A rivalry renewed: Rutgers spoils the Dome’s grand reopening
SU loses to Rutgers in first home game
Orange fans flooded the renovated Dome concourses on Saturday to watch Syracuse football open its home schedule against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Their cheers quickly grew silent, though, as a blocked punt dealt Rutgers excellent field position early in the first quarter. The Scarlet Knights offense took the field for the first time with the ball marked inside SU’s red zone.
But the Orange defense, led by redshirt senior defensive lineman Josh Black and redshirt sophomore cornerback Garrett Williams, pushed Rutgers back to the 43 yard line. Black applied steady pressure to Rutgers senior quarterback Noah Vedral and registered seven tackles on the night.
“We had to make sure the quarterback was very uncomfortable,” Black said. “We wanted to make sure he threw the ball before getting his feet set.”
Rutgers junior place kicker Valentino Ambrosio then missed his attempt right of the goal posts. It was the first of many second chances the Orange defense granted redshirt junior quarterback Tommy DeVito and the offense.
A week after SU’s offense posted 383 total yards against Ohio, the unit struggled to find its rhythm against the Scarlet Knights. The unit tallied 258 yards and lost three turnovers on Saturday.
“Last week the run game was rolling, and the pass game wasn’t so great. This week the pass game was better than the run game even though it was not good at all,” DeVito said. “It needs to be balanced. It needs to help each other.”
With 9:53 left in the second quarter Head Coach Dino Babers sent sophomore quarterback Garrett Shrader out to captain the first-team offense – a move he said he knew he was going to make at some point before the game started.
Shrader quarterbacked three drives and threw for 42 yards on four completions. Andre Smzyt pulled a 43-yard field goal wide right with nine seconds left in the first half. Both teams ran into their locker rooms under an empty scoreboard.
After a third down stop in the middle of the third quarter, referees flagged sophomore linebacker Mikel Jones for a penalty, They then flagged Babers, who was arguing their call, and advanced Rutgers’ field position to the SU 11 yard line.
“When they came over and told me they said that the back was picked up and body slammed,” Babers said. “I was like, ‘I didn’t see anybody body slam anybody,’ and I got a personal foul called against me.”
On the next play, Rutgers freshman running back Kyle Monangai took a hand-off from Vedral and slithered through SU’s defensive line. Monangai danced into the endzone untouched, giving the Scarlet Knights the first points of the game and a 6-0 lead.
But the Orange had a quick answer. DeVito found a streaking Taj Harris down the right sideline for a 51-yard gain and prime field position on the Rutgers 24-yard line. On the following play, freshman running back Sean Tucker took a handoff the full remaining distance of the field. SU knocked home the subsequent field goal and knotted the score at 7.
Shortly after Syracuse tied the score, Williams limped off the field with an injury that Babers did not update on after the game. Williams led the Orange defensive backs with eight tackles.
“We had one of our better players not out on the football field,” Babers said. “He’s very involved in special teams as well so not only did it affect our defense but it affected our special teams.”
The Scarlet Knights took advantage of the fresh faces in SU’s secondary, pounding on 10 points through a 30-yard touchdown pass to senior tight-end Jovani Haskins and a field goal by Ambrosio.
The Orange offense never got where it wanted to go. With 41 seconds left, DeVito overthrew his intended receiver and placed the ball in a Scarlet Knight’s hands to seal the game.
“We’re hurting ourselves,” DeVito said. “We can’t make mistakes like that, especially in close games.”
Syracuse fans who were once so eager to see the Dome’s turf, turned their backs and headed for the exit.
“One loss doesn’t define who we are,” Black said. “The beautiful thing about football is one team is going to win, one team is going to lose. You learn a lot from both, but you ultimately learn more from losing. We’d rather learn as much as we can right now before we get into the conference play where things really start to pick up.”