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Syracuse football: USF stampedes over Orange 45-0 in Boca Raton Bowl

The good news is Fran Brown and his recruits will still be here when you wake up.

NCAA Football: Boca Raton Bowl-South Florida at Syracuse Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

There has been so much (appropriate) positivity around Syracuse Orange football the past three weeks that when it comes to the current on-field product, a reality check was due.

That’s what happened in the 2023 Boca Raton Bowl, where a hungry, energized USF Bulls squad exploded for 31 first-half points and routed a severely depleted ‘Cuse roster 45-0.

SU finishes the season 6-7, but back-to-back bowl appearances still mark significant progress for new head coach Fran Brown to build on in 2024.

The Orange were without their dual-threat quarterback, but USF had theirs ready to go. The Bulls got first possession, and after both defenses got initial stops, Byrum Brown went to work.

The true freshman bulldozed his way forward on a 3rd & 1 keeper for a new set of downs. That was the start of a phenomenal night for him and the no-huddle USF offense. On the tenth play of the drive, Brown threw across his shoulder, completing a 13-yard pass to Sean Atkins in the back of the endzone, who dragged his feet for the touchdown. The Bulls drove 63 yards in only 3:13.

SU went three-and-out on three straight run plays, giving USF the ball back. A sack by Kevin Jobity near midfield rattled Brown for the first time, as right after, he threw a backwards pass towards the RB, which was dropped and picked up by Alijah Clark. Cinco took it all the way back for an easy touchdown... which was taken off the board by a pointless blindside block from Jason Simmons. Really don’t know what he was thinking.

Still, ‘Cuse got possession at the opposing 28 with a chance to capitalize... and they got way too cute with it. After a near disaster via a fumbled reverse by LeQuint Allen, SU was ready to settle for a field goal. Then the actual disaster happened.

Stonehouse, the holder, mishandled the snap. Kicker Brady Denaburg tried to pick it up, but the ball got knocked loose, and Bulls’ defensive back Amaris Brown scooped it and ran 64 yards down the field for a touchdown.

After another Orange punt, the Bulls rushed down the field even faster: 6 plays, 81 yards in just 2:18.

The beleaguered offensive line didn’t do SU any favors. During the next series, the pocket collapsed in record time, Villari panicked and threw a pick, and South Florida got three more points out of it.

Braden Davis finally got a chance and led an inspired drive near the end of the half, but again the pressure got through. He fumbled, and USF recovered for their second scoop-and-score of the night, this time a 61-yard return by Tramel Logan.

The second half wasn’t better, and I don’t need to go into excruciating detail. Instead, let’s remember where we are.

Jason Beck, the offensive coordinator who fixed an archaic attack lacking the proper pieces towards the end of the season, was hired by New Mexico before the game. Other assistants already know they’re long gone and are focusing on finding new jobs more than anything else. SU’s finals were last Thursday through Tuesday, limiting practice options.

Would it have been nice for Caleb Okechukwu and other vets to get a better sendoff than this? Absolutely - but at least they’ll have a final positive Dome memory thanks to the performance that got them to this point.

In a National Signing Day press conference on Wednesday, Coach Brown said he couldn’t wait to officially take over the program. Well, here we are. The game that just happened really doesn’t mean much compared to what’s ahead. Fran and his guys will get right to work molding the new battalion of Orange recruits beginning on Martin Luther King Day - and we will start to see the results in the spring.

Until then... thanks for sticking with me through this season. It was a pleasure covering this team and interacting with Orange Nation on here. See you again when the snow starts to melt. - Mike O.