In his first game back from injury, senior defensive end Chandler Jones provided the spark in Syracuse’s most dominant defensive performance of the year, a 49-23 victory over West Virginia.
Instead of taking any credit for his play, Jones immediately singled out his coaches and teammates.
“I feel a little bit like it would be a little selfish for me to sit up here and talk about all the positive plays that I had,” he said. “Our team played good as a whole…. [Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer] put a great game plan together.”
Jones didn’t need to talk his stats up. They speak for themselves.
The senior defensive end finished the game with six tackles and two consecutive sacks, as well as a pass deflected at the line of scrimmage.
Coming into Friday night, the big question was whether Syracuse could possibly contain West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.
The answer was a resounding ‘yes.’
Jones led a rejuvenated Orange pass rush that relentlessly harassed Smith, sacking him four times and knocking him down on seemingly every other play.
“I knew I was coming back for the West Virginia game,” Jones said. “So I’ve been scouting them since who knows when.”
All that preparation paid off. Though Smith threw for 338 yards, the Orange defense held him to just two touchdowns. Moreover, he threw two interceptions, the first in the red zone.
The second, coming at the close of the third quarter, happened as Smith appeared to visibly panic under the Syracuse pressure, lofting a throw directly to Orange safety Philip Thomas, alone in the middle of the field with no West Virginia receivers nearby.
The player who got a hand on Smith as he threw?
“They came here with a little swagger, and it was our job to keep our composure and do what we had to do and come out with a win,” Jones said. “I just tried to execute. If coach told me to jump I said how high. So I just did what the coaches told me to do and we out-executed the other team and we came out with a win.”