A quick take on Syracuse’s 24-0 win over Liberty on Saturday evening:
WHAT HAPPENED: Up just 10-0 after halftime, Syracuse defensive back Andre Cisco intercepted a Stephen Calvert pass with 9:22 left in third quarter and returned it to the Liberty 37 yard line. Five plays later, Jarveon Howard punched it in from a yard out to give Syracuse a 17-0 lead. SU would put the game out of reach with 12:35 left in the fourth quarter on a Moe Neal 42-yard run, which put the Orange up 24-0, and cemented a 1-0 start to the 2019 season.
ANALYSIS: Heading into the season, most of the question marks with Syracuse were on the offensive side of the ball, while the defense was looked at as a strength. That’s exactly how it played out in SU’s season opener. The Orange defense smothered Liberty, pitching a shutout in a true road game for the first time since 1991 at Tulane. Meanwhile, quarterback Tommy DeVito struggled in his first start, completing only 17 for 35 passes for just 176 yards and two interceptions. The offensive line suffered a big loss, with center Sam Heckel leaving the game midway through the first half with an injury, and he did not return in the second. Grad transfer Ryan Alexander moved into the front five at tackle, while tackle Airon Servais slid back to center (where he played all last year).
HERO: The Flames couldn’t do much against an experienced and staunch Syracuse defense. It’s last gasp for points was snuffed late in the fourth quarter after Kingsley Jonathan forced and recovered a fumble to stop a promising 12 play, 71-yard drive. Syracuse’s defensive line in particular deserved high praise, as it harassed Liberty quarterback Stephen Calvert all game long. Nose tackle Josh Black (two sacks) and defensive ends Kendall Coleman (2) and Alton Robinson (.5) all contributed to a combined eight-sack, 14 tackles-for-loss, -4 rushing yards, night.
ZERO: DeVito and his receivers have a lot of work to do. Aside from the 18 incomplete passes, DeVito threw interceptions at or near the endzone, killing drives of 10 and 11 plays. Syracuse also was 2 of 4 on fourth downs, with Abdul Adams getting stuffed on a 4th and 2 situation in the first half. If the Orange wants to stay in the national conversation, they’ll need to make those kinds of conversions later in the year.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse stays on the road, traveling to Maryland on Saturday, Sept. 7 for a noon kickoff.