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Syracuse’s Defense Was Let Down By The Collapse Around It

College football fans and media around the country will wake up today and see 38 points hung by Notre Dame at the Dome. They’ll assume Syracuse is getting exposed for the shaky 16th-ranked team that it is. They’ll figure the first six weeks of the season were luck, and now the reality is setting in. They’ll look at the defense and believe that water seeks its level, and this is what SU has been all along. They would be wrong.

Syracuse’s excellent defense was let down by everything that happened around it. Garrett Shrader was clearly injured coming into this game, moving gingerly throughout the afternoon. He put SU in a hole from the start, throwing a Pick-6 on the first snap. Notre Dame might not be the powerhouse it’s been in recent years, but it’s still never good to dig a 7-point hole before your defense gets on the field. As the ESPN booth said, “You can’t under any circumstances throw that pass.”

Shrader was ineffective throughout the first half, going just 5-14 for 34 yards. On SU’s first scoring drive, the kick return and a facemask penalty brought the ball near midfield. and almost all of Shrader’s production happened on that possession as the Orange tied it up. But in a 7-7 game, the SU offense then went 3-and-out on the next three drives, putting intense pressure on the defense stop the Irish.

The special teams were a nightmare for the Orange. The second punt of the game traveled only 35 yards and put Notre Dame at their 45 yard line. SU’s defense was immediately put in a bad spot and gave up a touchdown to make it 14-7 Irish. The defense stopped Notre Dame on a 4th-and-5 to keep it a 7-point difference. The weight of the game would fall on the SU defense again, as Ja’Had Carter intercepted a pass and brought it to the ND 42 yard line. In a pivotal spot, Shrader had three incompletions on four plays, and SU turned the ball over on downs after gaining a paltry 3 yards.

Syracuse had put too much pressure on its own defense and it finally broke. Notre Dame scored on the ensuing possession and it was 21-7 at the half. Disaster struck again on special teams in the second half when Max Von Marburg shanked another punt from deep in his own end, giving the Irish a drive that started at the SU 35. Amazingly, the defense held again, forcing the Irish into a FG. But the damage had been done. The poor offense and pathetic special teams had gift wrapped 24 points for Notre Dame, and it would be an uphill climb the rest of the way.

Behind Carlos Del Rio-Wilson the Orange climbed back in it in the second half, but again they were done in by miscues. Del Rio-Wilson was picked off, leading to a quick touchdown by the Irish, making it 31-17. Then a blocked SU punt gave Notre Dame the ball at the 2-yard line where they punched in for another score, making it 38-17.

The elite Orange defense which has been so good all season was undermined by the rest of the team. Interceptions, whiffed punts, blocked punts, and a Pick-6 all contributed to the 38 points Notre Dame scored. While football is a team game and everyone left the Dome feeling unhappy in Orange, the SU defense didn’t deserve that outcome.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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