Saturday afternoon, Syracuse needed a late touchdown to escape a sloppy effort and pull out a 21-14 victory over visiting Rhode Island. Despite only scoring on three of 12 possessions and allowing the visitors to control the ball for over 32 minutes of the game, the Orange improved to 2-0 on the season, marking the first time since 1999 that the team opened with a pair of victories. The win over the Rams (0-1) moved head coach Doug Marrone over the .500 mark for the first time in his tenure at 14-13.
The Orange got onto the scoreboard on their second possession, marching 73 yards in 11 plays before finishing the drive when Ryan Nassib zipped a 22-yard touchdown pass to Van Chew. Ricky Krautman’s extra point gave the home team a 7-0 lead with under nine minutes off the clock. Syracuse’s next possession was fruitless, as they fell a couple inches shy of converting a fourth down inside the Rams 15. Rhode Island grabbed the momentum from that stop and used a long scoring drive to score the tying touchdown. SU responded with an 80-yard touchdown drive, most of the work being done on a 62-yard Nassib-to-Chew bomb. Nassib got his second scoring toss of the day when he completed a four-yard touchdown pass to Alec Lemon. Krautman’s extra point made it 14-7, Orange, near the midpoint of the second quarter. Rhode Island missed a field goal on their next possession, which was the only scoring threat by either side before halftime.
The Rams cashed in their opening possession of the third quarter, moving 75 yards in six plays (including 30 yards on a pair of personal fouls committed by SU) and getting a touchdown pass to make it a 14-14 game before five minutes had elapsed. Neither team threatened the end zone the remainder of the third, but Syracuse put together an 80-yard touchdown march on their first possession of the fourth. On the eighth play of the drive, Nassib connected with walk-on Mike Acchione for a scoring pass of 12 yards. Acchione’s second career catch in his first career game for SU gave the home team a six-point lead and Krautman’s extra point made it 21-14 with under nine minutes remaining. The Orange defense took over from there, forcing a Ram punt on their next possession, then thwarting Rhode Island’s last gasp with a pair of quarterback sacks before Phillip Thomas intercepted a fourth down pass to seal the victory.
Ryan Nassib was the driving force behind the SU offense, tying a school record with 29 completions (on 37 attempts) for a career-best 318 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Nassib’s success was in large part due to Rhode Island’s focus on snuffing out the Orange run game, as illustrated by Antwon Bailey leading the Orange with 43 yards on 13 attempts. Alec Lemon caught ten passes to pace SU, gaining 94 yards, while Van Chew again topped the receivers in yards, this time with 134 yards on eight grabs.
The Orange defense got a pair of interceptions on the day, both by Phillip Thomas, who earned Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors for his effort. SU got three sacks as part of eight tackles for loss on the day. Marquis Spruill was credited with 1.5 sacks while Dyshawn Davis scored a sack for the second straight game. Dom Anene was credited with a half-sack, as well.
The Orange hit the road for the first time this season when they travel to Los Angeles on Saturday to face USC. The Trojans (2-0) have won their first two games over Minnesota and Utah at home by a combined 11 points. The game will get underway at 5:00pm Pacific and those not attending the game can watch it on FX.