In arguably the team’s strongest performance of the season, the Orange used a balanced offensive attack and constant defensive pressure on the opposing quarterback to blow out UConn, 40-10.
After a close first quarter, Syracuse scored 27 unanswered points and never looked back, taking firm control of the Big East affair.
“We executed on all three facets of the game,” quarterback Ryan Nassib said, referring to strong performances by the offense, defense and special teams.
The offense, after scoring just 13 points per game in its last three contests, found a spark in wide receiver Alec Lemon and running back Jerome Smith. Lemon totalled 166 yards with a touchdown on eight catches and Smith added a career-high 137 yards on 19 carries.
The defense line proved to be an immovable force as the Huskies finished with -6 yards on the ground and the special teams play, plagued by inconsistency to this point in the season, featured a standout game by kicker Russ Krautman who was a perfect 4-of-4 on field goal attempts.
All in all, Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone felt his squad did a good job of “dusting off” last week’s loss to Rutgers. He looked more at the big picture after the conference win. “We’re just going to continue to fight and get better as the season goes on,” Marrone said. He added, “I think we’re working forward in the right direction, but there’s still a lot of work.”
The Orange got off to a quick start after the defense forced a quick three-and-out to begin the game. The aggressiveness from the defense did not stop there, though. Syracuse consistently got pressure on UConn quarterback, Chandler Whitmer, forcing him to make tough throws on the run out of the pocket.
Nassib appreciated the energy, intensity and execution the defense showed. “They were flying around making plays, making big stops,” Nassib said, later adding with a smile, “I’m just glad I wasn’t facing them today.”
Syracuse displayed a fast-paced offense that wore down the UConn defenders, many of whom could be seen doubled over, hands on their knees. Lemon said he could see the Husky defense growing tired as soon as the third offensive drive.
Offensive tackle Justin Pugh agreed. He said, “I think by the tempo we were playing at towards the end of the game, I think we were able to wear them down.”
The Orange was able to continue with a fast pace because of the success of the run game. Smith averaged seven yards per carry and Prince-Tyson Gulley added 38 yards. Freshman Ashton Broyld got in on the action after not playing the previous couple games by running for 63 yards, mostly in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. The offense line was able to open up holes effectively and Smith, the main recipient, said it was “amazing.”
Nassib finished the game 14-of-20 with 251 yards and two touchdowns in the air. Tight end Beckett Wales gained 69 yards in the air and show spurts of quickness in the open field. However, it was the elusiveness and after-catch ability of Lemon that stood out in the passing game. He had never beaten UConn before in his career, but he has had success against their secondary, totaling over 500 yards in four games versus the Huskies. “I guess I just have UConn’s number,” Lemon said.
Next up, Syracuse will travel to Tampa to play South Florida with an opportunity to get back to .500 on the season. Marrone was steadfast in his message to the team. “Get ready to come back to work and let’s get ready to do this again,” he said.