Was it pretty to watch? Not really. The good news is that last night’s 22-20 win over the Virginia Cavaliers still bumps the Syracuse Orange up to 4-0 and puts them in a really comfortable position for the next few weeks.
“The play was not perfect, that’s for sure,” Head Coach Dino Babers said postgame. “But the record is.”
This game flipped the script in a few areas from last week’s bout with Purdue. First, the offense was clicking in the start but shut down gradually as the night went on. Garrett Shrader’s over-the-middle connection with Oronde Gadsden seemed to disappear, as did his scrambling ability that led to the sole SU TD of the night:
Garrett Shrader puts the Orange on top early!— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) September 23, 2022
Then came the turnovers. Oh boy. After not allowing any in the first three weeks, ‘Cuse made up for that against UVA.
I really can’t sugarcoat this; it is a miracle that the Orange gave away the ball four times and still managed to win this football game. Granted, a bad read will happen every now and then - I’m not holding Shrader’s one pick over his head when he’s had an otherwise-clean season so far. (If the second one stood I’d be a bit more upset.) But coughing the ball up three times is just not okay, especially when they all set up favorable field position.
“Am I happy with having that many in one game? No,” Babers said. “I mean, those are a lot of points and it definitely affected the score.”
The inability to find the end zone wasn’t the only problem for the Orange offense. Sean Tucker was relegated to footnote stats for the second straight week: 21 carries, 60 yards, no scores. But Tucker’s performance isn’t the one you shouldn’t be pleased with: the offensive line holds much of the blame here. The lack of Chris Elmore in the backfield is becoming apparent as whatever semblance of inside run-blocking Syracuse had is long gone.
It also doesn’t help when Shrader seems to telegraph run plays a little too obviously - just something that myself and Steve both picked up on during the game. Even on designed run plays, it seems like Garrett’s muscle memory is locked into it being a QB option and he hesitates before handing the ball off. Later on, his movements looked more and more mechanical so we have to hope that won’t be an issue moving forward.
Over where the grass is greener: the “mob” defense held strong for most of the game and did enough to thwart the Hoos’ second-half rally. Garrett Williams rebounded nicely from last week and nabbed a pair of turnovers - a fumble in the 1st quarter, and this interception in the 4th:
Garrett Williams with the pick!— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) September 24, 2022
The press box was packed with plenty of NFL scouts in attendance - and countless more eyes were watching his performance on national TV. After the impressive outing, Williams was dripping with confidence.
“I feel like last week people were kind of doubting me, and I think that was kind of stupid.” Williams said. “I’m just glad I was able to show my abilities today on the highest stage.”
Of course, we also have to give credit to the man who made Szmyt happen - Andre Szmyt, that is. It’s been a revitalization for the veteran kicker. After only making nine field goals all of last season, Szmyt is already 9/10 through the first four games. Five of those nine contributed to last night’s win, which he capped off with this 31-yarder to grab the lead for good:
There’s still a long path ahead for redshirt senior, but Coach Babers said it’s obvious how his work ethic has changed back to how it was when he was a walk-on freshman.
“Lo and behold, we’ve got old Andre back!” Babers said.
- Andre Szmyt - Career-high 5 FGs, including game winner inside final 2 minutes
- Garrett Williams - 3 tackles, 1 INT, 1 forced fumble and fumble recovery
- Oronde Gadsden - 7 catches, 107 yards
- Garrett Shrader - 22/33, 277 passing yards, 1 INT; 11 rushing yards, 1 TD