Syracuse had a chance to travel to No. 18 UNC and return home with a huge season opening victory. Instead, Syracuse showed off a stagnant offense in the 31-6 loss. New starting running back Jawhar Jordan had trouble finding holes and open space after Chris Elmore started at left guard and left tackle Airon Servais exited with an injury. Tommy DeVito struggled as well, ending with 112 yards through the air on 13-31 passing. Already, Syracuse fans are frustrated.
Syracuse’s defense played well in the first half before being forced to stay on the field for most of the second half. Andre Cisco did well in his rover role, picking off the 13th pass of his career. Mikel Jones had an interception of Sam Howell as well in the first half.
The good news is that Syracuse’s defense looks much improved. But that improvement won’t be portrayed if the offense can’t stay on the field. Tony White’s defensive line and linebackers pressured Sam Howell all game long. That put more pressure on the defensive backs, but that’s the best position group on the roster. While UNC broke the game open in the second half, the defensive backs played well while it was close.
The problem, like last year, was a non-existent offense. The Tar Heels defense finished with 11 tackles for loss, in large part because of SU’s porous defensive line. DeVito and Rex Culpepper were sacked seven times. There were moments when DeVito seemed improved in his scrambling skills from last season. There were also moments when the pocket collapsed and the second year starter ran right into the mitts of a Tar Heel defensive lineman.
Sterlin Gilbert is working with an under-manned, less talented offense than most in the ACC. Syracuse really needed Chris Bleich to be granted a waiver for immediate eligibility. That didn’t happen. If no offensive linemen stand out over the course of the year, Syracuse could be in for another long season.