Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Well that was fun!
The Syracuse Orange’s opening two weeks were not what I would call “fun.” However, under the fancy new scoreboard and roof on the Building Not To Be Called The Carrier Dome, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets fell to ‘Cuse 37-20 in what was an absolutely bonkers game.
The day was off to an odd start from the get go; Kickoff was delayed for more than 20 minutes as the Orange confirmed negative test results on their team and staff. When the players got onto the field, Andre Cisco was not dressed, presumably due to a pregame collision in warmups.
The Orange won the kickoff, and oddly, chose to receive. And much like every drive we’ve seen from ‘Cuse this season, the offense was unable to do much and immediately punted, but not before converting a single first down by using Tight Ends, who knew!
After a 3 and out for the Yellowjackets, the Syracuse offense finally got the running game going, thanks to true freshman Sean Tucker. After some solid gains thanks to easy swing passes to Jawar Jordan, Tucker was given the ball on a read option, and spun out of a tackle to take it to the house and put the Orange up 7-0. That touchdown seemed to energize the defense, who then immediately tipped a Jeff Sims pass for an interception by Josh Black. The offense reverted back to it’s struggling form, but Andre Szymt nailed his 51st career field goal to put the Orange ahead 10-0.
Georgia Tech’s next drive started inside their own 20, but Sims transitioned to a more up tempo attack that allowed Tech to pick up big chucks on yards on passing plays, and move the ball efficiently on the ground. The Yellowjackets were able to move into the redzone with easy, but a broken screen play led to Mikel Jones forcing Sims into a lame duck throw that Trill Williams snagged and returned to the opposite 37.
The Orange was able to run the ball for back to back first downs (one by Tucker, one by DeVito) putting the Orange inside the 10. The normally lethargic red zone offense was energized by Tucker; the RB was given all the carries and was able to push for extra yards every carry and o-line responded with a much better push on every play. A second TD for the freshman put ‘Cuse up 17-0.
The Orange and ‘Jackets exchanged 3 and outs for the next 3 drives, with much of the same story from the first two games: The offense struggled to contain pass rushes, the defense held firm using a variety of looks confusing the opposition. With 11:40 to go in the 2nd, a DeVito shot downfield was under thrown and picked off by Zamari Walton. The Yellowjackets took advantage of penalties and poor run defense to get to the 24, and a great pass by Sims to Jahmyr Gibbs capped the drive. An attempted fake PAT was thwarted by ‘Cuse to keep Tech down 17-6.
However, the Orange responded aggressively with a 49 yard kick return, and then a bomb from DeVito to the wide open Taj Harris for a 46 yard touchdown. A blocked PAT made it 23-6, Syracuse. Tech decided they wanted some big plays, moving the ball down the field with rushes of 16 & 30 yards, adding a pass interference penalty for another 15 yards. Sims used his legs the rest of the way, closing the gap to 23-13.
Both teams had a chance to change the score before halftime, but weren’t able to muster much, with Tech receiving the second half kickoff.
The first drive of the second half started well enough for Tech, with more successful running plays. But another 3rd down passing play went poorly for Sims, who was hit hard by Mikel Jones, causing an overthrow straight to Robert Hanna. The Orange immediately followed up with a 36 yard pass to Nykeim Johnson. However, a holding penalty was the only way to move the ball downfield, and the drive ended in a partially blocked 53 yard kick attempt by Szymt. The follow up Tech drive was all kinds of weird. After converting a 2nd and 33 into a first down in 2 plays, it took just another 3 plays to enter the red zone. The Orange defense held firm, with another Jones pressure on third down on a rollout to force a field goal attempt, that was blocked by ‘Cuse.
Another Orange 3 and out finally broke the doors open for Tech. A 27 yard rush set up a 40 yard deep pass to Ahmarean Brown that put the ball on the ‘Cuse 3, and Jamious Griffin punched it in to cut the ‘Cuse lead to 23-20.
Because this game was the most ‘Cuse game possible, the Orange offense woke up and responded with a 3 play scoring drive, capped by a 43 yard dime from DeVito to Johnson, pushing the ‘Cuse lead back up to 10, 30-20.
The 4th quarter opened up with a stalled Tech drive, that was followed up with a 3 and out ‘Cuse drive. The Orange defense held firm on a 3rd and short, forcing another Jackets punt, that pinned ‘Cuse inside their own 10 with 11 minutes to play. The Orange offense stalled once again, but Georgia Tech’s 4th pick of the game iced the game for ‘Cuse. Another underthrown ball by Sims resulted in his 4th interception of the afternoon, this time by Ja’Had Carter. Carter returned the pick to just past midfield, where he was wraped up by Sims. In what could only be described as an insane decision, Carter lateraled the ball to Trill Williams, who ran the ball the rest of the way into the endzone, putting the Orange up 37-20.
The Jackets next drive saw Sims subbed off for Jordan Yates, who was unable to move the ball at all, fumbling on 4th and 10, with the Orange recovering on the Tech 9. Markenzie Pierre was able to drag a pile of players forward to the 1, but unable to get the extra yard on 4th down. The Jackets were unable to do much of anything, punting away once again with 3:58 left. The Orange ran out the clock, and the new roof stands undefeated at 1-0.
So after all of that, the Orange is 1-2, which is what most of us here predicted would happen. This hasn’t been a smooth ride, but today showed that when things are going good enough for the Orange, they’re still a high flying fun team to watch.