A quick take on Syracuse’s 62-24 domination of Albany in the half-filled Dome, on a beautiful late summer Saturday afternoon in central New York:
WHAT HAPPENED: After Albany scored a touchdown on a tipped pass 25-yard interception return in the first quarter to close the score to 14-10 SU, the Orange flexed their muscles and scored the next 31 points to set the school record for most points in the first half of a game (45), on route to playing plenty of reserves in the second half. The explosive Sean Tucker was a first half individual highlight reel with four TDs, brilliant both running and receiving with over 100-yards in each category. As an encore Tucker scored his fifth TD in the third quarter before getting the rest of the day off, depriving him of tying the legendary Jim Brown’s school record of six TDs in a game. Tommy Devito played only in the first half, banged up on a hit in the first quarter but he returned, before Garrett Shrader saw plenty of playing time leading the offense to plenty of points, scoring twice himself. The starting defense gave up just an early field goal, and special teams stepped up in all of its units including two Andre Szmyt field goals giving him a school-record 60 for his stellar Orange career.
ANALYSIS: Minus starters Taj Harris (and Chris Elmore) on offense, and Garrett Williams on defense due to injuries, Syracuse (2-1) did not miss a beat. Eight receivers, including Courtney Jackson and Devaughn Cooper (three catches each) and Damien Alford (73-yard TD reception from Devito), picked up the slack, and Adrian Cole (two pass breakups and two solo tackles) stepped in admirably at right cornerback for Williams. The reshuffled offensive line of Dakota Davis and Chris Bleich on the left side, Airon Servais at center, and Matthew Bergeron and Darius Tisdale on the right side controlled the Liberty (0-3) defensive front and opened up running space for Tucker. Likewise, the Orange defensive line dominated, shutting down the Great Danes running game when the game was on the line, and recorded eight sacks overall, three by Cody Roscoe.
HERO: There’s likely to be more calls for Tucker to change jersey numbers from 34 to 44 after his first half performance. The second year back (freshman eligibility) dazzled with his speed over the first two quarters, including career-bests on his 56-yard touchdown run and 73-yard TD reception from Shrader. His third quarter 26-yard scamper for his fifth TD was simply showing who was the best player on the field. Tucker finished with 13 carries for 132 yards on the ground, a co-team high three receptions for 121-yards, likely garnering ACC running back player of the week honors when announced on Monday.
ZERO: Eight first half penalties and 16 (for a school-record 164 yards) overall (including a late targeting call on freshman LB Anwar Sparrow) are simply unacceptable, especially against an FCS opponent. Three of the penalties wiped out a 68-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Queeley, a 48-yard punt return to the Albany one-yard line by Trebor Pena, and a 40-yard Tucker run. Dino Babers and the staff have to clean up those mental mistakes before the ACC portion of the season gets underway.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse culminates a three game homestand hosting Liberty (3-0) Friday night, September 24 in the Dome. Last season, elusive redshirt junior quarterback Malik Willis accounted for 240-yards of total offense in guiding the Flames to a 38-20 road win over SU. Liberty, theoretically ranked 28th/30th by votes received in this week’s Top 25 media/coaches polls, routed Old Dominion 45-17 on Saturday evening. The dynamic Willis accounted for six touchdowns, rushing for four scores and passing for two others against the Monarchs. Game Time: 8:00 p.m. ET. TV: ACC Network.