Syracuse’s offense finally came to life on Saturday afternoon against Western Michigan in a 52-33 win at the Carrier Dome. Here are three things we learned from the game.
TOMMY DEVITO EMERGES
Tommy DeVito was a huge reason for Syracuse’s victory this week.
After three weeks of sub-par play, DeVito had a superb bounce back game against Western Michigan, finishing with 287 yards passing and four touchdowns. DeVito’s fourth touchdown pass of the afternoon to WR Trishton Jackson finally put the Orange in complete control, giving SU a 45-33 point lead with 8:45 to go.
He spread the ball around to all his playmakers as well. Eight different players connected with DeVito with six of them having multi-reception games.
In addition to his fine passing performance DeVito showed how dangerous he is when in the open field, rushing for 85 yards on just nine carries (9.4 yards per attempt).
DeVito struggled earlier to take the reins of this fast paced offense after the departure of Eric Dungey, but while some may argue the verdict is still out, this performance against Western Michigan is a step in the right direction.
“I think it’s really good that he started the game and finished the game with the same amount of interceptions,” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said. “That’s always a goal of a good quarterback. I thought he had some growth today and he did a good job.”
SYRACUSE’S OFFENSE WAS BALANCED
Not only did DeVito emerge in this game, he also had a lot of help from his teammates.
Both tight end Aaron Hackett and Jackson had a pair of touchdowns on Saturday with the latter putting up nearly half of DeVito’s passing yards.
Jackson finished with a whopping 141 receiving yards with chunk yardage coming off of a screen pass that blew up for 59 yards.
It was also by far Hackett’s best game of his career, opening a dimension that Syracuse hasn’t fully taken advantage of since Dino Babers took over as head coach at Syracuse.
“The key for tight ends to catch touchdown passes is to be one of those guys, they can [block and catch],” Babers said. “Hackett is a very good blocking tight end and he’s always been a good receiving tight end. We’re excited for him.”
The ground game was also a factor. Moe Neal rushed for 123 yards on 26 carries, averaging an impressive 4.7 yards per carry. His 16-yard rush for a touchdown with 3:04 to go finished off the scoring.
“I thought [the offense was] extremely focused and maybe even a little embarrassed about some of the things that had happened recently,” Babers said. “I’m really proud of the offense for coming out of their shell and putting points on the board.”
DEFENSE SHOWS SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT
It’s no secret that the defense has struggled the past three weeks.
After shutting out their week one opponent Liberty, the defense allowed 63, 41 and now 33 points to Western Michigan.
It’s not ideal to be allowing almost 46 points a game, but SU’s defense showed signs of improvement.
The Broncos were averaging almost 40 points through four games this season, but Syracuse held their ground against this team when it mattered most, forcing five turnovers in total on the day.
That included a key fourth-and-1 with 13:41 to go at the Western Michigan 41 and the Orange clinging to a 38-33 lead. Syracuse would score on its ensuing possession to end WMU’s upset bid.
“We treat fourth down stops like a turnover, so when you’re doing the final stats, that’s five turnovers,” Babers said. “For us to come back to stop them on that series was a big part of the game. I’m really proud of the defense.”