‘Tis the season for Halloween. In what was the scariest performance of the 2019 season, a game that looked like it could have been a shootout turned into a horrific blowout, as Syracuse fell to Boston College 58-27 in front of 42,857 fans at the Carrier Dome on Saturday. Syracuse is now 3-6 and headed into a bye week. The Orange travel to Duke on Nov. 16.
Here’s what we learned.
Phantom D Leads to Dismissal of Ward
Other than the first quarter, where was the defense?
Syracuse surrendered 691 yards of offense, 496 of those came on the ground. The 496 yards of rushing was the most ever allowed by an Orange team since former head coach Greg Robinson’s 2006 squad, which gave up 457 yards on Oct. 14 vs. West Virginia. (and we should note, Robinson was a defensive guy). For Boston College, the 691 yards of total offense was a school record.
Syracuse had a 17-10 lead heading into the second quarter, before the Boston College offense erupted, and scored 34 points. BC had four touchdowns of at least 50 yards in the quarter. Walk-on quarterback Dennis Grosel connected on 64-yard pass to Kobay White and a 50-yard pass to Zay Flowers. Junior A.J. Dillon found pay dirt on a 51-yard dash, and on the Eagles next possession, sophomore David Bailey raced 74 yards for a score. Poor tackling, getting burned by long runs, and busted coverage’s contributed to the onslaught.
Thanks to solid offensive line play by BC, the Eagles averaged 9.2 yards a play. Dillon finished with 242 yards and three touchdowns, while Bailey scampered for 172 yards and two touchdowns. Grosel had a career day, completing 8-of -10 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns.
This was the third game this season that an opponent has racked up over 600 total yards of offense (650 vs. Clemson and 612 vs. Western Michigan).
“(The defense) just got tired of hitting Dillon and his backup,” fourth year head coach Dino Babers said. “Those play action passes they just break your back, when you’re in man coverage, I would imagine we were in man coverage, I have to check the tape. When you play a running game like that, you’re normally in a lot of man and to have somebody scot free like that when you have two sets of eyes watching him is disappointing. We’ll go back, we’ll check the tape, and we’ll figure out what happened, but obviously it wasn’t very good.”
It led to the dismissal of defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brian Ward, a move that was announced on Sunday night. Defensive ends coach Steve Stanard has been promoted to interim defensive coordinator.
“I want to thank Coach Ward for everything he’s done for Syracuse University and this football team,” Babers said in a statement. “However, I felt a change needed to be made at this time to give us the best opportunity for success moving forward. Coach Stanard is an experienced defensive coach. He’s been here for three years now and understands the culture of our program. I’m confident in his ability to lead that side of the ball.”
Tricks & Treats
On the bright side…
The Orange defense did force two first-quarter turnovers, on back-to-back Boston College possessions, which led to points. Grosel completed a pass to Hunter Long and safety Andre Cisco forced the ball from him. Evan Foster recovered the loose ball and returned it to the Boston College 20-yard line. Syracuse tied the game at 10 on a 47-yard field goal by Andre Szmyt.
On the ensuing kickoff, and after a delay-of game penalty, Bailey had the ball and defensive back Trill Williams forced a fumble. Defensive tackle Kenneth Ruff recovered the ball on the BC 29 yard line.
On third-and-7, Tommy DeVito hooked up with Trishton Jackson on a 26-yard socring play. Szmyt’s extra point gave the Orange a 17-10 lead with 29 ticks left in the opening quarter.
Jackson caught eight passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns.
DeVito was 25-of-36 for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He was also Syracuse’s leading rusher, running 16 times for 61 yards. DeVito’s 9-yard TD pass to Jackson on SU’s first TD of the game, was his first TD completion since the Oct. 10 game vs. North Carolina State.
Despite the loss, DeVito saw some positives in the offense.
“I think that this game compared to our last couple games on offense was a lot better,” DeVito said. “We’re fixing those smaller details that we saw on film, so I think that this bye week and this extra week to prepare, we’ll learn from these mistakes when we go back to watch the film. I think that we can be growing a lot more mentally. Physically, we’ve got to get in the training room to help everybody get back healthy and 100%, but I think this bye week’s going to help a lot of people more mentally.”
Boo..Bowl Looks Bleak
Syracuse hasn’t won a conference game and hasn’t beaten a Power 5 Team. Their last win of the season was on Sept. 28.
The witching hours are upon this 2019 Syracuse football team. The team picked in the Preseason Top 25 and predicted to finish second in the ACC, is 3-6 heading into the final stretch of the campaign, and face both Duke (4-4, 2-3) and Louisville (5-3, 3-2) on the road, and return for the final game of the regular season vs. Wake Forest (7-1, 3-1).
Do the math. Syracuse must win its final three games to make a bowl game. But if the Orange continues to play like they have been, plan on spending the holidays at home this year.
Sure the Orange can right the ship. The bye will do them some good.
“Obviously, we’re not happy about how the season is going, but you can only control what you can control,” senior linebacker Andrew Armstong said. “Every day at practice, when we watch film, and how we prepare our bodies for the game. We’ve got to stay together and that’s the only thing we have at the end of the day: each other. We’ve got to keep a positive mindset. We’ve got three games guaranteed left and we’re going to give it all we have. I know that all of the seniors are going to do the same thing. We just have to stay together and block out that negative noise.”
That negative noise can be spooky.