And breathe, Syracuse Orange fans.
Most of the Orange fanbase were understandably a little on edge as Syracuse looked to improve on a 1-10 season, especially with a hungry Ohio team that was favored by some betting books. However, a relentless ground attack coupled with an improving and rested defense meant that Syracuse broke away from the Bobcats in the second half, winning 29-9.
Here’s our three takeaways from a much-needed tone setting win.
Sean Tucker picked up right where he left off
One of the constants that Syracuse knew coming into the 2021 season is that Sean Tucker would be the starting running back. He showed off why with a career day against Ohio with 25 carries for 181 yards and one touchdown.
Tucker impressed in two key areas. One, he showed off an incredible ability to gain a ton of yards on outside runs around the tackles. He was good in the B gap last year, but his outside running today added a new variety that Ohio wasn’t ready for. Secondly, he stayed in for the majority of the game, setting a new career high in carries. Tucker staying in the game for as long in possible gives the Orange offense the best chance for success.
Duce Chestnut came to play
After Ifeatu Melifonwu went to the NFL draft, there was some question who would be the opposite cornerback to Garrett Williams. Duce Chestnut answered that question with authority with an excellent game. His tackling looked incredible, leading Syracuse with five solo tackles and ranking second on the team with eight total tackles. Most of them were of the open field variety as well, as he played tight with his receivers and didn’t allow many yards after a catch.
That tight defense led to a pass breakup, a fourth down stop and a highlight-reel, one-handed interception at the end of the game that capped off a picture-perfect debut for the true freshman from Camden, New Jersey. Syracuse’s highest-rated recruit in the 2021 class showed why he was so highly touted coming out of high school.
“Look at me - I’m the running QB now”
The last thing Syracuse fans expected was for Tommy DeVito to look good running the football. A close second would probably be for DeVito to look equally as good running the option. His option reads were excellent against Ohio and his rushes went for good yardage. DeVito added a touchdown for the first score of the game and all of a sudden the Orange quarterback looks to be a more versatile player.
While his deep ball accuracy left something to be desired, DeVito looks strong in making short-to-medium range throws. His red zone throwing decisions were not great also, but if he keeps up the RPO reads, DeVito could keep Garrett Shrader on the sidelines for a much longer time than some people may have initially thought.