Orange run D looks to stuff Irish & Eagles

Syracuse plays against Wagner. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Dino Babers is a well-documented movie buff.

But this week, don’t be surprised if you see Dino perusing the famous poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

By now you now the story and the famous slogan that accompanies it; “one if by land, two if by sea.” So, where’s the football connection, you ask?

Babers has the Orange sitting at 8-2 on the year. A successful season to even the most pessimistic of fans. But to truly make the season magical, Syracuse will have to conquer Notre Dame and Boston College in its remaining two contests. And both the Irish and Eagles use punishing ground games to secure wins.

The Irish and Eagles are coming. By land.

When Notre Dame takes the field this Saturday against the Orange at Yankee Stadium, the Irish certainly won’t be lacking a homerun hitter. The main man in the Irish running game is Dexter Williams.

Williams leads Notre Dame with 770 yards on 113 touches. The senior has more than made up for missing the first four games of the season due to a suspension. Williams averages 6.8 yards per carry and has found the endzone 10 times including a 97-yard scamper. He’s fresh off torching Florida State for 202 yards on 20 carries.

Tony Jones, Jr., filled in admirably during Williams’ absense. He’s amassed 367 yards on 74 carries with three TDs, though, his touches have dropped greatly over the last five games due to Williams’ return.

Survive ND’s ground and pound and the consolation prize is Boston College’s AJ Dillon.  And he destroyed the Orange last year in the Dome. While Dillon is the key cog in BC’s ground game, Steve Addazio as a few more #Dudes at his disposal to spell his sophomore star. Travis Levy and Benny Glines can both carry the rock (more Addazio-speak) with some success.

» Related: The case for Dino Babers staying with Syracuse football

Quarterback Anthony Brown moves well outside the pocket and can certainly break off chunk plays. And with Brown taking snaps, BC’s throw game (yet more Addazio-speak) isn’t as abysmal as past versions.

Brown has flashed through the air several times this season. Wideouts Jeff Smith and Kobay White and tight end Tommy Sweeney – the top three pass catchers on the Eagles – certainly will earn the Orange secondary’s attention.

The two big wild cards with BC both involve health. Dillon has been suffering from a high ankle sprain for some time now. He was rendered ineffective against Clemson – 39 yards on 16 carries.

And speaking of Clemson, Christian Wilkins absolutely demolished Brown on a sack that forced the redshirt sophomore out of the game with an abdominal injury. Brown has been listed as day-to-day this week as BC prepares for Florida State.

Syracuse has struggled to stop the run. The Orange ranks 71st nationally in run defense allowing 169.0 YPG. And in Syracuse’s two losses – road games at Clemson and Pitt – the Orange run defense was gashed to the tune of 558 yards. Clemson’s Travis Etienne ran for 203 yards while Pitt had two backs each break the century mark; Qadree Wilson and Darrin Hall with 192 and 107 yards, respectively.

For Syracuse to have success in stopping the Irish and Eagles, they’re going to have to rely on the strength of their defense; sacks and interceptions. Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman rank third and fifth in the ACC in sacks while true freshman Andre Cisco and Christopher Fredrick are tied for second and fourth in the league in interceptions.

The Orange ranks second in the league in both sacks and interceptions while topping the ACC in fumbles recovered.

With the emphasis on stopping the run in the last two regular season games, don’t be surprised if you see a single lantern hanging from the Carrier Dome roof this week.

The Irish and Eagles are coming. By land.

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About Steve Auger 165 Articles
Steve Auger is a freelance writer whose work has covered a variety of topics including sports, pets, parenting, healthy living, local government and human interest stories. Steve’s been a diehard Syracuse sports fan for over 25 years. To this day, the words “Smart takes the shot” still make him cringe. And according to Rutgers' fans, he's "not a take."