Strong second half propels Syracuse football to fourth win
Strong second half propels SU to fourth win
The Orange scored 26 unanswered points against Army to stay perfect in the season.
The Syracuse Orange fought back in an impressive second half to defeat Army 29-16 at home to improve to 4-0 on the season.
It was truly a tale of two halves at the JMA Wireless Dome on Saturday with neither team looking its best for all four quarters.
Army plays a different brand of football than typical big-name programs, one of the few “true triple-option” teams left, and Syracuse head coach Dino Babers knew this going into the game.
“We changed the way we practice,” Babers said. “Normally [our defense runs] three-and-out in practices during the week, this week we were four-and-outs because we knew they were going to go for it on fourth down.
“It went exactly the way we thought it was going to go.”
Army set the tone early, eating up nine minutes on the first drive of the game en route to a touchdown. The remainder of the first half was more of the same, the Black Knights effectively moving the ball down the field and pounding the Orange defense play after play.
The visitors converted on third down only five times in 11 attempts but were a perfect 3-for-3 on fourth down behind running back Jakobi Buchanan. The bruising back finished the half with only 22 yards but could not be denied at the line of scrimmage. Overall, Army rushed for 134 first-half yards.
Syracuse junior linebacker Marlowe Wax Jr. said that Army was a problem for the Orange defense.
“It gets frustrating, it’s a mental game,” Wax said of the Army run game. “That’s what they try to do. We all just had to come together and not let it get too personal.”
Syracuse could not get anything going on offense, stalling on each of their four drives in the first half.
Senior quarterback Garrett Shrader looked comfortable, completing 9-13 pass attempts, but could not string together any chunk plays. He finished the half with only 85 yards and an interception, the latter of which came with under a minute to play in the half. It was uncharacteristic of Shrader, who came into the contest having amassed 993 yards of total offense in the first three weeks.
“I’ll pin a lot of the first half stuff on me just not making routine plays,” Shrader said.
The second half started similar to the first, with Army coming up with a huge stop for a turnover on downs that sucked the air out of the Dome. The Syracuse defense came through, however, forcing a punt on the ensuing Army drive and giving the ball back to their star quarterback.
Shrader came out firing, completing a 31-yard pass to junior wide receiver Damien Alford on the first play for their biggest gain on the afternoon. Alford had 50 receiving yards on that drive alone, which resulted in a touchdown and evened the score at 10-10.
The drive was the spark SU’s offense needed. Syracuse completely shut down Army’s run game, the Black Knights rushing for -2 yards on the half thanks to a handful of quarterback sacks.
Coach Babers was cryptic in revealing his second-half adjustments, saying that Syracuse changed “just one thing” on defense. When asked to elaborate on his coach’s answer, Wax smiled and kept it short.
“Stop the run,” Wax said.
Syracuse went on to score 26 unanswered points to take a 29-10 lead in the fourth quarter. Army’s defense had a tough time accounting for sophomore running back LeQuint Allen, who exploded for 88 rushing yards in the second half. He finished with 104 yards on the ground to go along with a rushing touchdown.
Shrader finished with 245 yards in the air and two all-purpose touchdowns. The quarterback credited his receivers’ growth through the first four weeks, who have stepped up after the loss of star junior tight end Oronde Gadsden to injury.
“Someone should have 100 yards every week, it’s just a matter of who it is,” Shrader said. “Today it was Dame [Alford]. He made a lot of great catches, took advantage of his opportunities.
“You never know how the game’s going to play out. Everybody’s got to be ready.”
The Orange are now undefeated through four games for the second straight season. They begin ACC play next Saturday, hosting a struggling Clemson team who handed Syracuse its first loss in 2022.