Syracuse 31, Connecticut 24 — What we learned

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Franklin made a key stop to preserve SU’s win

Syracuse evened its record at 2-2 with a hard-fought win over Connecticut on the road. Here’s a few thoughts from the game:

ETTA-TAWO DOES IT AGAIN

Syracuse fifth-year senior Amba Etta-Tawo keeps setting records. With 12 receptions for 270 yards and two touchdowns, Tawo broke an SU single-game record for receiving yards that went back to 1985. Scott Schwedes held the previous mark with 249 yards receiving against Boston College.

Etta-Tawo also became the first Orange player in history to have more than one 200-yard receiving games in a season. He opened the 2016 campaign with 210 yards against Colgate.

He has now racked up 40 receptions for 706 yards and five touchdowns.

“This goes back to chemistry with the quarterback and the coaches,” Etta-Tawo said. “They trust that I’m going to make plays and they keep giving me opportunities to do that.”

The Maryland transfer has put himself in the conversation as one of the best receivers in the ACC.

“I think he has already passed his previous career-high as a collegian in four games with us than his entire time at the other school,” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said. “I think if you asked him he would say he made a good choice [to transfer to SU].”

» Related: Syracuse blows lead but holds off Connecticut to move to .500

DEFENSE MAKES KEY PLAYS

For all the ballyhoo that has been made about the Syracuse’s offense, it was the defense that helped secure Saturday’s win. With the Orange clinging to a 24-17 lead early in the fourth quarter, the Huskies seemed poised to tie the game after a gutsy fake field goal call from head coach Bob Diaco.

On fourth and 3 from the 25 yard line, holder Tyler Davis completed a pass to tight end Tommy Myers to set up first and goal at the SU 8. But on fourth and 2, UCONN QB Bryant Shirreffs was stopped on the 1-yard line by linebacker Zaire Franklin.

“Going back, I would probably buy some more time and throw it to the back of the endzone,” Shirreffs said. “I came up short. The linebacker made a good play and I didn’t.”

On the ensuing drive, SU put the game out of reach with 12 play, 99 yard drive that ate up nearly four minutes of playing time. That, combined with a pick-6 from Cordell Hudson with under a minute to go in the third quarter proved to be the difference.

“just thought for them to in the second half to play as well as they did in the first half, to come out and get a pick-six and take it to the house, really change the game,” Babers said. “It really took the pressure off of us and put it on our opponent.”

SLOW START HURTS CONNECTICUT

UCONN had come into Saturday’s contest 2-1, with a combined margin of victory in those games of 10 points. One of the reasons for all of the close games has been slow starts for the Huskies.

Connecticut came in scoring exactly zero points in the first quarters of all three of its opening games. That trend continued against the Orange, with SU jumping out to an early 14-0 lead.

Though UCONN would eventually tie the game, it never had the lead.

“We didn’t get off to the start we hoped to have,” Shirreffs said. “I think we did a lot of positive things in the game that we can build on. We obviously made some critical mistakes, but I’m looking forward to watching film and see how I can get better.”

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Wes Cheng

About Wes Cheng

Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.
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