Yesterday, Syracuse continued its injury-plagued slide down the ACC standings. No. 25 Florida State came to the Dome and blew the doors off SU 38-3 on senior day. There isn’t much to be said about such a thorough domination, but a few key figures show us how clear a beating the Orange took.
The first-ever negative number to ever grace this series is one that demonstrates the largest difference between the Orange and Seminoles last night. SU couldn’t run, couldn’t pass, and couldn’t defend either one. The ‘Noles blasted their opponent for 400 yards or more for the fourth consecutive week, while SU couldn’t muster half of that figure. The -260 yardage differential (420 for FSU, 160 for Syracuse) marks just the fourth time since 2000 that an SU squad allowed 400 or more yards in a game and gained 160 or fewer.
Saturday marked the first time SU pulled off the feat since some no-good, very bad teams. The last time a ‘Cuse bunch got dominated so thoroughly was back in 2020 at Louisville when JaCobian Morgan and a shorthanded crew flatlined for 137 total yards in a 30-0 loss. Further back, a pair of Greg Robinson-coached teams round out the “poor four”. In 2008, SU gained 159 yards to Penn State’s 560 in a 55-13 shellacking and put up just 103 in a 35-0 blanking against Iowa in 2007. It’s not the first week this season SU has done some things for the first time since the Robinson years, which is always a spooky sentence to utter up on The Hill. Too bad Halloween was two weeks ago.
A lot has been rightfully made of Syracuse’s suddenly-terrible run defense over the past four weeks, but the FSU ground game didn’t do it all on its own last night. Florida State put up such a prolific offensive day thanks in part to spectacular play from redshirt-junior quarterback Jordan Travis. Last year, the Orange saw Travis respond to a surprise start with a solid effort in a 33-30 FSU win. Fast forward to this year, and Travis is firmly entrenched as one of the ACC’s premier quarterbacks. The ‘Cuse helped Travis break out last year, and his scorching of the Syracuse defense this year only affirms the point. His 91.3% completion rate last night is the best mark for any passer with 20 or more attempts against a Syracuse defense in at least 22 years.
Travis finished 21-23 for 155 yards and three scores. His only inconsequential mistake came on Derek McDonald’s second quarter strip-sack, but SU couldn’t capitalize. If we expand our search to those who have completed even 83% or better against SU with 20 or more attempts, only one other passer has done so since 2000. Fellow Seminole and current Saint Jameis Winston turned the trick in 2013 during a 59-3 throttling. Needless to say, it’s pretty solid company to keep for Travis, whose Seminoles are now living up to the billing as a preseason-tabbed ACC breakout squad.
Part of the problem on the Syracuse side was that SU simply could not string together substantial gains. On the night, the Orange averaged just 3.1 yards per rush and 3.8 yards per attempt against the ‘Noles. In an eerily similar effort to last week’s in Pitt, the Orange looked out of sync and outmuscled on offense en route to just nine first downs. The Seminoles didn’t score a point in the fourth quarter but still moved the chains 25 times. That difference of 16 first downs between the two squads is telling and marks just the fifth time since 2000 that SU gained nine or fewer first downs in a game versus an opponent who tallied 25 or more.
The aforementioned 2020 Louisville and 2008 Penn State games also grace this dreadful list of blowouts. The only other two instances in the last 22 years occurred under (who else?) but the late Greg Robinson. His 3-9 ‘08 squad laid down against the Nittany Lions, and did so twice later on in November. Against Rutgers in Piscataway, SU fell 35-17 and gained just seven first downs on the day as future pro Kenny Britt logged nine catches for 107 yards. Just three weeks later, Robinson’s SU tenure came to a close with a 30-10 defeat against Cincinnati in which the Orange earned eight first downs and gave up 25 to the No. 16 Bearcats. Robinson’s 2008 season ended with an emotional exit press conference and Dino Babers’ 2022 will end somewhere at a podium after a bowl game, but the two now share some less-than-fortunate SU history.