Takeaways from Syracuse’s season-opening win over Ohio

Takeaways from Week 1 win over Ohio

Big performances from Tommy DeVito and Sean Tucker lead SU football over the Bobcats.
Published: September 4, 2021 | Updated: September 6th, 2021 at 6:45 pm
Syracuse's Sean Tucker (#34) runs the ball during the Ohio versus Syracuse game on Saturday, Sep. 4, 2021, in Athens, Ohio. Syracuse won the match 29-9.
Running back Sean Tucker (#34) powers through the Ohio defense during Saturday's game. Tucker rushed for 183 yards and a touchdown in the Orange's season opener.

For the first time in 343 days, Syracuse football is back in the win column.

Tonight was about as good a result as you could have asked for from SU’s first outing of the season, beating the Ohio Bobcats 29-9 on the road.

Freshman running back Sean Tucker took over the game, rushing for 183 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt junior quarterback Tommy DeVito looked in control of the offense after winning his summer quarterback battle over Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader.

DeVito went 11-for-17 on the night for 92 yards through the air while rushing for 49 yards and a touchdown on seven attempts. Syracuse’s offensive line looked dominant, seeing success in the run game while allowing just one sack all game.

Sophomore linebacker Mikel Jones led Syracuse’s defensive performance. The honorable mention All-ACC player led the team with 10 tackles and assisted in forcing a safety, putting Syracuse up 9-0 early in the first quarter.

Tonight was also a coming-out party for freshman cornerback Darian “Duce” Chestnut. The former four-star cornerback prospect generated eight total tackles, a pass breakup, and a game-sealing interception in his debut for the Orange.

SU accounted for 383 yards of total offense and points in all four quarters. The Syracuse Orange will make their home debut at The Dome next week against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday, September 11, at 2 p.m.

The rushing attack looked dominant. The Orange offense put together a powerful performance on the ground against the Bobcats, rushing for 283 yards and three touchdowns on 44 total attempts.

Tucker set the tone early and gashed Ohio’s defense for a 47-yard gain on his second rushing attempt of the game. Tucker posted 7.2 yards-per-carry against the Bobcats defense, the highest rate of any game in his collegiate career.

Syracuse's Orange players celebrate a touchdown during the Syracuse versus Ohio match in Athens, Ohio, on Saturday, Sep. 4, 2021. Syracuse won 29-9.
SU players celebrate a touchdown during the Orange's win over Ohio Saturday night.

Syracuse’s defense held strong when it mattered. Holding any team to just nine points is always a good indicator for a strong defensive performance. But for a while, this game was closer than the score let on.

The Bobcats broke a handful of big plays over SU’s defense and gained 346 total yards through four quarters. However, Syracuse was able to hold strong when they needed to most.

Ohio University’s offense converted on just five of 12 third downs throughout the game. Strong coverage in the Orange secondary often forced Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke to check down on third down, extinguishing drives and forcing the Bobcats into field goal situations. When Ohio University had their best chance of the night to find the end zone, Chestnut added to his stellar Syracuse debut with a game-sealing interception.

Special teams made the difference early. Syracuse jumped out to a quick 9-0 lead against Ohio, thanks in no small part to the Orange special teams unit.

Redshirt junior kicker Andre Szmyt buried Ohio deep in their own end to start the game, with the offense’s first two drives beginning on the Syracuse 19-yard-line and 2-yard-line, respectively.

Ohio’s first drive ended in a missed 50-yard field goal, giving Syracuse a short field to set up their first touchdown of the game. SU’s kickoff team then pinned Ohio deep in their own zone, immediately leading to a safety. That early 9-0 lead was a hole the Bobcats could not dig themselves out of.

Avatar for Cale Clinton

is a sports reporter for The NewsHouse, and a graduate student in the magazine, news & digital journalism program. Also, Clinton is a Football Outsiders staff writer and former Amherst Student reporter and editor.