that set up a third quarter Sean Tucker touchdowns. Most notable there, unfortunately, was DeVito’s fumble following a missed Rutgers field goal (which the Scarlet Knights then converted to a made field goal midway through the fourth.
The DeVito fumble was on the seventh straight passing play-call for the team, coming right on the heels of a 24-yard touchdown run by Tucker. After rushing for 181 yards and 25 carries against Ohio, Tucker had just 13 (and none after the late third through eight minutes into the fourth quarter).
Receiving-wise, DeVito and Shrader looked for Harris quite a bit. He caught eight passes for 122 yards on the afternoon. No one else had more than two catches. In general, though, Syracuse just didn’t play to its strengths, and leaned into exactly what Rutgers wanted them to do — pass the ball and avoid top playmaker Tucker as much as possible.
The Syracuse defense was up to the task of stopping the Scarlet Knights, for the most part, despite the positions the offense seemed to put them in repeatedly. Along with shutting out Rutgers for the first two-plus quarters, they held them to 3-of-15 on third down, and collected four sacks on the day. But after being given short fields repeatedly in the second half, they did start to break a bit.
Still, I won’t knock them at all here. Mikel Jones had 11 tackles and Garrett Williams had eight. McKinley Williams, Marlowe Wax and Caleb Okechukwu all tallied solo sacks, while Cody Roscoe and Josh Black each had a half-sack. It felt like the entire defense picked up a TFL as well. They were swarming at various points, and were just simply let down by a lack of play-calling ability on the offensive side.
So... that happened. This was ugly and neither team really deserved to win or lose, and any claim otherwise would be disingenuous. I’m honestly starting to lose faith in this staff, but that’s a conversation for another thread. Long recap coming after this.