We saw a taste of Melifonwu last year when he was thrown into the fire against North Carolina. He shined against the Heels, just as he did Saturday night in his first career start. The redshirt sophomore defensive back–who surpassed senior Scoop Bradshaw in the starting lineup during the offseason–picked up his first career interception against Liberty.
At 6’3, 207 pounds, Melifonwu is the most physical corner Syracuse has and as a result he was tasked with the tough assignment of 6’4 Liberty wideout Antonio Gandy-Golden for parts of the season opener. He made an imprint on the game and the scary thing is Coach Babers stressed in the post game press conference that they know this is just the beginning with Melifonwu and he can play much better.
Interior Defensive Line
Eight sacks for Syracuse on Saturday was the most the school produced in one game since a 2006 vacated win over Miami (Ohio) (Shoutout, Greg Robinson!). As expected, edge rushers Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson were rock solid. Coleman picked up 2 sacks and Robinson 0.5 in their first games of their senior seasons. However, it was the less-publicized interior linemen like Josh Black (2.0 sacks), Curtis Harper (0.5 sacks) and Kenneth Ruff who seemed to really shine Saturday. If they keep playing like that, the Orange defensive line has a case for one of the best units in the country.
For the first time in Dino Babers tenure at Syracuse, the Orange used two running backs on the field at once Saturday. Not only were all three Syracuse running backs used a healthy amount–Moe Neal (14 carries), Abdul Adams (14 carries) and Jarveon Howard (9 carries), but they were all used in the passing game a little bit too, especially Neal. The senior actually led Syracuse in receiving yards Saturday with three screen catches for 54 yards. For the first time in a while, the Orange have a plethora of running backs at their disposal and the luxury of being able to keep fresh legs on the field at all times.
17-35, 176 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs. Not exactly, the stat line you would hope for from DeVito against a low-tier FBS school. Can’t sugarcoat that too much. It is really early though. They didn’t have film on the Liberty defense with its new coaching staff at all and it’s only the guys first career start so we should cut him some slack. Even still, DeVito has to be better and frankly he has to play better starting next week with Maryland up next.
It was an uninspiring first regular season game from the hyped Michigan State transfer. Now in fairness to Jackson, he struggled partially because DeVito struggled. Jackson grabbed three balls for 21 yards Saturday. After all the talk about how close DeVito and him had come during the offseason, the chemistry didn’t translate on the field for week one.
Riley played better as the game went on, but it was a rough first half for the senior. He dropped a couple passes and most importantly fumbled a punt return early in the first quarter. SU’s slot receiver finished with 3 catches for 26 yards. No reason to believe the All-ACC specialist won’t be fine long term. Like the rest of the members of the passing game though, Riley was underwhelming Saturday.