Behind stingy defense, Syracuse Orange defeat Maryland Terrapins

For the second straight week, the Syracuse defense was simply dominant, shutting down Maryland in a 20-3 road win. The unit forced four turnovers for the Orange, propelling them to within one win of bowl eligibility at 5-4 overall and above .500 in the ACC at 3-2. The SU defense held the hosts to 5.3 yards per play, including a meager 2.3 yards per rushing attempt.

maryland

Jerome Smith rushed for 2TDs against the Terps

While the SU offense still only worked in fits and starts, it still generated enough points to send the Terrapins (5-4, 1-4) to their third straight loss. Syracuse ground out 242 yards on the ground and 382 overall, its greatest output in three games. The Orange were fortunate enough to survive a dozen penalties totaling 115 yards.

SU took the opening kickoff and set off on a 16-play drive, the final two snaps being the most interesting. On third-and-goal from the five, Terrel Hunt completed a pass to left tackle Sean Hickey, who lateraled to guard Rob Trudo as he was being tackled. Trudo rumbled to the one before being stopped. On the next play, Syracuse converted their second fourth down on the drive when Jerome Smith crashed into the end zone from a yard out for a touchdown. With just under eight minutes off the clock, Ryan Norton’s extra point put SU on top, 7-0. After each team punted, Maryland put together their first threatening drive of the game. However, Brad Craddock missed a field goal try of 42 yards less than a minute into the second quarter.

Two possessions later, freshman running back George Morris II provided a spark to the Orange offense, carrying on three consecutive plays that totaled 42 yards and getting SU to the Terrapins’ 32. Jerome Smith, however, had the ball punched away on the next play and the Terps recovered. The SU defense rose to the challenge by forcing a turnover of their own, as Durell Eskridge picked off a C.J. Brown pass in the end zone with just over six minutes left in the second.

» Related: Syracuse one win from bowl eligibility

Syracuse would not capitalize on the possession, as one play after Jarrod West made a leaping one-handed grab for 33 yards, Hunt gave the ball back to Maryland with an interception of his own. Julian Whigham ended the fourth consecutive possession with a turnover, picking off another Brown pass. Whigham fumbled the ball on the return, but Jeremi Wilkes covered it for the Orange.

After a quick three-and-out and punt, the Syracuse defense forced their third consecutive turnover when Ritchy Desir put a big hit on Maryland receiver Amba Etta-Tawo, jarring the ball loose. Marquis Spruill pounced on the ball at the Terps’ 38 with under a minute to go in the half. Four runs by Jerome Smith put the ball at the 17 to set up Norton for a 34-yard field goal try. Norton’s kick was good, extending the Orange lead to 10-0 with three ticks before the intermission.

Maryland got the ball to start the third quarter, but continued to be generous hosts, botching a shotgun snap right after crossing midfield. The football squirted free and SU’s Cameron Lynch scooped it up and returned it to the Terrapin 40. After picking up a pair of first downs, the Orange settled for a 30-yard Norton field goal and a 13-0 lead less than five minutes out of the break. Late in the third quarter, Maryland matched that field goal, getting a 23-yarder to slice the margin to 13-3.

After the teams traded punts, Hunt sprinted Syracuse into scoring position, taking off on a designed draw for 29 yards that put the Orange in field goal range. Two plays later, Jerome Smith burst through the line on a quick cutback and raced into the end zone from 21 yards out for his tenth touchdown of the season. Norton tacked on the extra point to make it a three score margin at 20-3 with 10:33 on the clock. SU leaned on their defense from there, as they snuffed out a trio of Maryland drives on fourth downs, then ran off the game’s final 1:58.

Jerome Smith was an absolute workhorse for the Orange, carrying the ball 28 times for 118 yards and both Syracuse touchdowns. After starting the game by connecting on his first seven passes, Terrel Hunt cooled off, finishing 15-of-24 for 140 yards and an interception. Hunt added 67 yards on seven carries while George Morris II added 50 yards on seven carries of his own.

Ritchy Desir topped the SU defense with a personal best 11 tackles and added a forced fumble, which Marquis Spruill recovered. Durell Eskridge and Julian Whigham each had an interception while Cameron Lynch also recovered a fumble. Eric Crume, Dyshawn Davis, and Robert Welsh each added a sack.

GAME NOTES:

  • Marquis Spruill recorded two tackles for loss in the game. He now stands fifth in school history in that statistic with 37.5.
  • With his 118 yards rushing today, Jerome Smith has 2,010 in his career. He is the 21st player in Syracuse history to run for over 2,000 yards in his career.
  • The Orange will face their stiffest test of the season next Saturday when they visit #3 Florida State. The Seminoles (9-0, 7-0) who will likely ascend to the #2 spot in the nation when the new weekly polls are announced, have rolled through their schedule thus far, winning all but one game by a minimum of 27 points. Kickoff is set for 3:30pm Eastern and the game will be televised on either ESPN2 or ABC.

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Jim Stechschulte

About Jim Stechschulte

A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.
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