Late in the season, Syracuse couldn’t hide defensive problems

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Syracuse struggled on defense down the stretch

“Offense sells tickets, defense wins games.”

That was one of legendary SU coach Dick MacPherson’s favorite sayings.

It wasn’t too long ago, (three weeks to be exact) that Syracuse was ranked in the top six in the nation in defense-allowing 24.9 points a game (13.7 fewer then it did in 2016) and limiting its opponents to 136 yards less per game then it did last season.

The Orange also led the country in third-down defense percentage (.220) and climbed 70 spots in the NCAA’s rushing defense rankings, allowing 86.7 yards a game less on the ground then it did a year ago.

That was then, this is now.

In the last three games, the SU defense gave up 162 points and 2,042 yards. Syracuse entered the BC game allowing 31.3 points per game, the worst mark in the ACC.

» Related: Syracuse football waves goodbye to 15 seniors

Missed tackles and missed assignments were once again evident in the BC game. The Eagles rushed for 333 yards on 56 carries (5.9 yards per carry). The Orange’s third down defense, once among the best in college football this season, allowed the Eagles to convert 8-of-12 tries in that category.

True freshman running back AJ Dillon (recruiting by former Orange coach Scott Shafer) carried the ball 23 times for 193 yards (an average of 8.4 yards per rush) and had three touchdowns. BC’s backup quarterback Darius Wade, completed 16-of-20 passes for 248 yards and one touchdown.

With quarterback Eric Dungey out the last three games, Syracuse could not rely on its offense to put up the points and bail out the defense. However, one would expect the defense to get better as the season went on, not worse.

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Judy Salamone

About Judy Salamone

For 18 years, Judy was Editor and Publisher of The Big Orange/The Juice print publication. Judy is currently a freelance editor and writer and has covered Syracuse University athletics since 1988. She is a graduate of Le Moyne College, in Syracuse, New York.

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