Syracuse football toughens up on defense and dispatches Duke

Syracuse tight end Aaron Hackett
Syracuse tight end Aaron Hackett looks to run after catching a pass. Mandatory Photo Credit: Kicia Sears, The Juice Online.

Syracuse (4-6, 1-5 ACC) came out of their second bye week looking like a new team, scoring on their first two possessions of the contest, then converting three turnovers into three touchdowns in the third quarter to cruise to a 49-6 road win at Duke (4-6, 2-4). The three turnovers matched the Orange defense’s output of the last three games and helped blow open the game in a span of less than 11 minutes.

SU’s defense looked significantly different under interim defensive coordinator Steve Stanard, as they played a major role in sending the Blue Devils to their fourth straight loss and fifth in six games. Syracuse held the hosts to under 3.3 yards per play, logging four sacks in the contest.

The Orange ground game was impressive, rolling up 286 yards and four touchdowns. Moe Neal put on a show in his final game in his native state of North Carolina, gaining 115 yards on 17 carries, while Jarveon Howard matched that yardage total in just nine totes. Each had a second half touchdown.

After Duke missed a field goal attempt on their opening possession, SU struck quickly. On the second play from scrimmage, Tommy DeVito hit Trishton Jackson on a slant and the junior wideout turned it into a 50-yard gain. Two plays later, the duo hooked up on a post route for an 18-yard touchdown. Andre Szmyt added the extra point for a 7-0 lead with just over five-and-a-half minutes elapsed.

» Related: How Syracuse’s loss to Boston College was a microcosm for SU’s season

Moe Neal contributed a pair of big plays on the second drive, gaining 33 and 35 yards on handoffs to put Syracuse a yard from the end zone. DeVito scored on second down, carrying the ball in over the left side from that yard out with 3:37 left in the first quarter. Szmyt’s conversion made it 14-0, Orange.

The second quarter was subdued for SU. The Blue Devils, however, scratched out a pair of scoring drives, getting field goals of 31 and 51 yards. The latter, which came 22 seconds before halftime, pulled Duke within 14-6.

The Blue Devils got the ball after a Syracuse three-and-out started the third quarter, but did not have it for long. On the second Duke play, Antwan Cordy batted a pass, which was deflected once more, then fell into the arms of Andre Cisco, who returned it 48 yards for an Orange touchdown. The extra point made it 21-6.

Duke made it to the third play of their next drive before throwing an interception, this one to Christopher Frederick, who set up SU at the Blue Devil 42. On the sixth play of the ensuing Syracuse drive, DeVito hit Luke Benson on a short pass route. Benson turned up the right sideline for a 22-yard score and Szmyt added the extra point for a 28-6 lead just shy of the midpoint of the third quarter.

Andrew Armstrong forced a fumble on the third play of Duke’s next drive. Evan Foster picked up the ball and returned it to the hosts’ 15. Moe Neal got the whole next drive, carrying four times to eat up the remaining distance and scoring from two yards out. The kick made it 35-6 with 4:35 left in the quarter.

Similarly, Jarveon Howard owned the second Orange possession of the fourth quarter. Howard carried three times on the drive, finishing things off with gains of 37 and 28 yards around the right side, the latter reaching the end zone. Szmyt’s extra point extended the SU lead to 42-6.

The final Syracuse drive of the game was another one of all running plays and ate up 68 yards on seven snaps. Jawhar Jordan had the final two carries, including a seven-yard score. Szmyt’s conversion closed the scorebook at 49-6 with 1:52 remaining.

Lakiem Williams paced the defense with 14 tackles, including a pair of tackles for loss and a sack. Evan Foster had a dozen stops to go with his fumble recovery. Andre Cisco and Christopher Frederick had interceptions while Kendall Coleman was credited with 1.5 sacks in the game. Alton Robinson added a sack while McKinley Williams, who made his first appearance due to injury, was given a half-sack.

SU will close the road portion of their 2019 schedule next Saturday when they face Louisville. The Cardinals (6-4, 4-3) clinched bowl eligibility Saturday night with a 34-20 win over North Carolina State. Louisville’s Micale Cunningham threw for four touchdowns in the game, including one to Tutu Atwell, his eighth scoring catch of the season.

Kickoff is slated for 4:00pm Eastern with the ACC Network handling the telecast.

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Jim Stechschulte
About Jim Stechschulte 586 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.