Offensive struggles sink Syracuse in loss against Notre Dame

notre dame
Syracuse Orange quarterback Tommy DeVito (13) fumbles the ball that would be overturned to down prior to the fumble as Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback Julian Love (27) defends during the second quarter during the second quarter at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports.

On paper, it was the biggest game for the Syracuse football program in decades. That paper should be crumpled up and tossed into the recycling bin, suggesting it can possibly be turned into something useful.

Just about everything went poorly for the #12 Orange, who were thumped by #3 Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium, mustering only a field goal with ten seconds remaining in the game to avoid a shutout in a 36-3 rout. Even the usual calling cards for SU were absent as they fell to 8-3 on the season.

Syracuse entered the game ranked fourth in the nation in turnover differential at +13. The turnover battle went in favor of the Irish (11-0), 3-1, and they converted those miscues into ten points.

The high-powered Orange offense entered the day ranked sixth in scoring at 44.4 points per game and 14th in yards at 482.2. In addition to barely getting on the scoreboard with a last-gasp field goal, SU was nearly doubled up by Notre Dame in yardage, 463-234.

The Syracuse defensive unit ranked ninth nationally in quarterback sacks, tallying 3.3 per game. While the Orange did muster a pair of sacks, the Irish buried two SU quarterbacks for a half dozen sacks.

Yes, two SU quarterbacks.

Staring quarterback Eric Dungey left the game with 5:44 left in the first quarter with Syracuse already in a 10-0 hole. After Dungey picked up four yards on a running play, he was returning to the line of scrimmage and eventually dropped to the ground, his right hand reaching for his lower back.

Dungey left the game, heading to the locker room. Things did not improve with Tommy DeVito taking snaps. The Orange were forced to punt two plays after DeVito entered the fray. Notre Dame responded with an 83-yard drive before settling for their second field goal and a 13-0 lead with just over a minute left in the first quarter.

» Related: Syracuse crushed by Notre Dame in 36-3 loss at Yankee Stadium

In the middle of the second quarter, SU thwarted an Irish drive when Andre Cisco intercepted a desperation fourth down pass in the end zone. While slipping to the ground, Irish quarterback Ian Book lofted a pass into the end zone and Cisco snatched it from the air for a touchback.

That was likely the highlight of the day for Syracuse. The ensuing SU drive slammed to a halt when DeVito was intercepted for the second time in the quarter and a 54-yard return set up the Irish inside the Orange 10. One play later, Notre Dame was in the end zone and held a 20-0 lead with 4:45 left in the second.

The Fighting Irish added a field goal and a touchdown on their first two possessions of the third quarter, but missed the conversion on the latter, leaving the score at 29-0.

SU mustered a long drive to start the fourth quarter, but Andre Szmyt’s 23-yard field goal try thudded off the upright and fell to the ground.

After Notre Dame tacked on a touchdown, Syracuse once again drove for a field goal try. Szmyt snuck this one, a 28-yard attempt, just inside the upright to snap the shutout with ten seconds to play.

Moe Neal and Dontae Strickland were bright spots for a mostly punchless Orange offense. Neal picked up 74 yards on 18 carries and his backfield mate added 50 yards on eight attempts. Taj Harris accounted for over two-thirds of the team’s passing offense with 78 yards on five receptions.

In addition to Andre Cisco’s interception, Brandon Berry and Kenneth Ruff each logged a sack for the SU defense. Ryan Guthrie led the unit with a dozen tackles, including a pair for loss.

The Orange close their schedule with #20 Boston College on Saturday. The Eagles (7-4) were stunned on Saturday night, giving up a deciding 74-yard touchdown pass in the final two minutes in a 22-21 loss to Florida State. That loss gives SU a one game lead for second place in the ACC’s Atlantic Division over both BC and North Carolina State.

Boston College is led by quarterback Anthony Brown and running back A.J. Dillon. Brown has thrown for 1,870 yards and 17 scores while missing most of two games and Dillon has run for 1,052 yards on the season, adding ten scores on the ground. Dillon rolled up 193 yards and three scores in the Eagles’ 42-14 rout of Syracuse last season.

Kickoff for the season finale is set for noon Eastern with ESPN handling the television duties. That telecast will also be available online at ESPN3.com.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 521 Articles
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.