Friday night, Syracuse put together their strongest all-around performance in several years, scoring 27 unanswered points to turn a close game into a 40-10 blowout of Connecticut at the Carrier Dome.
The Orange (3-4, 2-1 Big East) scored on eight of their 13 possessions against the Huskies (3-5, 0-3) and two of their other drives were terminated by the clock running out at the end of each half. That strong offensive effort (251 yards each rushing and passing) was matched by an aggressive defensive attack that held UConn to -6 yards on the ground.
After the defense forced a quick three-and-out to open the game, the Syracuse offense ate up 57 yards on eight plays, all on the ground, before cashing in with a 22-yard Ross Krautman field goal for a 3-0 lead with the game barely four minutes old.
After another quick punt and a 31-yard return by Ritchy Desir, the Orange nudged the ball ahead five yards before settling for another Krautman field goal, this one from 33 yards out, to extend the lead to 6-0 with just over eight minutes on the clock.
Connecticut struck back with a field goal of their own to slice the margin to 6-3 and the SU offense stuttered, then punted back to the visitors to end the first. Durell Eskridge provided a big play for the Syracuse defense, blind-siding the Huskies’ quarterback and knocking the ball out.
Cameron Lynch scooped it up, setting up the SU offense at the UConn 44. Nine plays later, the Orange offense cashed in, when Adonis Ameen-Moore blasted into the end zone from a yard out. Krautman’s conversion put Syracuse on top by a 13-3 margin. After the two teams swapped punts, Connecticut’s offense came to life, scoring a touchdown to get within 13-10 with under four minutes left in the half. In response, the Orange marched down the field, covering 77 yards in eight plays before Ryan Nassib floated a three-yard touchdown pass into the hands of Beckett Wales. Krautman tacked on the extra point for a 20-10 lead with under 80 seconds remaining. After forcing another Husky punt, SU opted to drain the clock and take their ten-point lead into the locker room.
After getting the ball to open the third quarter, Syracuse struck quickly. Alec Lemon caught a pass, made a quick cutback and broke free for 68 yards, only to be dragged down at the UConn four-yard-line. Prince-Tyson Gulley carried the ball in on the next play for a touchdown and Krautman tackled on the conversion for a 27-10 lead less then two minutes into the second half. After forcing another punt, SU ground out 41 yards in ten plays before settling for another Krautman field goal, this one from 42 yards to extend the lead to 30-10 near the midpoint of the third.
On the next Syracuse possession, the Orange ripped off 70 yards in eight plays, capping the drive when Nassib connected with Lemon for an 11-yard touchdown pass. Krautman’s extra point put a 37-10 stranglehold on the scoreboard with two minutes left in the game. SU scored on their fourth straight drive when they drove 51 yards before settling for a 47-yard field goal from Krautman and a 40-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. Connecticut had two fruitless final possessions, the latter ending when Shamoarko Thomas picked off a pass deep in the Orange end of the field, effectively ending the game with just over a minute on the clock.
Ryan Nassib was efficient and effective, connecting on 14-of-20 passes for 251 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Alec Lemon was his primary target on the night, as he snared eight passes for 166 yards and one of those scores. Jerome Smith posted a personal best of 133 yards in 19 carries. In addition to his late interception, Shamarko Thomas also forced a fumble. Durell Eskridge also forced a fumble and broke up a pair of passes for the Orange defense. That defense racked up eight tackles for loss on the night, including quarterback sacks by Eskridge and Markus Pierce-Brewster.
Syracuse hits the road on Saturday to take on South Florida. The Bulls (2-5, 0-3) are in a tailspin, entering the contest on a five-game losing streak. The action starts at 7 pm and the contest is available on television via pay-per-view and will stream online at ESPN3.com.