Wow, well Syracuse did it. After a horrid start to the season, the Orange actually won a game, and in convincing fashion. Syracuse christened the newly renovated Dome with a big win over Georgia Tech last weekend. A balanced offensive attack and an impressive defensive showing led to the victory. Some positional units shined, some were still a little worrisome. So, let’s break out our red markers and give some grades in the classic Fizz Report Card.
Tommy DeVito actually looked competent in the pocket against Georgia Tech. He threw 13-for-24 and 194 yards, including two touchdown tosses. The redshirt junior did throw an interception on a really bad decision, however. But those stats aren’t even the most important ones. Here is what actually matters– DeVito was only sacked once. Yeah, once. After coming off back-to-back games where he got sacked seven times each, the Yellow Jackets only got to him one time. Now, part of that is on the offensive line, which we’ll get to, but part of it is on DeVito’s quicker decision making. He looked much more comfortable and was primarily making the correct reads.
Heading into the Georgia Tech game, we thought there may be a quarterback controversy. On Saturday, DeVito made sure to end those rumors. It is his job.
Running Backs: A-
The Orange may have found their running back of the future. Sean Tucker put on a show against Georgia Tech last weekend. The true freshman rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. He looked explosive in the backfield and was very decisive when challenged. To put it simply, Tucker didn’t look like a true freshman. You may not have known his name going into the season, but you should probably learn it because he will be around for a while.
The one issue with the running backs is besides Tucker, no one else stepped up. Granted, Tucker was getting the bulk of the snaps, but Jawhar Jordan and Markenzy Pierre were pretty much nonexistent. Dino Babers usually likes to use multiple backs and swap them in and out, so those two will have to step it up a bit to help out Tucker.
Pass Catchers: B
Helloooo Nykeim Johnson, glad to have you with us. The senior who has been overshadowed throughout his Syracuse career, finally garnered the spotlight last weekend. He caught four balls for 87 yards, including a 43 yard touchdown. The Orange desperately needed help on the outside, so Johnson’s performance was comforting. Taj Harris wasn’t too shabby either. Plus, the tight ends were actually thrown to and caught passes!! Both Aaron Hackett and Luke Benson made receptions against Georgia Tech. They still need to be targeted more, but it’s a start.
Offensive Line: B
Through the first two weeks of the season, the Syracuse offensive line was the worst in the entire FBS. It allowed seven sacks per game and was on pace to give up 77 on the year. Well, the Orange aren’t on that pace anymore. Against Georgia Tech, the O-line only allowed one sack. Plus, they paved the way for 163 rushing yards, a season-high for the Orange. There are obviously still worries about the unit, but it showed improvement this week.
Defensive Line: B
For starters, the defensive line had an interception on Saturday. That’s something you don’t hear every day. Josh Black came down with a tipped ball for his first career INT. On the other hand, they did allow 275 rushing yards and only recorded one sack. There were flashes against the Yellow Jackets, but there were also some low points. The D-line wasn’t disappointing, but there is definitely still some room for improvement.
I am all in on Mikel Jones and Geoff Cantin-Arku. These two youngsters have been impressive in the middle of the defense. They combined for 12 tackles against Georgia Tech and each hit the QB twice. The linebacker unit was a worry heading into the season, but have since silenced the doubters.
Despite no Andre Cisco, the Syracuse secondary looked fantastic against Georgia Tech. Ja’Had Carter, Rob Hanna, and Trill Williams all had interceptions. Plus, Williams and Garrett Williams tallied two pass breakups each. The new 3-3-5 defensive scheme has been working beautifully with this talented secondary. They play fast, they play aggressive, and they will make you regret your mistakes.
Special Teams: B-
Where did the Lou Groza Award winner go? Andre Szmyt won an award for being the best kicker in the entire country as a freshman, but this year he can barely make a field goal. Against Georgia Tech, the junior missed a field goal and a PAT. What stinks about Szmyt’s underwhelming play is the fact that it is bringing down the special teams grade, despite Nolan Cooney being an elite punter. Cooney was locked in against the Yellow Jackets, putting one ball within the 20, averaging 49 yards per punt, and having no touchbacks. Wow, he is so good.