They say defense wins championships. Syracuse may be a long way from winning a national title, but it took another big step towards respectability with a 13-9 win over the University of South Florida today. It seems like every week I’m saying “for the first time since <insert year before 2005 here>, Syracuse is <insert something positive here>.” This week, I can say, “for the first time EVER, Syracuse has beaten USF.”
For the most part, this game was a defensive deadlock. Syracuse and USF gained just 307 and 219 yards of total offense respectively. After having trouble with rushing QB’s Jake Locker and Greg Sullivan, the ‘Cuse D stifled BJ Daniels, holding him to -1 yards on the ground. Yes, that is a negative sign. What is perhaps even more impressive is how the defense consistently bailed out an ineffective offense and sloppy special teams. It wasn’t a problem that SU could only manage 141 yards of total offense and three points in the first half or lost an ugly 87 yards on 12 penalties. The Syracuse defense held USF to 124 yards of total offense and kept the pressure on BJ Daniels, sacking him three times (the Bulls also had three sacks).
Scott Shaffer’s unit also bailed out the Orange’s special teams after numerous and often laughable errors. In the first half, a punt return touched an oblivious Olando Fisher’s foot only to be recovered by USF’s Sabbath Joseph on the Syracuse 36. It looked like something straight out of the Greg Robinson era, but Syracuse’s defense kept things in check. The Bulls were forced to attempt the field goal. Maikon Bonani made the FG, but those three points were erased thanks to a penalty. He missed the second attempt to keep the score knotted at three.
In the third quarter, the Orange finally took a 6-3 lead on a Ross Krautman field goal. (Side note: Remember how Krautman missed two PATs in the first game? Yeah, me neither. He’s been on the money since.) On the next play, Lindsey Lamar returned the kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. It is the third longest kickoff return in USF history. The Orange special teams recovered quickly and blocked the PAT, but if the SU defense had not been so solid all game, that return could have been the dagger. Instead, SU was just another Krautman field goal away from tying the game.
Krautman would not have to kick another field goal, though. After a quiet afternoon, the Syracuse offense finally broke through in the fourth quarter. Ryan Nassib and the Orange marched down the field on a 98 yard drive. The end result? CBA alum Marcus Sales’ first touchdown of the season and a 13-9 lead for SU–its first of the game. The defense held USF scoreless the rest of the way and the Orange won its first Big East game of the season.
The nay-sayers will roll their eyes and say that USF is just another cellar-dweller. They’re right. The Bulls aren’t going to be making a bid for a major bowl game any time soon, but this is a team that has owned the Orange. Prior to today’s game, Syracuse was 0-5 against USF. The Tampa heat did not seem to bother the resilient Orange defense despite having to carry the team for much of the game and the offense game through when it counted. That’s what you want to see out of a football team. Determination, resiliency, and clutch play. Syracuse is no longer a joke, it is finally a football team–and one that the rest of the Big East should look out for.
About the Author
Written by Beth Ann Clyde
I graduated from Syracuse University in 2009 and can count the number of times I witnessed the Orange win a football game on two hands.