A quick take on Syracuse’s most impressive 49-6 rout of Duke, on a chilly and windy evening at Wallace Wade Stadium in Durham, N.C.:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse (4-6, 1-5) kept its bowl eligibility going by recording a rare road win in ACC play (6-17 all-time), and at the same time won for the first time in the ACC and against a Power 5 team this season. SU jumped Duke (4-6, 2-4) in the first quarter scoring twice, and put the game away with a defensive blitz in the third quarter that resulted in 21 consecutive points, after SU scored only 55 points in the third quarter of all eight previous games. The offense was paced by a steady rushing game, Moe Neal and Jarveon Howard each had 115 yards, and freshman Jawhar Jordan tallied his first career TD late, while Tommy DeVito selectively passed for two scores. But the story of the game was the defense keeping Duke out of the end zone and setting up three Orange touchdowns that settled matters.
ANALYSIS: What a difference having a week off makes, and after a reported solid week of practice. This looked like the Syracuse team that was preseason ranked in the Top 25, and essentially anointed the second-best team in the league behind Clemson. SU leapt out to 14-0 lead, did not bend after giving up a couple of field goals, then the defense did what its done best under Dino Babers tenure; cause turnovers. Playing behind a reshuffled offensive line that was sharp in its blocking assignments, and in his final regular season game in his home state, an emotionally charged Moe Neal was ‘Mr. Reliable’ with his 100-yards plus and touchdown run. Linebacker Lakiem Williams and safety Evan Foster combined on 26 tackles.
HERO: Hats off to interim defensive coordinator Steve Stanard and his unit. He made quite a first impression to Babers to keep the job full-time. The ‘D” was simply awesome; recording the three turnovers on three straight possessions in the third quarter. First was an interception returned 48-yards by Andre Cisco for a touchdown, then another pick by Christopher Frederick set-up a ‘Cuse TD pass from DeVito to tight end Luke Benson, followed by Foster’s fumble recovery that set-up Neal’s short scoring run. Add in some new looks that confused Duke, three sacks, and an overall different attitude than we have seen the entire season, and there is hope over the final two games.
ZERO: Duke’s season is now on the ropes. The Blue Devils fourth straight loss put their bowl hopes in jeopardy needing to sweep Wake Forest and Miami. The Duke offense looked a step behind most of the night finishing with just 245 yards before the second-stringers played late, stunned, staggered, then knocked out by the three SU touchdowns off turnovers in the third quarter.
WHAT’S NEXT: The final road game of the season at Louisville, and again a must-win for the Orange to stay in the bowl hunt. Syracuse won last year’s meeting versus the ‘Ville 54-23 in the Dome, the only win over the Cardinals in ACC play dating to 2014. Louisville (6-4, 4-3) became bowl eligible by beating N.C. State 34-20 Saturday night. Game Time: 4:00 p.m. ET. TV: ACCN.