Commentary: Takeaways from Syracuse’s season-opening loss to the Tar Heels

Commentary: Takeaways from Syracuse's season-opening loss to the Tar Heels

Babers' team struggles with more than opt outs in matchup against nationally ranked UNC
Published: September 14, 2020
Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito (13) looks for running room against North Carolina's Eugene Asanti (7) during the second quarter in Kenan Stadium on Saturday, September 12, 2020 in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito (13) looks for running room against North Carolina's Eugene Asanti (7) during the second quarter in Kenan Stadium on Saturday, September 12, 2020 in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Missed opportunities were the story of the season opener for the Orange. Facing the heavy favorite North Carolina Tar Heels, quarterback Tommy DeVito and the Syracuse offense came out sluggish and never found a rhythm. The Orange trailed the entire game, and could not move the football all afternoon.

The Tar Heels took the game’s opening drive, and marched down the field on 10 plays for 65 yards, capped off by quarterback Sam Howell connecting with Garrett Walston for the only touchdown in the first half. Syracuse never responded following North Carolina’s opening strike, gaining just 35 yards over the next six drives, including two golden opportunities on drives that started deep in Tar Heel territory.

The most concerning unit on the offensive side for the Orange was the offensive line. After allowing the 2nd most sacks in the ACC last season, the unit picked up right where it left off. DeVito was not good on Saturday but he also did not have time to throw. He was sacked seven times, and faced pressure throughout the game.

Aside from Syracuse’ uphill battle at the line of scrimmage, the running backs were no help either. The team was already without Abdul Adams and Jarveon Howard because both chose to opt-out of the season, so other guys needed to step up. Freshman Jawhar Jordan and junior Markenzy Pierre shouldered the bulk of the backfield duties, but neither could produce. The duo combined for just 38 yards on two yards per carry. The Orange are a relatively thin team at the running back position, and it showed Saturday as guys looked clueless at times.

Syracuse head coach Dino Babers watches his team warm up for their game against North Carolina on Saturday, September 12, 2020 in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Syracuse head coach Dino Babers watches his team warm up for their game against North Carolina on Saturday, September 12, 2020 in Chapel Hill, N.C.

While the team struggled for the most part, the lone bright spot on the team came in the secondary. The Syracuse back-end forced two interceptions, both times setting up the offense in plus territory. The team showed signs of life defensively, but no matter the circumstance, the offense could not capitalize off the great plays that the offense made. The defense certainly held up their end of the bargain, but the offense looked dysfunctional and lacked discipline up-front.

North Carolina is a very good team, but this weekend’s game exposed some of the same limitations that Syracuse had last season. Sub-par QB play, coupled with inferior talent on the outside does not bode well for Syracuse moving forward. Additionally, head coach Dino Babers may be coaching for his job this season, and he will need to help guys regroup before facing Pittsburgh this Saturday.

With a shortened season, and question marks all over the roster, next week’s matchup will be crucial for the Orange if they want to return to a bowl.

Avatar for Micah Pruyn Goldstein

is a contributor to The NewsHouse.