Quick Hits: Babers seals Syracuse’s fate by opting to punt

SU-Rutgers (2)
Sep 11, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange quarterback Tommy DeVito speaks to reporters following SU's 17-7 loss at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brad Bierman/The Juice Online.

Syracuse lost in frustrating fashion, 17-7, to old Big East foe Rutgers on Saturday afternoon. Here are some tidbits from the game:

  • Syracuse fans who wanted more running plays later in the game would likely be surprised by how generally ineffective the ground game was. The Orange had the following rushes for four or more yards in the game – one on the first drive (Sean Tucker – 5), three on the second drive (Tucker – 9, Tommy DeVito – 6, Tucker – 6), one on the third drive (Tucker – 5), Tucker’s third quarter touchdown (24 yards), DeVito’s two fourth quarter runs in obvious passing situations (17 and 20 yards). Those eight carries totaled 92 yards. The other 17 running plays (with sacks removed) generated two yards.
  • Dino Babers’ predetermined decision to play Garrett Shrader in the second quarter arguably derailed the Orange offense. SU had picked up one first down on their first drive, three on their second (ended by Taj Harris’ fumble inside the Rutgers 10), and two on their third, generating 92 yards in the DeVito’s first three drives. Shrader’s three possessions were a pair of three-and-outs and the late drive ended by Andre Szmyt missing a 43-yard field goal. Those three possessions totaled 31 yards.

  • Babers essentially gave up on the game by opting to punt with 7:16 to play. Down 17-7, the Orange were facing a 4th-and-10 at the Rutgers 41. Needing to score twice, Babers would have been well served to be aggressive from that point of the field. SU ended up with only one more possession and only reached their own 37.
  • After the SU defense piled up 13 tackles for loss in the game, getting 3.0 from Cody Roscoe and 2.5 from both Josh Black and Mikel Jones, the only possible complaint you could muster about that unit through two games is that they are not creating turnovers. Duce Chestnut’s interception against Ohio is the lone turnover they have forced in two games. The Orange have forced two fumbles, but have not recovered either one.
  • SU was outclassed on special teams despite Rutgers fumbling a punt, missing a 29-yard field goal, and botching what may have been a fake field goal. Szmyt pushed a 43-yard field goal wide, Trebor Pena fumbled a punt, James Williams’ first punt was blocked, and Colby Barker shanked a punt, sending the ball several rows up in the stands for a total of eight yards.

» Related: Syracuse should play Rutgers in football every season

  • In my season preview, I lamented that the Orange desperately need a third receiver to show up in the pass game. Not only is there no third threat in the passing game, there is no second threat. With eight catches for 122 yards against the Scarlet Knights, Taj Harris now has 14 receptions for 151 yards through two games (and Harris has hurt SU with a bad drop in each game already this season). The rest of the wide receivers have nine receptions for 91 yards as part of seven other players combining for 17 catches for 140 yards. The Orange have not aired it out with just 50 pass attempts, but a pass game so blatantly tilted to one player is going to easily be taken away when the level of competition rises.
  • Brett McMurphy of the Action Network tweeted Saturday evening that Syracuse is the only school to not have a perfect non-conference record in 31 years. That time span encompasses every season the Orange have played football in a conference.
  • Next Saturday, in-state opponent Albany will head west to battle the Orange. The Great Danes are the lone FCS opponent on Syracuse’s schedule and have dropped their first two games, both to FCS foes. The ACC Network will televise the Syracuse-Albany contest, which is slated for a noon Eastern kickoff.

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About Jim Stechschulte 714 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.