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Even without star safety Andre Cisco, Syracuse’s defense added five turnovers to its FBS-leading 10 in Saturday’s 37-20 win over Georgia Tech.
Atlantic Coast Conference Defensive Back of the Week Trill Williams, as well as Ja’Had Carter, Rob Hanna and Josh Black, all came up with interceptions, and linebacker Steve Linton recovered a fumble. But the impetus of most of the turnovers began with its pass rush.
In this week’s film review, here’s how Syracuse turned the Yellow Jackets over:
Blitz beats the read-option
Against a read-option look, Syracuse brings six rushers with a middle blitz to stuff a run. Jeff Sims instead pulls the ball down and drops back to pass, but Kingsley Jonathan hits his arm as he winds up. The ball pops straight up and into defensive lineman Black’s arms for his first pick in his five-year SU career.
Many of GT’s turnovers came from poor decisions from its freshman quarterback. This one, though, came from an excellent pass rush and complete domination at the point of attack. Sims could’ve taken a sack instead of forcing a pass on 2nd and short, but either outcome is a win for Syracuse.
Edge blitz forces another pop-up
In an eerily similar play and situation, Syracuse gets to Sims quickly and forces another batted pop-up interception. This time, linebacker Mikel Jones comes off the edge completely unblocked and wrecks Sims with textbook technique. The ball was in the air so long that Williams could’ve called fair catch before collecting it.
Screenshot courtesy of ACC Network
All game, Syracuse’s front-six did an excellent job putting pressure on Sims without overcommitting. As a dual-threat quarterback, he has the ability to break the pocket and make plays with his feet, but SU kept him in the pocket by swarming him from multiple angles.
BONUS: Deep shot off the dome called back
With its secondary playing off coverage, with no defensive back within seven or eight yards of their matchup at the start of the play, SU anticipated a deep pass. It guessed correctly.
To get pressure on Sims, SU disguises a blitz on the right side of the line of scrimmage and brings it on the opposite end. While Linton starts on the edge but drops into coverage, Jones gets a running start and puts pressure on Sims, who rolled out to his right.
Sims targets Garrett Williams, who’s been terrific each game of the season despite having little experience as a redshirt freshman. He’s in a decent position with outside leverage — knowing safety Hanna is coming over from the middle to help — but doesn’t turn his head around in time. But he gets lucky, as Sims’ slightly underthrown ball knocks off the top of his helmet and into Hanna’s outstretched arms. A pass interference call on Williams made the would-be pick ineffective.
Obvious passing situation goes awry
With Georgia Tech facing a 3rd-and-10 down two scores, Syracuse brings five rushers to provide pressure. Tyrell Richards crossed from left to right and found an opening in the A gap, even though GT is positioned to protect Sims with six blockers.
Williams, playing underneath on a crossing receiver, gets away with a slight hold. Sims’ pass sails over them and the crossing wide receiver on the next level, landing in Hanna’s hands for his first career pick — this time for real.
In by far the most fun play of Syracuse’s season this far, SU iced the win late in the fourth quarter. Carter undercut a desperate, 3rd-and-13 forced throw. SU yet again collapsed the pocket, this time rushing only four and dropping back seven into cushion coverage.
Carter shoveled a pitch backward to Williams, who took it all the way down the sidelines into the endzone.
Wild things happening in this Syracuse game pic.twitter.com/eTuVxccVvw
— Danny Emerman (@DannyEmerman) September 26, 2020
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Williams — who’s roommates with Carter — said after the game they’d joked about lateralling for an interception return.
“We were joking how Deion (Sanders) used to do when he was with the Cowboys,” Williams said. “It just happened today.”
Garbage time strip sack
On the very next possession, backup Yellow Jackets quarterback Jordan Yates dropped back on 4th-and-10 with GT down 37-20. Despite the score, SU doesn’t play prevent defense, instead bringing five blitzers with its front three, as well as linebackers Linton and Jones.
Both Linton and Jones occupy GT blockers, allowing Cody Roscoe to work one on one. He won his matchup with a nifty speed rush move, used his hands to gain outside leverage to his left and wrapped up Yates. But Yates doesn’t go down immediately and twirls instead. Jones jars the football loose by joining Roscoe in making the tackle.
Yates probably held onto the ball for too long, but given the situation, his receivers needed time to get open downfield. He had about three seconds in the pocket before being forced to step up into GT’s fifth turnover of the afternoon.
Screenshots via ACC Network
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