After Syracuse marched down the field on its opening drive for a Moe Neal touchdown in less than two minutes, it seemed like the Orange had one objective in mind. Run the football. Little did we know that the running backs wouldn’t be the only rushers. But it seems like Dino Babers knew.
“Tommy could always run,” said Dino Babers. “He’s from New Jersey and there’s some fast guys from New Jersey so we’re excited when he does that stuff.”
A running DeVito gives fans flashbacks to the Eric Dungey era, which capped off with a 10 win season. While Babers’ offense calls for lots of downfield passing, there’s always room for a rushing quarterback.
“It adds a dimension to the offense,” said Babers. “And that’s what a lot of offenses do nowadays. That quarterback – kind of like Russel Wilson with the Seattle Seahawks – he doesn’t do it much but when he does it, it just breaks the defensive coordinators back. It was fun to have that back in our offense.”
And speaking of downfield passing, SU didn’t do a lot of that today. Instead, the offense relied on screens and slants – which is how Trishton Jackson took it 46 yards to the house. Taj Harris got on the action as well with a couple of big gains, self-created off of screens.
While DeVito was clicking with receivers Jackson, Harris, and tight end Aaron Hackett, Moe Neal was cruising through openings from the first drive. Western Michigan had no answer for the senior, who ran for 123 yards and found paydirt twice. SU needed a solid performance from its offensive line after three shaky weeks to begin the year. The Sam Heckel-less line delivered as the Orange ran for nearly 300 yards.
SU’s defensive line matched its offensive counter parts with a solid performance. Alton Robinson broke out of his slump by mauling Western Michigan’s right tackle. Eventually the Broncos started using tight ends and running backs to help contain Robinson, but not before he recorded three TFL, 1.5 sacks, and five quarterback hits. He also swatted the ball out of WMU quarterback Jon Wassink’s hand, leading his partner Kendall Coleman to an easy scoop. I have a feeling Wassink’s least favorite number is now 94.
And in the secondary, Syracuse had to rely on its depth Andre Cisco and Ifeatu Melifonwu were out this game, and Antwan Cordy was injured after delivering a booming hit on LeVante Bellamy to break up a pass inside SU’s 5-yard line. Sophomore Eric Coley nabbed his first interception of his career. But after falling down and failing to score on the turnover, Babers has just one plan in mind.
“I’ve got to get a replay of that one so I can keep it on my phone when he gets out of line when he’s a senior,” said Babers.