Quick Hits: Syracuse’s offensive line shows improvement

Syracuse Orange head coach Dino Babers (C) looks on prior to leading his team on the field at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports.

Syracuse opened its season with a solid 29-9 road win at Ohio in its 2021 season opener. Here are some quick hits from the game:

  • Probably the best takeaway from the night is that the Syracuse offensive line turned in a strong effort. The group gave up just one sack on 19 pass plays and the Orange rolled up 283 yards on the ground at 6.4 yards a carry. For as much trouble as the line has had the last couple seasons, this effort was a ray of light.

  • DeVito’s night was a mixed bag. The junior quarterback looked healthy, rushing for 52 yards on six carries (he lost three yards on a sack), providing a different dimension for the offense with smart decision-making and his legs. At the same time, DeVito completed 11-of-17 passes for 92 yards, an average of 5.41 yards per attempt, with only two completions for more than ten yards. Last season, SU averaged 5.67 yards per attempt as a team, which was 115th out of 128 BCS teams. The passing game must be better and opening things downfield will make things easier for Sean Tucker and the rest of the running backs as the season progresses.
  • While the Orange offense took what Ohio gave them and the team essentially controlled the entire game, this team is not good enough to rely on a “show the basics and save the good stuff for later” offensive game plan. The offense has played so poorly the last couple seasons, they cannot afford to simply expect to produce well.
  • Duce Chestnut was an instant success. The freshman cornerback was a revelation from the first drive, making multiple open field solo tackles in the game’s opening minutes. He also snuffed out the final Ohio possession with a juggling interception.
  • The special teams units were rock solid for SU. Andre Szmyt hit everything, including two short field goals, James Williams debuted with a pair of unreturnable punts that pinned Ohio deep in their end of the field, and Trebor Pena was solid in the return game, including a 32-yard punt return to help set up Szmyt’s second field goal.

» Related: Our comprehensive 2021 Syracuse football preview

  • That second field goal by Szmyt was a 20-yard chip shot, but he should have never had the opportunity. SU held a 12-6 lead with under seven minutes to play in the third and faced fourth-and-goal at the Bobcats’ two-yard-line. While the field goal made it a two-possession game, the run game had been working well, the defense solid, and failing would have turned the ball over deep in Ohio’s end. There was a lot of confidence to be gained by the offensive line by going for it. Show some confidence in your players, especially the much-maligned unit of the last couple years that is probably the key to your season.
  • Syracuse will open the home portion of their schedule against former Big East rival Rutgers next Saturday at 2:00pm Eastern in a game televised by the ACC Network. The Scarlet Knights trounced Temple in their home opener, 61-14, forcing five turnovers and scoring the first 26 points of the game.

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About Jim Stechschulte 894 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. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. He currently resides in Syracuse.