A quick take on Syracuse’s 21-14 win against Rhode Island:
WHAT HAPPENED: With 8:34 left, Ryan Nassib found Michael Acchione in the endzone for a touchdown to give Syracuse a 21-14 lead. (For Acchione, it was only the second catch of his career, and his first touchdown for the walk-on.) The touchdown proved to be the game winning score, as the Orange went on to start the season 2-0 for the first time since the 1999 season.
SIGNIFICANCE: The win wasn’t particularly inspiring considering that Syracuse is heading to Los Angeles to face USC next week. Then again, even in SU’s turnaround season last year, the Orange led FCS teams Maine 17-14 and Colgate 14-0 at half, so it isn’t surprising that Syracuse struggled against Rhode Island.
On defense, the Orange was without starters Chandler Jones and Ri’Shard Anderson, and it showed. The Orange defense missed numerous tackles and quarterback Steve Probst made them pay, especially from the ground, as the quarterback (Rhode Island’s leading rusher from last season) scrambled for 54 yards. Probst finished with 154 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Syracuse’s defense did show signs of life late in the fourth quarter, as linebacker Marquis Spruill came up with consecutive sacks on Probst on Rhode Island’s last possession to seal SU’s win.
HERO: With the Orange rushing attack stifled, Nassib was forced to throw 37 times. Fortunately for Syracuse, Nassib was on target for the most part, completing 29 of those passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns. A large majority of those passes went to Alec Lemon and Van Chew, who combined for 18 receptions, 228 yards and two touchdowns.
ZERO: Syracuse’s offensive line struggled all day, giving up three sacks. Antwon Bailey, who rushed for 114 yards last week, gained just 43 against the Rams. Overall, the Orange combined for just 36 rushing yards.