Saturday turned out to be as unsuccessful a business trip as many expected for Syracuse, as they were flattened by #2 Florida State in Tallahassee, 59-3. The Orange (5-5, 3-3 ACC) were no match for the hosts, as the Seminoles (10-0, 8-0) completely dominated every facet of the game, simply due to their overabundance of athleticism.
With the win, the ‘Noles clinched the outright Atlantic Division title in the ACC and the corresponding berth in the conference championship game. SU faces a long flight home and a slightly longer injury list than the one they had entering the game. Running back Prince-Tyson Gulley left early after apparently re-injuring the same left ankle that caused him to sit out last week’s game, but that injury was overshadowed by cornerback Julian Whigham being taken to the hospital during the game.
The game opened about as poorly as it could for Syracuse. Florida State marched for a quick touchdown on their first possession, forced an even quicker punt by the Orange, then scored one play later on a 74-yard touchdown run. With barely four minutes elapsed, SU stared at a 14-0 hole. The Orange managed only one first down on their next two possessions while the Seminoles proved to be a well-oiled machine, tacking on another pair of touchdowns to make it a 28-0 game before the first quarter was over.
The second session started off just as poorly for SU, as Florida State converted another punt into a scoring drive to make it 35-0 just over three minutes into the second. Syracuse put together their best drive to that point on their next possession, but on fourth-and-four from the ‘Noles 34, Terrel Hunt allowed a shotgun snap to sail past him, then fell on the ball for a 15-yard loss. FSU tacked on a field goal to make it 38-0 shortly after, then both teams traded punts before going into the locker room.
The second half was more of the same, as SU got the ball first, but punted after their first two drives. FSU responded with two more touchdowns, blowing out their lead to 52-0 before the midpoint of the third quarter. The third Orange drive made things worse. Hunt was sacked and fumbled and the Seminoles’ Chris Casher scooped it up and returned it for another Florida State score, making it 59-0.
That was the end of the night for Hunt, who was replaced by Drew Allen. Allen’s first pass was intercepted, but safety Durell Eskridge returned the favor three plays later for SU, pulling down a lazily thrown FSU pass in the end zone. Syracuse then set off on their lone scoring drive of the night, stitching together a 20-play, 66-yard drive that culminated in a 32-yard field goal by Ryan Norton. The Orange converted a pair of fourth downs in Seminoles territory before opting for a field goal when faced with their third fourth down of the drive.
The SU defense forced a three-and-out on the ensuing FSU drive, then drove as far as the ‘Noles 19 before the clock ran out.
The Orange opted for a run-heavy offensive approach to the game, ending up with a 50-to-28 run-pass ratio in the contest. In a change from the expected, Jerome Smith did not get the bulk of the carries for SU, as redshirt freshmen Devante McFarlane and George Morris II got most of the work. McFarlane had 81 yards on 13 carries and Morris had 67 yards on 21 totes. Syracuse only mustered 104 yards passing in the game.
In spite of the final score, there were some highlights from the Orange defense. In addition to Durell Eskridge’s interception, SU sacked Heisman candidate quarterback Jameis Winston three times in the first half. Jay Bromley, Dyshawn Davis, and Isaiah Johnson each recorded one of the sacks.
Syracuse, who still needs a win to reach bowl eligibility, will close their schedule with a pair of home contests. The first of those games is Saturday, when Pittsburgh comes to the Carrier Dome for a 12:30 kickoff. The Panthers (5-4, 2-4) are also a win shy of bowl eligibility, but have lost three of their last four contests. Pitt is led by a dynamic pair of wide receivers in Devin Street and Tyler Boyd. Both have over 700 receiving yards and six touchdown catches on the year. The game will be televised by the ACC Network and will be available online at ESPN3.com.
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