On a steamy Saturday afternoon at the Carrier Dome, Dino Babers got off to a 3-0 start for the first time in his three years at Syracuse and it was noteworthy for other reasons than just keeping a clean slate for that long.
First, the Orange defense was dominant, holding Florida State to only 240 yards and 11 first downs on offense. SU’s defense racked up four quarterback sacks and added an interception as they pitched a shutout for over three-and-a-half quarters. FSU was only allowed to commit one of 14 third down tries in the game.
Second, after Eric Dungey left the game in the first half, redshirt freshman Tommy DeVito took his place and played better than he had in either of the two previous games this season. DeVito directed the Orange offense to 17 straight second half points in building up a 23-0 lead as SU (3-0, 1-0 ACC) simply owned Florida State (1-2, 0-2) in a 30-7 victory, their first victory over the Seminoles since 1966.
Dungey left the game when he was hit in the head by a Florida State defender in the second quarter with SU driving in Seminole territory with a 3-0 lead. DeVito replaced the senior and hit Jamal Custis down the right sideline for 16 yards to the FSU 1 on his second play. The Seminole defense stiffened, forcing the Orange to settle for a 19-yard field goal try from Andre Szmyt.
Szmyt, who connected on a 22-yard field goal in the middle of the first, but pushed a 46-yard try later in the quarter, drilled the short kick and gave Syracuse a 6-0 lead with 1:40 left in the opening half.
Florida State. who had a single first down at that point in the game, moved the sticks three times on the ensuing drive. On third-and-ten from the SU 20 with no time outs remaining, the Seminoles completed a pass to the outside, but Scoop Bradshaw made the tackle inbounds with only four seconds left in the half. FSU could only watch helplessly as time elapsed.
DeVito looked more comfortable to open the second half, connecting on a deep ball with Custis on the right sideline for 33 yards. Another first down got the Orange into the red zone, but they only went backwards from there and were eventually forced to punt.
The second SU drive after the intermission resulted in the first touchdown of the day. DeVito ran the ball in from three yards out, losing possession after he crossed the goal line. The touchdown call was confirmed by video replay and Szmyt tacked on the extra point for a 13-0 lead with under seven minutes left in the third.
Just over three minutes later, Syracuse blew the game open. Follwing a three-and-out capped by a Kendall Coleman sack, Jarveon Howard ripped off a 45-yard gain on third-and-one, bringing the Orange offense to the FSU three. DeVito flipped a pass to Ravian Pierce for the touchdown on the following play. Szmyt’s kick made it 20-0 with 3:33 left in the third quarter.
Just over two minutes into the fourth quarter, Szmyt connected on is third field goal of the day, burying a 23-yard try to stretch the Syracuse lead to 23-0.
Florida State finally broke through with a touchdown with just over six minutes to play to get within 23-7. Dontae Strickland snapped up the FSU onside kick and returned it to the ‘Noles 26. Strickland owned most of the ensuing drive, as well, carrying four times for 23 yards, including roaring through the defense the final 13 yards for a touchdown. Szmyt’s extra point capped the day’s scoring at 30-7 with 3:19 to play.
In his most extensive play thus far, DeVito turned in an efficient stat line of 11-of-16 for 144 yards and a touchdown pass, adding another score on the ground. Moe Neal led a ground attack that rolled up 222 yards, picking up 75 yards on 19 carries. Jamal Custis led the receiving corps with four receptions for 56 yards.
Christopher Fredrick had the lone turnover for the SU defense, intercepting a pass. Kendall Coleman had two of Syracuse’s four sacks on the day, while Kingsley Jonathan and Alton Robinson had the others. Kielan Whitner had 11 tackles and a forced fumble, while Evan Foster added ten stops.
The Orange look to make it a 4-0 start to their season for the first time since 1991 on Saturday when they host Connecticut. The Huskies (1-2) escaped with a 56-49 win over FCS opponent Rhode Island on Saturday after being flattened in their first two games against ranked opponents Central Florida and Boise State by nearly 100 points combined.
The Huskies were led by quarterback David Pindell, who threw for over 300 yards and ran for 137 more against the Rams. Pindell was responsible for five scores in the game. Kevin Mensah, who ran for 44 yards, scored the winning touchdown with just under a minute to go.
The former Big East rivals will kick things off at 4:00pm Eastern on Saturday. ESPNEWS will televise the game, which will also be available online at ESPN3.com.