Syracuse closer to knowing the ‘right guys’ after 41-3 drubbing of Holy Cross

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Between games four and six, Dino Babers says, is when Syracuse’s coaching staff will know if it was playing the right players. By the end of that span, the offensive line will get sorted out. At quarterback, receiver and running back, the complex passing game that struggled early will begin looking habitual. And a defense that’s produced turnovers at a mercilessly steady clip will start consistently generating pressure and stepping up against the run. And if they don’t?“The answer to that question is going to be what happens after that sixth game,” Babers said. “We’re 3-2, I said somewhere between game four and six we’re going to be able to look at some people and have a lot of information on them to make decisions.”And after game five, a 41-3 mashing of Holy Cross (1-3) on Saturday in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse (3-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) heads into an idle week before conference play with a better idea of who the “right guys” are. The Orange did have three fourth-quarter turnovers and even though the FCS Crusaders are the worst team SU will face this season, a strong offensive start and a dominant defensive showing was what the Orange needed heading into an off week. “It’s definitely below the expectations, to me personally,” Trishton Jackson said. “We should’ve came out in the first half and put up 30 points on this team. Just because of the trust I have in our offense. But this is why we have a bye week.” AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSaturday’s win wasn’t a major milestone or turning point of SU’s season, but a necessary step toward recovering a season that two weeks ago was almost lost. Syracuse, after being unexpectedly bludgeoned by Maryland and expectedly losing to No. 1 Clemson, sat at 1-2, already holding a conference loss. Two weeks later, the Orange have had a chance to catch their breath, while giving themselves some breathing room with two-straight wins.Early against the Crusaders, it looked as easy as it’s supposed to be for an FBS team hosting a middling FCS foe. On its first drive of the game, SU marched 63 yards in less than two minutes, going as fast as it has gone all season. This came after Babers was displeased with his team’s tempo and began pushing it in recent weeks in practice. “Babers didn’t like our tempo and that really helped us,” Jackson said. “We were playing fast, I think we have the fastest offense in the country. I think that really helped us out. What you’re seeing right now is just a bunch of young dudes who want to play fast.”Tommy DeVito was crisp to start, completing 4-of-6 passes for 59 yards, getting the ball quickly to Jackson and Taj Harris on screens and letting the wideouts make plays in space against lesser defensive backs. From the Crusaders’ 14-yard line, Harris ran a slant from the left side, clearing the space for DeVito to make an easy flip to Aaron Hackett, who strolled into the end zone untouched.After forcing a second-straight three-and-out to start the game, the Orange offense stalled on its second drive. On Sterling Hofrichter’s ensuing punt, long snapper Aaron Bolinsky raced down the field and knocked the ball out from returner Jon Jon Roberts. SU took over at the Holy Cross 17. Two weeks ago against Clemson, the Orange began two possessions off turnovers in the red zone. It scored zero points between both series. On SU’s first play after the fumbled punt Saturday, DeVito slung an easy touchdown to Jackson in the back of the end zone. DeVito finished the day 19-of-31 passing for four touchdowns, each caught by a different receiver. DeVito did leave the game early in the fourth quarter after appearing to injure his throwing arm on his interception. He was not made available for interviews after the game as he was receiving treatment, per SU Athletics. “I want to watch the tape before making my assessment,” Babers said of DeVito’s game. He didn’t provide any specifics on DeVito’s injury. More impressive than SU’s overall output against a team it should demolish, though, is the improved play of the offensive line.SU has struggled to pass-protect and establish the run game through a third of its season. On Saturday, DeVito was only sacked once and SU’s running backs averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Holy Cross doesn’t feature a pass rush nearly as volatile as Clemson’s, but SU’s line consistently picked up blitzes, cleared running lanes and gave DeVito the time he needed in the pocket.It even gave Babers the confidence to call a handoff on a 4th-and-4 from the Holy Cross 19. Leading by two touchdowns, Babers didn’t send the field goal unit out. Instead, SU lined up in 11 personnel — one tight end, one running back — and DeVito turned and gave Abdul Adams the ball. The running back went straight ahead and shot out of the hole, 19 yards down the field and into the end zone, putting the Orange up 24-7 early in the second quarter.Syracuse’s defense, which after opening the season with a shutout, was gashed for 63, 41 and 33 points in the three games that followed. But against the Crusaders, SU’s defense looked more like the 2018 version of itself. In a first half where it gave up three points, the Orange let up fewer than one yard per rush (16 carries for 15 yards), and 92 total yards in the air. SU forced more punts than it allowed third-down conversions and extended its streak of games with a forced turnover to 19. Despite the scoreboard, it wasn’t a perfect performance by any means.Babers has stressed protecting the football in recent weeks. As SU turned teams over at a rapid rate last season, it created a good turnover margin by simultaneously limiting turnovers. This season, the takeaways are coming but at an almost equal rate to the giveaways.“It’ll still be good to go into a game and come out of a game somewhere in the future,” Babers said Monday, “hopefully, where we have no turnovers. That would be a really cool thing.”That game is still in the future after three fourth-quarter turnovers. DeVito threw a long interception on third down and after an ensuing forced three-and-out, Nykeim Johnson tried to field a punt and muffed it. A few series later, Jawhar Jordan fumbled his first career carry. “I’m just old fashioned, I just don’t like it when we put the ball on the ground,” Babers said. “That’s too easy. Other teams can do it but I don’t like it when we do it.”On the scoreboard, Syracuse’s game against Holy Cross went as expected: The FBS team smacked the FCS team. A closer examination of the game certainly shows the good for SU — DeVito’s second-straight four-touchdown game, an improving offensive line and a blossoming defense — but also what’s bad and needs improving: DeVito’s health, ball security and further development from the offensive line.But headed in an idle week, Babers now has a better idea of who the “right guys” are. Comments Published on September 28, 2019 at 3:21 pm Contact Andrew: [email protected] | @A_E_Grahamlast_img read more