Mistakes, lackluster offense ruin solid defensive effort as Syracuse loses their Dome opener 17-7

Orange Nation

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — In week 1, Rutgers and Syracuse combined for 90 points. Fast forward seven days and the two failed to notch a single score in the opening half.  

Syracuse’s defense continued to play great. Led by Mikel Jones and his seven solo tackles (two for a loss), but just like games in Syracuse-past, the defense wasn’t given much help. 

The ‘Cuse despite having more yards and yards-per-play, also had more penalties and more turnovers in an uneventful 17-7 loss at home. 

The offense failed to move the ball during stretches against Rutgers and two normally stable things let them down Saturday: special teams and their head coach. 

Dino Babers was assessed a drive-continuing penalty in the third quarter leading to a Rutgers touchdown. Add in a blocked punt, a couple of special teams penalties and an eight-yard punt from the backup punter, Syracuse made things harder for themselves in week two. 

And just when things appeared to have moved back into SU’s favor, after a missed FG attempt from Rutgers, DeVito was sacked and fumbled, setting up a short field for the opposition. The defense held strong as the Scarlet Knights settled for a field goal and a ten-point lead. 

By then the offense was out of steam. A three-and-out followed by a time-draining drive late in the quarter drained the energy from ‘The Loud House’ and started the time-honored tradition of fans heading for the exits early to beat traffic. 

The first half was a combination of bad luck and bad penalties for Syracuse. A first quarter fumble from wide receiver Taj Harris, which should have been overturned after looking at it on replay, stood after a video review and ended the best Syracuse scoring threat of the quarter. 

After key defensive stops, which included Mikel Jones wreaking havoc in the backfield on a 4th and short play for Rutgers in the second quarter, Syracuse turned to Garret Shrader for the final three drives of the first half. 

The transfer from Mississippi State appeared a bit rusty on his first two drives, but led an impressive, but oddly also uncomfortable drive for SU, which featured cross body throws for first downs and a fumbled rollout attempt. 

Syracuse settled for a 43-yard field goal attempt from Andre Szmyt, but the former Lou Groza Award winner pulled it left to keep the game scoreless heading into the break.  

In the third quarter, emotions ran high for head coach Dino Babers. Following offsetting calls that was supposed to lead to a 3rd and long for the Scarlet Knights, Babers was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, giving Rutgers the automatic first down. Kyle Monangai wasted no time on scoring with an 11-yard TD the very next play. 

With DeVito back at quarterback in the second half, the three-year starter found Harris for a 50-yard reception. Sean Tucker, after rushing for a career-high 181 yards last week, fell a little bit back to earth in week 2, but supplied the Dome with energy on a 24-yard touchdown to tie the game. 

Before the end of the quarter, in a rare defensive lapse from the Orange, Rutgers used a six-play 41-yard drive, capped off by a 30-yard pass from Vedral to Jovani Haskins to make it a 14-7 game. 

DeVito played similarly to last week. The redshirt-junior threw for 149 yards and one interception while running for 43 yards. Taj Harris caught eight balls for 122 yards in the loss. 

Syracuse, now 1-1 this season, is home again next week when they host Albany at noon. 

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