Injuries haunt Syracuse football in 38-24 loss to Duke

SU football loses 38-24 to Duke

The Orange fall to 1-3 on the season after defense fails to stop Chase Brice and the Blue Devils.
Published: October 10, 2020 | Updated: October 18th, 2020 at 10:08 pm
NCAA Football: Duke at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange quarterback Rex Culpepper (17) passes the ball against the Duke Blue Devils during the fourth quarter at the Carrier Dome.

In a blow to Syracuse’s already suffering starting lineup, the Orange were plagued by injuries in their 38-24 loss to Duke on Saturday.

Coming off the bye week — and the first win of the season — SU came into the game without two playmaking starting safeties in Andre Cisco and Eric Coley. Regardless, the day started off fine for the defense, who looked to capitalize on their impressive performance against Georgia Tech in which they forced five turnovers.

The defense played well in the first half, recording three forced fumbles. Syracuse’s best takeaway of the day came when middle linebacker Geoff Cantin-Arku returned a fumble 28 yards to give the Orange a brief 14-10 lead. The celebration was short-lived as Cantin-Arku later limped off the field with an apparent left ankle injury.

The defense’s other shining moment was Mikel Jones‘ second half interception of Duke quarterback Chase Brice. Jones had his best game of the season, with 13 solo tackles and one interception — his third through four games.

Despite Jones and Cantin-Arku’s contributions, the defense struggled to contain Duke’s offense. SU had no answer for the Blue Devils’ 363 yards on the ground. Duke leaned on two running backs, Deon Jackson and Mataeo Durant, who each rushed for over 160 yards, and Durant found the end zone twice.

NCAA Football: Duke at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange linebacker Geoff Cantin-Arku (31) reacts to his fumble return for a touchdown against the Duke Blue Devils during the second quarter at the Carrier Dome.

Tommy DeVito was 50 percent in passing, completing 13 of 26 attempts. Still, DeVito threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yard pass to Taj Harris. Harris took the ball the rest of the way to the end zone, making this the third straight game where DeVito connected with his veteran wide receiver for six.

DeVito’s other touchdown came in the second half, when he found tight end Luke Benson, who took it down field for a 53-yard score. This was the first touchdown of the season for the sophomore tight end.

The rushing game did not produce the same amount of success they were able to find against Georgia Tech. Following a 100-yard and multi-score affair, freshman running back Sean Tucker was handed the ball just 12 times for 53 yards. The running game looked entirely different from what it did two weeks ago in the Dome.

“I think the biggest thing is we are not running the ball consistently,” said Babers. “There is no way to get around it and that doesn’t give us the balance we need to have. Once again this is a total thing, you don’t lose a game like this by saying one side did this or the other side did that, this is a total thing.”

Syracuse’s biggest loss of the day came in the fourth quarter when DeVito was helped off the field after his fifth sack of the game. Backup QB Rex Culpepper took over but was unable to produce much with just three pass attempts. The Orange should be concerned about DeVito moving forward, as the starter needed crutches to exit the field at the end of the game.

“Based off some of the stuff I’ve heard it’s not good. We are all pulling for him and wish him the best, like I said right now it’s not good,” Babers said on the status of his starting quarterback.

In addition to DeVito, the Orange also lost Tucker when he left the field and didn’t return before the end of the game.

The Orange look to bounce back when the Liberty Flames come to the Carrier Dome on Oct. 17.

The Orange takes on the Blue Devils on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020, at the Carrier Dome
Syracuse Orange quarterback Tommy DeVito (13) walks off the field on crutches after the against Duke University on Saturday, Oct 10, 2020, at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.