SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Syracuse missed three opportunities in Friday night’s 37-17 loss to South Florida that could’ve changed the complexion of the game.
Three separate Orange receivers—Dorian Graham, Brad Stevens and Alec Lemon—each had a dropped pass in the endzone. Instead of Syracuse putting 21 points on the board, SU came away with only a field goal.
“I have to do a better job of that in practice for the players,” Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. “I have to do a better job of creating those atmospheres, maybe tighter windows and things like that.”
Marrone wasn’t the only one who accepted blame.
“We just did not get the job done today,” Graham said. “(Quarterback) Ryan Nassib put the ball where he needs to put it and we did not make plays.”
Said Nassib: “I know that I could’ve helped them out a few times, made a couple better balls. Maybe take some heat off it when they were in some tight windows so, I take responsibility for those as well.”
The first touchdown drop came from Graham with under two minutes left in the first half with Syracuse trailing 17-7. The Orange was forced to kick a field goal.
It happened again at the start of the fourth quarter with the Orange trailing 23-10. The Orange had the ball at the USF 3-yard line and Nassib found Stevens in the end zone, but Stevens couldn’t haul it in. Syracuse unsuccessfully went for it on fourth down and USF held on from there.
The story remained the same in the fourth quarter.
This time, it was a drop in the end zone from the normally sure-handed Lemon on 4th and 13 at the USF 17 with 9:49 left in the game. Although Lemon had a career day with 179 yards and two touchdowns, it was the one catch he didn’t make that stuck in his mind.
“When we have the opportunity to make a big play and get that first down and Ryan [Nassib]’s counting on us to make that big play and we don’t, it’s kind of frustrating,” Lemon said. “You want to get the ball back but it’s kind of hard when you are dropping the ball all the time.”
The loss was the Orange’s third in a row as it struggles to secure bowl eligibility. Syracuse will need to defeat either Big East leader Cincinnati or Pittsburgh on the Panthers’ home field to do that.
“It’s frustrating,” Graham said. “With a three game loss, you want to play the next day and get off this losing streak. We can just go into the bye week and get healthy, recover, correct a lot of stuff.”