After a long trip to the west coast, Syracuse was given a rude welcome by their hosts from USC on Saturday night, suffering a 38-17 defeat. The majority of the heavy lifting for the Trojans (3-0) was done by their star quarterback Matt Barkley, who tossed touchdown passes to five different receivers on the evening, torching the defense of the Orange (2-1), whose secondary became short-handed due to injuries as the game progressed. The SU offense was clearly outgunned, but still performed fairly well, amassing over 250 yards through the air and converting 7-of-13 third down opportunities.
The game had a positive start for SU, as the visitors took the opening kickoff and drove 70 yards in 12 plays before settling for a 23-yard field goal from Ross Krautman for a 3-0 lead. The Orange, however, gifted USC a personal foul penalty that helped them get their offense rolling and the Trojans scored a touchdown to take a 7-3 lead with just over three minutes left on the clock. The two teams punted on their next three combined possessions before the hosts broke the streak with a touchdown drive to take a 14-3 lead at the midpoint of the second quarter. Syracuse could not muster a first down on their next possession, then USC added a field goal for a 17-3 lead. The Orange picked up a pair of first downs on their next drive before facing a fourth down and ten yards from the USC 47. Doug Marrone opted to go for it to try to get a score before the intermission, but a dropped pass thwarted the SU drive. The Trojans missed a field goal on the last play of the half and their lead remained at 14 points.
USC received the kickoff to open the second half and scored in just over two minutes to extend their control to 24-3. Syracuse was not finished, though, and drove 74 yards in five plays to respond with their own touchdown on a trick play. Ryan Nassib threw a backwards pass to Alec Lemon, who then floated a 28-yard touchdown pass that Van Chew snared with a diving grab in the corner of the end zone. Krautman’s conversion cut the deficit to 24-10. The Orange defense forced a quick punt and the offense started their next drive with a 33-yard pass to get into USC territory, but SU could penetrate no further and were forced to punt. The hosts used the opportunity to grind out another touchdown drive to extend their lead out to 21 points again, then tacked on another touchdown early in the fourth to make it 38-10. Syracuse responded with an 86-yard drive for a touchdown with Nassib connecting with Alec Lemon on a 12-yard scoring pass. Krautman added the extra point to make it 38-17. Three plays later, Philip Thomas forced a fumble deep in the Trojans side of the field and Mikhail Marinovich pounced on the ball for the Orange. Forced to scramble on the first play following the turnover, Nassib was hit and had the ball jarred loose. USC recovered the fumble, dashing any hopes of an SU comeback, and held onto the ball for the remainder of the game.
Ryan Nassib had his third straight strong effort, this time connecting on 25-of-37 passes for 230 yards and a touchdown toss, including completing his first 11 attempts. The Orange were forced to abandon the run to try to make up the deficit, but Antwon Bailey topped the squad with a modest 47 yards on the ground on 11 attempts. Nick Provo led the SU receivers with eight catches and 85 yards. Alec Lemon added seven receptions for 72 yards and a score in addition to his touchdown pass.
Phillip Thomas led the Syracuse defense, amassing 11 tackles, including one for a loss, and a forced fumble. Mikhail Marinovich recovered that fumble and Siriki Diabate forced a fumble, as well. Torrey Ball had the lone sack of the day for SU while Deon Goggins had a pair of tackles for loss.
Syracuse returns home to the Carrier Dome for their next contest on Saturday, when they welcome the Toledo Rockets (1-2). The Rockets have dropped their last two games, but both have been to ranked foes, as they lost to then-#15 Ohio State on the road and #4 Boise State at home. The game will get underway at 9:00am Pacific and be available on television through pay-per-view as well as online at ESPN3.com.