When the curtain draws to a close on the 2019 version of the Syracuse Football Orange, look no further than the second quarter against the Boston College Eagles for a microcosm of the season.
The Orange entered that game with its season hanging by a thread. They remained the only winless team in ACC play. A 3-5 (0-4) record left Syracuse the slimmest of margins if Dino Babers and his team wanted to reach the necessary six wins to qualify for a bowl. A win at home against the Eagles, a team with a horrendous defense, was practically a must-win game.
But as the second quarter began, and with Syracuse clinging to a 17-10 lead, it was BC that delivered the knockout punch. And the Eagles did it thanks to big plays on the ground and through the air.
Quarterback Dennis Grosel, who took the reins after Anthony Brown was lost for the season to injury, hit Kobay White for a 64-yard bomb to tie the game. White ran unabated down the middle of the field, the nearest defender more than 10 yards away when he hauled in the pass from Grosel.
After an Andre Szmyt field goal gave Syracuse a 20-17 lead, Grosel exploited the Orange secondary again. This time, he found Zay Flowers wide-open for the easy score and the Eagles regained a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. On both throws, the Eagles used play-action with their vaunted run game to set up the aerial strikes.
After a three-and-out by the Syracuse offense, BC needed a mere two plays to reach the endzone again. After initially faking right, AJ Dillon took the handoff from Grosel, cut back left, and burst through the line untouched for a 51-yard touchdown.
Syracuse again went three-and-out before BC got the ball back. The Eagles needed a single play – a 74-yard scamper by David Bailey – to increase the lead to 37-20.
The Eagles’ next possession began at the Orange 30-yard line thanks to a Tommy DeVito fumble. Seven plays later, Grosel found Isaiah Miranda for a 4-yard touchdown. The score was Grosel’s third touchdown pass of the quarter.
The Eagles took a 44-20 lead to the lockerroom after amassing 305 yards of offense and five scores – all touchdowns – on only 19 plays. Boston College averaged 16 YPP during the quarter. About the only thing BC did wrong was the failed two-point conversion attempt after Bailey’s run.
Ironically enough, Babers has stated that his defense is the team’s stronger unit this season. You wouldn’t know it after BC dismantled them in what was the latest throttling that cost Brian Ward his job as Defensive Coordinator.
One year after a 10-3 season, expectations for the Syracuse Football Orange were through the soon-to-be-replaced (Carrier) Dome roof. But Babers tried to warn everyone when he said this team isn’t last year’s team.
Sure, the Orange can still reach a bowl game with a 6-6 record. But that will require sweeping the remaining games at Duke, at Louisville, and against Wake Forest. A tall order indeed.
The Syracuse Football Orange should return plenty of weapons on offense next year along with a more experienced offensive line. And a seemingly stacked secondary will be another year older too.
But baking a cake requires one ingredient that is out of everyone’s control.