SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Alec Lemon had 10 receptions for a career-high 179 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
Yet it is the 11th catch that he didn’t make that he will remember the most.
With the Orange trailing by 13 in the fourth quarter, Lemon seemed to have his mits on a Ryan Nassib throw on 4th and 13 for a touchdown. But instead of finding its way into Lemon’s normally sure hands, the ball fall harmlessly to the turf and SU lost the ball on downs.
The play was a microcosm of Syracuse’s sloppy 37-17 loss to South Florida.
“When we have the opportunity to make a 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.”
Lemon was one of three SU receivers—tight end David Stevens and wide receiver Dorian Graham were the other two—who dropped touchdown catches. Instead of walking away with 21 points on those three passes, the Orange could only muster a field goal.
“I have to do a better job. It is my fault,” Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. “I could create atmospheres for those players where they are in tight windows, make tough catches, move in the pocket, doing different types of drills.”
Marrone’s players disagreed with the assignment of blame.
“We just did not get the job done today,” Graham said. “Our coaches gave us a good plan. We executed well but we just did not make the plays.”
Graham’s drop in the endzone came with under two minutes in the second quarter with the Orange trailing 17-7 and the ball at the USF 11. Instead of pulling to within three points, the Orange settled for a field goal.
“Nassib put the ball where he needs to put it,” Graham said. “We did not make plays.”
Predictably, Nassib took some of the blame, as well.
“I know that I could’ve helped them out a few times, made a couple better balls,” Nassib said. “Maybe take some heat off it when they were in some tight windows so, I take responsibility for those as well.”
The third touchdown drop came from Stevens early in the fourth quarter with the Orange trailing 23-10. SU had driven all the way down to the 3-yard line, but couldn’t punch it in from there. One play after the tight end’s drop, the Orange turned it over on downs.
The loss leaves SU in a precarious position now that it has lost its third straight game. Syracuse still needs one more win to qualify for a bowl game, but they will need to do so against either conference-leader Cincinnati following the Orange’s bye week or at Pittsburgh to finish the season.
“It’s frustrating, loss, you want to play the next day and get off this losing streak,” Lemon said. “We need to just go into the bye week and get healthy, recover, correct a lot of stuff, and come together as a team and get ready.”