A quick take on Syracuse’s demoralizing 38-21 loss to Liberty at the crowd-less Dome Saturday afternoon:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse (1-3, 1-4) suffered a defeat that brought back unpleasant memories of the toughest-to-swallow Dome defeats over the last 15 years (Akron 42-28 in 2008), falling to third-year FBS member Liberty (5-0) in decisive fashion. The Flames controlled both lines of scrimmage dictating the pace of play, outrushing SU 338-97, and the Orange, despite causing two turnovers, under the direction of backup quarterback Rex Culpepper didn’t have enough offense to keep up in the second half. Syracuse has not started a season 1-4 since 2008 under Greg Robinson, when SU dropped six of its first seven contests finishing 3-9.
ANALYSIS: Playing with a confident attitude and thoughts of last year’s shutout loss at home to SU, Liberty beat a team from the ACC for the first time, in what many in hometown Lynchburg called the young FBS program’s biggest game to date. The Flames ran the ball down a porous Orange defense with 338-yards on the ground, and Liberty’s talented quarterback Malik Willis kept SU off balance consistently moving the chains most of the afternoon. Culpepper’s numbers were 19-of-40 for 211-yards and three touchdowns, but the flipside was a poorly thrown interception and three sacks that ended drives and potential scoring opportunities.
HERO: Liberty’s dual-threat rushing attack of Shedro Louis and Peytton Pickett were marvelous, and fast. Louis blew past the SU defense on his 75-yard touchdown jaunt in the first quarter, and threw in another beautiful 57-yard score in the second quarter finishing with 172-yards on just 10 carries. Pickett went for another 120-yards on 20 attempts and a speedy 16-yard touchdown run.
ZERO: It’s been a most unusual 2020 for all college football programs, but sitting at 1-4 with the national perception surrounding a loss to a new FBS program such as Liberty, it’s going to be a test of this team’s and coaching staff’s mental fortitude the rest of the ACC schedule. A trip to Clemson (see below) in a week doesn’t help, and SU is not likely to be favored in any of the remaining six league games.
WHAT’S NEXT: A meeting next Saturday, Oct. 24, against No. 1 ranked Clemson in a high noon dual at Death Valley in Clemson, S.C. The only time Syracuse has defeated a No. 1 team was the famous upset of Nebraska in the Dome in 1984. There’s always the memory of the 2017 upset of Clemson in the Dome, the Tigers last regular season defeat, as the ‘Cuse faces a herculean task. Clemson (5-0, 5-0) demolished Georgia Tech 73-7 Saturday afternoon in Atlanta Game Time: 12:00 p.m. ET. TV: ABC or ACC Network (TBD Oct. 18).