In a game not as close as the score would indicate, Syracuse raced away from Boston College in the second half yesterday for its second straight conference win. With the victory, the Orange are back over .500. Let’s take a look at some figures that explain how SU accomplished that yesterday.
Immediately, Syracuse’s strong defensive effort warrants extra attention. Save for a few impressive catches by BC wideout Zay Flowers, SU locked down the Eagles all game long. A big part of Syracuse’s success was its defensive line. Cody Roscoe, Josh Black, and Kingsley Jonathan all had great games – and it’s Jonathan who comes away with a special distinction. With three sacks, Jonathan becomes just the nineteenth SU player since 1983 to notch three or more in a game.
Jonathan, a senior and Baltimore native, matched his sack total from all of 2020 in yesterday’s game. His dominant play was a part of a larger effort that held Boston College to just 251 total yards, 1.8 yards-per-carry, and six points.
To put Jonathan’s three sacks in perspective, even SU’s defensive greats rarely accomplished the feat. Seven-time NFL Pro Bowler Dwight Freeney notched three or more sacks in a game just once in his Syracuse career (a school-record 4.5 against Virginia Tech in 2000). Fellow NFL first-round pick Tim Green dominates the list, having totaled three or more in a game four times (once in 1983, twice in 1984, and once in 1985). However, you don’t have to look far to find the last player to do it prior to Jonathan – fellow lineman Cody Roscoe tallied three sacks against UAlbany this past September.
Things weren’t as scintillating for Syracuse on the offensive side, and that’s where this second number comes in. Garrett Shrader in particular looked more like he did in his first start than his last, finishing just 5 of 14 passing for 65 yards without a touchdown pass. However, Syracuse still won the game, thanks partly to Shrader’s 78 rushing yards and an outstanding day from Sean Tucker. Oddly, it’s just the third time since 2000 an SU passer finished with five or fewer completions on ten or more attempts and still won the game.
There are 14 games that fit that criteria since 2000, and Syracuse’s record in such games is 3-11. Most of them occurred on pretty dreadful SU teams with the wins coming about once a decade.
Former quarterback R.J. Anderson (2000-03) is the most common name on this list with a whopping four games of such inefficiency. One of them was in 2000, when Anderson went 4 of 14 passing against Temple and still won the game. That still stands as the low water mark for completions (with 10+ attempts) for a winning Syracuse quarterback since 2000. Anderson went on to churn through three more such games in 2002 against UNC, Auburn, and Pittsburgh. The Orange lost all three as the shine was coming off head coach Paul Pasqualoni’s faltering option offense.
Moving down the list, the good ol’ star-crossed Greg Robinson saw his quarterbacks accomplish the feat four times during his tenure from 2005-08. Perry Patterson and Andrew Robinson did it once apiece, while Cameron Dantley produced two such duds in 2008. Former fan favorite Ryan Nassib actually graces the list as well with a clunker in both 2009 and 2010, although Syracuse did win the latter game against West Virginia. Zach Mahoney and JaCobian Morgan round out the list under Shrader with both games coming against Louisville in 2017 and 2020, respectively.
Finally, we get to the main reason Syracuse was able to control the tempo of yesterday’s game. Running back Sean Tucker set a new career-high mark with 207 rushing yards and became just the eighth Syracuse player since 2000 to break the 200+ yard barrier in a game.
Yesterday’s effort was the first time since 2018 that Syracuse had a 200+ yard rusher in a game. Quarterback Eric Dungey ran for exactly 200 against Western Michigan that season, making him the only quarterback on the list. Prior to Dungey, Prince Tyson-Gulley was the last running back to do so with 213 yards against West Virginia in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl. Other names on the post-2000 list include Damien Rhodes (twice), Walter Reyes (twice), and Dee Brown in 2000.
In a broader historical context, Tucker’s season has become the main inspiration and galvanizing force behind Syracuse’s resurgence. Tucker’s 207 yards marked the ninth highest total in program history in a single game. Here’s how the historic table stands now:
|1.||Joe Morris at Kansas||252||10/6/1979|
|2.||Walter Reyes vs. UCF||241||9/20/2003|
|3.||Dee Brown vs. Rutgers||239||11/25/2000|
|4.||Walter Reyes vs. Rutgers||237||10/2/2004|
|5.||Damien Rhodes vs. Buffalo*||236||9/10/2005|
|T-6th||Larry Csonka at West Virginia||216||11/13/1965|
|T-6th||Floyd Little vs. Tennessee||216||12/31/1966|
|8.||Prince Tyson-Gulley vs. West Virginia||213||12/29/2012|
|9.||Sean Tucker vs. Boston College||207||10/30/2021|
|10.||Larry Csonka vs. California||203||10/21/1967|
Finally, it’s single-season record watch time for Tucker. He’s a mere 106 yards away from breaking Joe Morris’ 1979 program record of 1,372 rushing yards with three games still left in the season. Somewhere out there, Tucker is most assuredly pleased with his performance this season.