3 takeaways from Syracuse football’s 38-14 loss to Wake Forest

Wake Forest Syracuse
Oct 31, 2020; Syracuse, New York, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons wide receiver Jaquarii Roberson (5) runs after making a catch in the first quarter against the Syracuse Orange at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Syracuse season long woes continued Saturday afternoon in a 38-14 loss to Wake Forest. While it’s clear this is a lost season for the football team, there were still some noteworthy takeaways.

Here are three things we learned from Saturday’s shellacking:

Syracuse’s defense shows promise

The box score shows that Syracuse’s defense allowed 38 points and 438 yards, but a closer look reveals that the Orange defense had a solid outing.

It’s hard to pin blame on a defense that was on the field for 36:14 as opposed to the offense, which was on the field for just 23:46. Rex Culpepper’s two interceptions didn’t help the defense, either. One interception came with 12:32 left in the third quarter and the Orange already trailing 24-7.

Wake Forest’s Gavin Holmes returned that 32 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-7, and the rout was on, with a gassed defense allowing one more score with just over three minutes left in the fourth quarter.

But before the game got out of hand, the defense turned in a solid performance. The Orange got down early 10-0, but SU’s defense forced Wake Forest their first 3-and-out, and on the ensuing drive, Syracuse scored for the first time to make it 10-7.

Though SU gave up one more score before intermission, the defense still impressed to close the first half.

A Syracuse fumble spotted the ball for the Demon Deacons at the SU 26 with 1:19 before half. An offensive holding and a Garrett Williams sack drove Wake Forest back to its 43 yard line, and instead of a 24-7 lead at half for Wake Forest, Syracuse kept them out of field goal range and was able to stay within 10 points.

Cooper Lutz this Offense’s Silver Lining

While the offense as a whole amassed just 221 yards, Cooper Lutz put together a successful outing. Lutz ended the first half with 50 rushing yards and 12 receiving yards, accounting for 62 of the offense’s 99 first-half yards.

Syracuse was forced to abandon the run to try to stay within contact of Wake Forest, and shied away from Lutz in the second half. Still, he finished with 81 yards on the ground on 15 attempts (5.4 yards per carry).

“You know Cooper [Lutz] ever since we moved him back from receiver to running back, I had a conversation with him on the field,” Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said. “I’m really proud of the work you’ve been doing […] I think the guys got some natural ability, I think he can really help us.”

» Related: Syracuse struggles again in loss to Wake Forest

Syracuse Shows First Glimpse into the Future with JaCobian Morgan

With just under 7 minutes to go in the game and Syracuse down 38-7, freshmen quarterback JaCobian Morgan made his collegiate debut.

Morgan successfully completed all seven of his pass attempts and showed mobility and decisiveness.

On 3rd and 3 at the Wake Forest 35, Morgan rolled out to elude pressure and threw across his body to a wide-open Ed Hendrix for 31 yards, which was the largest completion of the day. (Culpepper’s long was 21 through 3+ quarters and only averaged 3.1 yards a completion.)

That set up his first career passing touchdown when he found tight end Luke Benson for a 3-yard score three plays later.

Babers said he will weigh the positives and negatives of playing Morgan more in the future.

“I’m glad he didn’t fumble the snap,” Babers said. “I’m glad it looked like he could throw the football but I wouldn’t put too much stock on that. That’s the end of the game and we’re running the clock out on ourselves. [Wake Forest] is giving him those throws. I’m pretty sure he didn’t get blitzed. That’s like throwing 7-on-7, that’s not like a real football game.”

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