Syracuse football pulled off a pretty impressive win last night over the Ohio Bobcats. Head coach Dino Babers got his first victory in nearly a calendar year and did it against an old MAC foe. In a strong performance that lacked flashy plays, SU controlled the game from beginning to end. How did they accomplish that?
Let’s take a look at a few key numbers that propelled the Orange to victory.
Last night was the eighth win since the start of 2018 for Dino Babers in which his team won despite losing the time of possession battle, and that’s going against the grain of typical football-lifer gospel. Lower the pads and hold the ball, right? Not necessarily for Babers and his up-tempo offense. Shorter time of possession might actually mean his offense is working better: in those eight victories including last night, Syracuse has averaged 45.4 points per game.
Ohio held the ball for 31:37 of game time and rolled up 346 total yards, but Syracuse held Ohio senior running back De’Montre Tuggle to just 65 rushing yards and QB Kurtis Rourke to 142 passing yards. The Bobcats didn’t score a touchdown the entire game. If this is the best version of defensive coordinator Tony White’s 3-3-5 defense, consider ‘Cuse Nation signed up.
That’s the number of days Syracuse endured between road wins. Before last night’s victory in Athens, the last game Syracuse won outside the dome was on November 16th, 2019 at Duke. With a disappointing season well underway, SU drubbed the Blue Devils 49-6 that day at Wallace Wade Stadium in a mostly forgotten game.
Both programs have wallowed in the ACC cellar since then, but Syracuse got a big monkey off its back yesterday by securing a rare road win. Every slump has to end somewhere, and that’s good news for Dino Babers. If his team’s three-game homestand goes well, SU could very well be 4-0 by the time it travels to play FSU at Doak Campbell Stadium on October 2nd.
In a neat bit of symmetry, Syracuse racked up 44 carries on the ground in its opener. Beyond the natural invocation of Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Floyd Little, the number is symbolic of a possible new identity for the SU offense. Going into this season, SU fans might have been cautiously optimistic that the Orange O would focus more on Sean Tucker and the run. The lack of tight end usage in the passing game and the offensive line troubles risked precluding such a shift or at least sowing doubt. Ground and pound until you fall behind and then air it out, right?
Well, offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert stuck to his guns and stayed with what was working. Tommy DeVito ended up throwing for just 92 yards, but it didn’t matter in front of Tucker, who set a career-high in rushing yards with 181. DeVito added 49 yards himself, while the Orange as a team put up 283 yards on the ground and 6.4 yards per carry. The yardage total is the fourth-highest for SU since the start of the 2018 season. Ohio might not be the best competition, but SU is an easy bet to win most of its games when the rushing attack flows quite like it did yesterday.