Syracuse thrashed Maryland Saturday in a 20-3 win. The victory puts the Orange over .500 for the first time this season and in position for a bowl. The offense was more efficient against Maryland than even Wake Forest and the defense played just as well as last week. Let’s get to breaking down the five biggest takeaways of the Orange’s second ACC road win.
This defense is for real
There is a fair argument that Wake Forest and Maryland are not the best offensive teams in the country, but even with that the Orange held them to three combined points after allowing 56 to Georgia Tech in the previous game. To put that in perspective, Tulane and Wagner scored 17 combined points against the Orange, and everyone will agree that Wake and Maryland are better than Tulane and Wagner. The front line of the defense harassed C.J. Brown and forced two interceptions out of the Maryland QB. The front line was outstanding against the running attack as well, holding the Terps to just 81 rushing yards. The secondary played well again, and much of the success could be because of how well the d-line is doing getting pressure on the QB. For the first time since 1997, the Orange kept its opponent out of the end zone in two straight games. That’s impressive regardless of any team’s shortcomings.
Turnovers are key
The Orange are 4-1 when it wins the turnover battle (with the lone loss coming to Penn State in the season opener). Syracuse forced two interceptions and two fumbles compared to one interception and one fumble on offense. The defense did a great job pressuring Brown and flying to the ball when passes were completed. On offense, it was more feeding the running game and playing smart with Terrel Hunt.
Keep feeding the backfield beast
Jerome Smith pounded the Maryland defense for 118 yards and two touchdowns. When Prince-Tyson Gulley went down with an injury, George Morris II stepped in and was able to provide a speed burst for the Orange and give Smith a breather. Terrel Hunt is still a weapon in the running game as he showed again this week with nearly 70 yards on the ground. The concerns surrounding the running game at the beginning of the season seem to be gone as Jerome Smith and the offensive line turned a corner a couple weeks back.
Terrel Hunt is visibly improving
After two outstanding games, Hunt struggled in games against Clemson, NC State and GT, but he has been getting better the past two weeks. It is pretty obvious at this point. Hunt is not making some of the mistakes he made earlier in the year and he had no interceptions against Maryland. Although he still hasn’t thrown for a touchdown in ACC play, Hunt is making better throws and putting the Orange in a better position to score than he had during the first three ACC games. Of course, Hunt still makes some questionable plays, and perhaps takes off to run too early sometimes, but he is still just a redshirt sophomore and has two more years to grow and become a better quarterback.
A bowl is well within sight
Just two years ago, the team was 5-2 before losing 5 straight and missing out on a bowl game. With the win, the Orange now sit just one win away from bowl eligibility and have three games remaining, including two winnable home games. If Syracuse can win just one of two home games against BC and Pitt, the Orange will go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1996-1998, when Donovan McNabb was under center. This would be a huge success for the Orange after losing its head coach, offensive coordinator, two starting receivers, starting left tackle and quarterback from last year’s Big East co-champion. In year one of the ACC, a 6-6 or 7-5 season with a chance to improve on that in a bowl game would be outstanding for first year head coach Scott Shafer.
This week was a big W for the Orange. The win gives the Orange two wins on the road in conference play, something Syracuse hadn’t done since 2010 when they won four road games in Big East play. The game signaled a turnaround in the Syracuse defense that played so horribly against GT but so outstanding against Wake and Maryland. Now just one win away from bowl eligibility, the Orange travel to Tallahassee for a big matchup with second-ranked Florida State.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg