Syracuse surprised just about everyone, pulling an upset over Liberty, 24-21, to secure win number 3 this season. Malik Willis did all he could, but the Orange defense was just too much in this one. Here are the biggest takeaways from SU’s victory:
Defense Is The Real Deal
A lot of the conversation surrounding this team to begin the year has been about the play about the Syracuse defense. They’ve been incredible. Led by veterans Mikel Jones and Josh Black, SU’s defensive unit is looking better than it has in quite some time. However, not everyone was so optimistic on how this squad would perform against more talented offenses such as the those in the ACC and the one they faced tonight, led by a quarterback you’ll see on day 1 of the NFL draft. Safe to say those fears should be kept quiet, at least for now. SU made easy work of Malik Willis and the rest of the Flames offense in the first half.
Dino Babers has leaned on these guys and he will continue to do so. Why not? There’s not much talent on this side of the ball everywhere you look. The secondary of course features Garret Williams and Duce Chestnut who locked down Liberty’s receivers all night long, effectively eliminating the vast majority of aerial options for the Flames aside from a few NFL level throws, then the linebacking core made up of Mikel Jones, Stefon Thompson, and Marlowe Wax who terrorized Willis all night long, Wax had 2 sacks, 2 TFLs, and a forced fumble. The defensive line also contributed to Willis’ struggle as well as limiting the run game. And don’t forget about the play this unit exhibited late in the game. With Liberty inside the SU 5 yard line, the Orange got a stop on 4th and THEN forced a fumble after the offense stalled. SU fans should feel great about what they’ve got on defense.
Shrader Can’t Throw The Deep Pass, But That’s Ok
Just before the game, the news was that Srader would get the start tonight. There were mixed feelings from the Orange faithful, but the majority seemed optimistic about the Mississippi St. transfer getting the nod.
Shrader proved them right, he wasn’t exactly Donovan McNabb out there but he was everything this offense needed. He played the short game really well and used his legs for multiple touchdowns runs that Tommy DeVito wouldn’t have converted.
Sure he had a hard time hitting the deep ball, and he may never get to a point in which he can do that, but that’s not necessarily something this offense needs in order to succeed, especially when you’ve got Sean Tucker playing so well. Regardless, it doesn’t seem like we’ll be seeing Tommy DeVito in the starting role any time soon.
This Team Will Win More Games Than We Thought
Last year after the Georgia Tech win, people were pretty high on the Orange. There was talk of Syracuse having the ability to string a few together and maybe make a bowl game. Then DeVito got hurt and they won one game. That’s not to say they’ll make a bowl game this year or beat half the teams they’ll play in the conference slate, but they’ll surely be better than they were given credit pre-season. Everyone counted Syracuse out from the get-go, projecting 3 or so wins, only 1 of which would come against ACC opponents. Now here we are concluding week 4, the Orange are 3-1. Again, this doesn’t mean they’ll go 6+ wins, but it does mean they have a good shot at 5 and are way better than anyone previously thought.