Syracuse, N.Y. – A quick take on Syracuse’s disappointing 17-7 loss against Rutgers Saturday afternoon, in front of announced crowd of 31,941 in a shiny, refurbished and comfortable (the air conditioning felt great) Carrier Dome:
WHAT HAPPENED: On a day in which the nation observed the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a thoughtful pre-game ceremony included a moment of silence, the waving of a large American flag on the field during the national anthem, and a rousing singing of God Bless America at halftime. Following a sluggish first half that ended 0-0, the team’s offenses finally came alive in the third quarter. Rutgers scored on two sustained drives, while SU scored on two quick plays totaling 75 yards, a Tommy Devito 51-yard pass to Taj Harris, and a 24 yard burst by Sean Tucker that tied the game 7-7. After Devito fumbled on the SU 10-yard line on the first play following a missed RU field with 10:28 to play, the defense stiffened, but this time Knights kicker Valentino Ambrosio nailed a 27-yard field goal to put the game away.
ANALYSIS: Mistakes and self-inflicted wounds cost Syracuse dearly, along with a couple of decisions by Dino Babers. It was somewhat understandable why Babers replaced Devito with Garrett Shrader in the second quarter to see if he could provide an offensive spark, but Shrader could not finishing 4-of-6 passing, and Devito played the entire second half accounting for the one SU score. It was not easy to understand why Babers trotted out backup punter Colby Barker in the third quarter, and he shanked an eight yard punt after James Williams had done a good job changing field position. SU got a break when Rutgers (2-0) could not capitalize on a missed field goal, but Devito (15-for-25 149 yards passing) could not get any offense going in the fourth quarter on four SU possessions, including a curious decision to punt on 4th down on Rutgers half of the field, and the ‘Cuse final drive ended with a Devito interception with 0:41 to play.
HERO: No one player really stood out statistically on either side, although the Syracuse (1-1) defense had its moments, so we’ll salute the vibrant Orange fans in the just more than half-filled Dome after the crowd-less 2020 season. The orange-clad faithful did their best to give SU The Loud House homefield advantage, but many left frustrated with 4:00 to play after watching a mistake-filled second half, and Babers decision to punt on 4th and 10 at the RU 41 yard line with just over 7:00 to play that cost Syracuse a shot at going 2-0.
ZERO: Three illegal formation penalties among eight overall for Syracuse, and two critical fumbles, one in each half, is not a formula to win. Alternating quarterbacks Devito and Shrader made it hard for the offense to get in a rhythm, and Babers lost his composure when called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty halfway through the third quarter that kept a Rutgers drive intact. One play later the Scarlet Knights scored on a 11-yard run by Kyle Monangai to take a 7-0 lead.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse remains home to host FCS opponent UAlbany next Saturday afternoon in the Dome. The teams have never met previously in football. The Great Danes (0-2) lost their season opener 28-6 at North Dakota State last week, and then dropped a 16-14 game to Rhode Island at home Saturday evening. Game Time: 12:00 p.m. ET. TV: ACC Network.