3 takeaways from Syracuse’s 24-0 win over Liberty in season opener

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on August 31, 2019 at 9:21 pm Contact Andrew: aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Graham LYNCHBURG, Va. — No. 22 Syracuse (1-0) overcame a sloppy start and a nearly nonexistent passing game to shut down Liberty (0-1), 24-0, at Williams Stadium on Saturday in its 2019 season opener. The Orange committed two turnovers, only scored three points in the first quarter and struggled to consistently move the ball through the air. But thanks to a dominant showing from the defense and a trio of running backs, SU managed to generate the offense it needed to get out of Lynchburg with a win.Here are three reactions from the win.Sloppy startBy the end of the first quarter, each team had an interception, a fumble, a failed third-down conversion, numerous penalties and a grand total of three points to show for a quarter of football both teams would like to quickly forget. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe contest started with each team trading three-and-outs when on Liberty’s ensuing punt after three-straight incompletions, wide receiver Sean Riley coughed up the ball crossing midfield. LU recovered, promptly drove to the red zone and missed a field goal. SU took the ball back and punted again. Liberty put together a good drive to inside SU’s 5-yard line and then Trill Williams forced a fumble from behind. Then SU got to midfield, DeVito took a shot to Nykeim Johnson but underthrew the pass and was intercepted. On Liberty’s following possession, SU brought a six-man rush on third down and, with a blitzer in his face, LU quarterback Stephen Calvert whipped a blind pass straight into the gut of SU’s Ifeatu Melifonwu. On the following drive, SU finally scored as Andre Szmyt pushed a 45-yard field goal through. During the messy first quarter, each team got called for a personal foul and at least two other penalties. Tommy DeVito finished the frame 3-for-8 passing for 21 yards with an interception and Calvert only went 6-for-12 for 107 yards, also with an interception. It was the kind of sloppy, disjointed start Syracuse head coach Dino Babers warned could hamstring the Orange against a feisty Liberty squad. They were lucky it didn’t. Defensive line dominatesSyracuse’s defensive line is its best position group. It asserted that on Saturday by living in the Liberty backfield, totaling eight sacks plus six more tackles for loss from 10 different players. Leading the charge were two seniors: Kendall Coleman and Josh Black. By attacking Liberty’s pass protection and run schemes from the outside and inside, respectively, Coleman and Black were at times unblockable. Twice in the game, SU went to a three-man defensive front on third-and-long passing situations. Both times, Coleman split a double team and sacked Calvert. Black was more opportunistic. In the third quarter, Coleman came off the edge, forcing Calvert up in the pocket and right toward the awaiting Black. Elsewhere on SU’s line, senior end Alton Robinson, who like Coleman finished 2018 with 10 sacks, constantly collapsed the pocket and pressured Calvert. Midway through the second quarter, Liberty blocked Robinson with a double-team. The right tackle turned him inward to the right guard, who Robinson bull rushed and planted his behind on the turf in a split second, just as Calvert threw the ball away. Even Curtis Harper, a redshirt sophomore defensive end, got in on the action, picking up half a sack. The other 1.5 sacks went to Kingsley Jonathan. All night, whenever Calvert dropped back, he was almost regularly joined by a much bigger player from the other team. Running back by committeeWithout much by way of a consistent passing offense — DeVito and his receivers looked out of sync while the offensive line was shaky early — SU turned to a three-pronged rushing attack of Moe Neal, Abdul Adams and Jarveon Howard.The trio combined for 170 rushing yards, three touchdowns and provided SU’s offense a way to move the ball and maintain possession when there wasn’t an option otherwise — they even provided a large chunk of what SU managed to eke out of the passing game via screens and swing passes.Their respective performances all started by grinding out short to medium gains in the first half. Adams was the first to find pay dirt, bullying his way into the end zone from two yards out in the second quarter for SU’s first touchdown. As Liberty’s defensive front wore down in the second half, SU’s rushing attack picked up momentum. From the 1-yard line in a goal line set, Howard bounced an inside handoff out to the right side. A Liberty defender wrapped around Howard’s ankles but the sophomore fell forward while reaching the ball out and crossing the plane, putting SU up, 17-0.Neal delivered the knockout blow in the fourth quarter. Facing fourth-and-one from the Liberty 41-yard line, DeVito took a snap from under center, turned and handed it to Neal. Neal burst through the A-gap untouched and took it the rest of the way, putting SU up 24-0 and the game out of reach.  Commentslast_img read more

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Dino Babers searches for improvements in Week 2 from stagnant SU offense

first_imgThe Daily Orange is a nonprofit newsroom that receives no funding from Syracuse University. Consider donating today to support our mission.One game into an unusual season, the 2020 Syracuse offense looked much more like the 2019 version than 2018. Despite the scoreline being close for the first three quarters, the Orange (0-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) “shot themselves in the foot” too many times in their 31-6 season-opening loss to No. 18 North Carolina (1-0, 1-0), Babers said in his press conference Monday. SU struggled in every single facet of offense, and with Pittsburgh’s dominant defensive line looming next week, Babers insisted that the most growth in performances occurs between weeks 1 and 2. The Orange will need to make plenty of improvements across the board if they want to beat Pittsburgh, as linemakers have listed them 20.5-point underdogs. Babers doesn’t like to critique the performances of individual players without first getting a chance to watch the film back on the game, he said after Saturday’s game. Once he did watch the tape, Babers excused Tommy DeVito’s inefficient performance, chalking it up to rust and a lack of practice time with the Orange’s top receiving options. He cited four drops by the wide receivers and a few miscommunications as a cause of the Orange having the lowest offensive success rate of any Atlantic Coast Conference team that played last week. Those issues occurred because there was no spring practice and most of the early summer workouts were in pods that didn’t enable the passing unit to work entirely together, Babers said. He’s expecting improvements offensively headed into Week 2 with Pittsburgh, and implied that he’ll wait to get a larger sample size before making any potential lineup changes. Even though he mentioned some guys were banged up and could be limited in practice, SU’s starting Week 2 depth chart was the same as the one released ahead of the UNC game. AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Everybody improves greatly from their first game to the second game,” Babers said. Even though the offensive line struggled as a unit, Babers defended left guard Chris Elmore when asked how the converted tight end/full back transitioned to a position he hadn’t played before. Syracuse’s offensive line allowed a 30% stuff rate and had 2.4 offensive line yards per run, both worst in the ACC of teams that played last weekend.“For someone to play that position at that level vs. the defensive linemen he was playing, he played extremely well,” Babers said. “He was one of the guys who I thought played winning football.” But the running backs might be an even bigger concern, and Babers hinted at that in Monday’s press conference. Jawhar Jordan and Markenzy Pierre shared the rushing workload for SU, and both generated almost nothing at the second level. They combined for 0.4 second level yards per rush, much worse than SU’s metrics from last season and a concerning number. “There was too much penetration,” Babers said. “There were some holes, and sometimes we hit them and sometimes we didn’t.”Babers admitted that the playbook is a bit smaller than usual due to the shortened offseason and two new coordinators gaining experience. But he didn’t say it’s positive or negative. They have enough in their playbook to execute the offense — it’s just been the execution that faltered in Saturday’s defeat. “As the season goes, the book grows,” Babers said.  Subscribe to the D.O. Sports NewsletterWant the latest in Syracuse sports delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to the D.O. Sports newsletter to read our best sports articles, sent to you every Friday morning.* indicates requiredEmail Address * Commentscenter_img Published on September 14, 2020 at 2:51 pm Contact Anthony: amdabbun@syr.edu Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

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