After Being Turtle Soup, Syracuse Hopes to Tame Tigers

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Syracuse head coach Dino Babers addresses the media during a post-game press conference. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Fear the turtle indeed!

Well, that certainly wasn’t fun. If only someone had predicted that Maryland was the biggest trap game on Syracuse’s schedule. I mean, it’s not like no one saw this coming. But 63 points? S-I-X-T-Y T-H-R-E-E POINTS?!?!?!

Dino Babers made an interesting comment this week that pre-season expectations for this year’s team are based on what last year’s team achieved when, in reality, they are two different teams.

So, what do we make of the Orange in Year 4 of the Babers Rebuild after struggling at Liberty and getting shellacked ? Some of the numbers certainly aren’t pretty.

Will the Real D Please Stand Up?

Week one saw the defense pitch a shutout, albeit, against Liberty. But still, that game was the season opener on the road. And, zero points is still zero points.

The Orange D held the Flames to -4 yards rushing, registered eight sacks, and recorded 14 tackles for a loss. And Syracuse picked up right where they left off last season in the turnover department with two fumble recoveries and two interceptions.

One week later, while still on the road at Maryland and playing a significant step up in competition, the Orange defense was battered to the tune of 650 yards and had surrendered 42 points by halftime before ultimately succumbing to the power of the Turtle.

Team Turtle ran all over the Orange as Maryland piled up 354 yards on 45 carries; an average of 7.9 YPA. The Terps rushed for six touchdowns. Five of those were red zone carries.

Maryland also got it done through the air thanks to quarterback Josh Jackson. The Virginia Tech transfer completed 21-of-38 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns.

» Related: Time to rein in expectations for Syracuse as Clemson comes calling

The Heir Apparent

One of the most talked about, if not the biggest, off-season stories for Syracuse was redshirt sophomore Tommy DeVito taking the quarterback reins from four-year starter Eric Dungey.

DeVito is expected to be a much purer passer than Dungey. And that has fans excited given some of the cars Syracuse has in the wide receiver garage in the form of Trishton Jackson, Taj Harris, Sean Riley, and Nykeim Johnson.

And based on how DeVito played against Florida State last year, plus saving the Orange’s bacon with a late rally to stun North Carolina – it’s understandable how the New Jersey native has had fans dreaming of an aerial assault that can take apart the stingiest of defenses.

But DeVito struggled in the opener completing a mere 17-of-35 passes for only 176 yards, no touchdowns, and two picks.

DeVito had better numbers against Maryland – 28-of-39 for 330 yards and three touchdowns – but given how quickly Maryland punched the Orange in the mouth, the game was over before it started.

Running in Place

Syracuse expects to have a formidable ground game with a Moe Neal and Oklahoma transfer Abdul Adams leading the way. Plus, Jarveon Howard returns to capitalize on his role as a goal line battering ram.

That trio was held in check by Maryland, though. With the Orange falling far behind so quickly, Syracuse hardly had a chance to establish the run.

They fared better against Liberty as they combined for 170 yards and each scored a touchdown. But only Neal averaged better than four yards per carry. And that was thanks to almost half of his production coming on a 42-yard touchdown scamper.

The Contest Formerly Known as the Game of the Year

And if you haven’t heard, Clemson pays a visit to the Dome for a Saturday night showdown.

The Tigers are riding a 17-game winning streak after hanging 52 on Georgia Tech and defeating a solid Texas A&M team, 24-10.

Clemson is loaded with NFL talent. And with all the pre-season hype about this game – would it have  ACC Atlantic division ramifications – the Tigers will be ready.

Sure, Syracuse has played Dabo’s squad as tough as anyone the past two seasons.

But this is big boy college football. And after a shaky start, it’s fair to question whether Syracuse will rise to the occasion. Or, will they – forgive me – Turtle?

If it’s the latter, just remember that slow and steady wins the race.

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About Steve Auger 96 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. His work has been published on Care.com, Tom’s of Maine, Purina’s Petcentric.com and the Westford Patch. 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. Follow him on Twitter @Corner_Cube.