Syracuse’s defense had its best performance of the season, stifling Connecticut all night in a dominating 40-10 win.
The Orange held Connecticut to just 290 yards and completely obliterated the Huskies’ ground game. Connecticut finished with -6 yards, the first time the Orange had that kind of performance since 2009, when Akron was held to 0 yards.
“We had a good message, we just had to get back to work,” Syracuse linebacker Siriki Diabate said. “We knew what we had to work on and that’s what we were focusing on the whole week—how to create more turnovers and help the offense.”
Syracuse set the tone early, stuffing Connecticut running back Lyle McCombs on a short pass for a loss of two yards. After a short completion on second down, the Orange defense dialed up the pressure on third down, and forced quarterback Chandler Whitmer into an incomplete pass for a three-and-out.
The opening drive would be a microcosm of the whole night.
McCombs, the Big East’s leading returning rusher from last season, carried the ball 12 times for 16 yards. Whitmer, under duress all night, was sacked twice and threw an interception. UConn was just 3-13 in third down conversions.
“They do a good job of game-planning a blitz each week,” Whitmer said. “They brought the free safety on us and we had a hard time picking that up.”
Whitmer was referring to the first turnover of the game, when Syracuse brought Durell Eskridge on a free safety blitz. Eskridge had a free path to Whitmer and clobbered him, popping the ball loose.
The Orange recovered the ball near midfield, and later converted it to the game’s first touchdown, giving SU a 13-3 lead in the second quarter.
“It did more than juice the defense up, it had them going crazy,” Eskridge said. “It had us knowing what we are capable of doing and we wanted to do that all night, all four quarters.”
SU’s defense got stronger as the game went along.
Syracuse didn’t allow Connecticut to score after the second quarter, and dominated the play clock 34:47 to 25:13. It was capped off by Shamarko Thomas’ interception of Whitmer with 1:11 left in the game.
“We go out there and dominate and that’s what we did today,” strong safety Shamarko Thomas said. “Dominate.”