Syracuse mounted the biggest second half rally in college football this season, defeating USF 37-36 on Saturday night. Here are my grades:
If I were to grade Syracuse’s first and second half, it would go something like this. First half, D-. Second half, A+++. SU’s problem with the red zone was again on display in the first half. The Orange’s first drive of the game stalled out at the USF 3 yard line and ended with a field goal. SU would then get to the USF 1 yard line in the second quarter and couldn’t convert again. This time, though, Ross Krautman missed a chip shot, and the Orange scored all of three points in the first half.
But the second half: Wow. A completely different team walked out and took care of business. Three touchdowns in the third quarter, and another two in the fourth quarter. Ryan Nassib was completely masterful in the last 1:23 of the game, leading a 75 yard march down field with zero timeouts.
Overall, the Orange gained 520 yards on the evening, as Nassib finished with 328 yards and four touchdowns. Jerome Smith broke the century mark for the second straight game, with 127 yards. Interestingly, though, he doesn’t have a touchdown this season.
If you thought Syracuse’s offense was impressive, statistically, USF actually outgained the Orange with 552 yards.
Saturday night was just an aberration for the defense. This is a defense that had not allowed any opponents this season to rush for more than 100 yards, and had given up just 212 rushing yards in its last four games. That is, until Saturday. USF carved up the SU defense with 369 yards on the ground and USF quarterback BJ Daniels had 134 of those.
Still, the defense avoids the F because they held USF to 13 points in the second half, and did limit the Bulls to just a field goal on its final drive. Then again, they nearly left Nassib & Co. with almost no time on the clock to mount a comeback, so I won’t give them that much credit.
Special Teams: B+
Krautman’s problems continue, as he missed his sixth field goal on the season (he missed just one his rookie year).
But the special teams also came up with the momentum swing play of the game, as Durell Eskridge blocked Justin Brockhaus-Kann’s punt early in the third quarter. “My team, they told me that I changed the whole game around,” Eskridge said to reporters after the game. “It felt wonderful. It felt like, I don’t know, it was a wonderful feeling.” To which I say, Durell, we all shared at least some of that feeling.
Also, Syracuse’s kickoff and punt coverage was excellent. Andre Davis and Marcus Shaw both had quiet nights on returns.