The Syracuse Orange football squad had not won a road contest in the Big East Conference since back on November 13th, 2010. They did not get any closer this week, losing to the team they had originally beaten on the road, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, by a score of 23-15.
In the first quarter, the Syracuse defense forced two punts, showing their continued evolution, but did give up a rushing touchdown to Scarlet Knights’ running back Jawan Jamison.
The Orange offense came out in this game as they left the Pittsburgh game, not posing a threat to Rutgers outside of the first few quick plays of their opening drive. Syracuse punted twice in the first quarter and were on the wrong side of an early deficit, 7-0, going into the second quarter.
In that quarter, the Orange continued their drive from the end of the first, giving Ross Krautman his first opportunity for a field goal in more than two weeks, an attempt he missed from 50 yards away, resulting in a turnover on downs. Krautman has now missed every field goal attempt he has taken this season from 40 or more yards away.
Back came the defense to keep the game within reach for Syracuse, as they have done in the past few matches, forcing two punts to keep Rutgers scoreless in the quarter.
Syracuse’s offense sputtered and punted after getting the ball back again, but got on the board before the half when running back Adonis Ameen-Moore was asked once again to take the ball over the threshold from inside the five. Moore’s touchdown brought the game back to an even contest going into halftime.
The Orange received the ball to start the second half, but failed to score on the initial drive or any thereafter in the quarter. Their three drives resulted, respectively, in a blocked field goal attempt that was returned for a touchdown, a fumble, and a punt. The defense continued to remain strong despite little help from the offense, making Rutgers settle for a field goal despite being close to the Syracuse end zone.
Down 17-7, Syracuse entered the final period playing from behind but still had the game within reach.
In the fourth quarter, the Orange offense continued to falter, fumbling once again, followed by an interception off a pass from quarterback Ryan Nassib and then a turnover on downs.
Defensively, Syracuse was beaten in a lack of coverage on Rutgers’ tight end Tyler Kroft, who caught a pass over the middle from quarterback Gary Nova, turning in for a touchdown to extend the lead to 23-7 in favor of the hometown Scarlet Knights.
The offense made a late push, as they did on the road this season against Minnesota, with a drive that shortened the game to a one-possession opportunity for a potential Orange comeback. Wide receiver Christopher Clark caught a pass that his defender tried to intercept. After the catch, Clark turned on the jets for what became a 40-yard touchdown. Nassib threw over the middle to wide receiver Marcus Sales to complete the two-point conversion, shortening the deficit to eight points, 23-15.
Rutgers was forced by the Syracuse defense to punt on the next three drives after their touchdown and, then, to turn the ball over on downs.
But the defense failed to answer and the game ended with Syracuse eight points shy of attaining their first Big East road win in almost two years, due to two of the three wheels of the Orange tricycle falling off, keeping the team from riding out of Rutgers with a win.
Offensively, the Orange scored on two of their 14 opportunities. “We had a chance to make some plays and get it close early,” Marrone expressed. “That has been the problem since I’ve been here. We’ve been hurting ourselves.”
“We have to stop turning the ball over,” Marrone continued. “It’s very, very simple. Are you going to have some drops? Sometimes you will, depending on coverage and the guy hitting you. Are you going to have some fumbles? I’d like to say yes, on a good hit, I can understand that. But laying the ball on the ground and throwing the ball where we were throwing it at times, it’s just very, very difficult to overcome at this point in time where we are as a program.”
The Syracuse special teams’ unit continued to put together a subpar performance, being more detrimental to the team than anything. “At the end of the day, we didn’t get it done on two of those plays…We talk to the players all the time. It’s not four out of six. It’s six out of six,” said Marrone, referring to the blocked field goal and fumble on a punt return by running back Steve Rene. “However many plays you have to make, you have to make.”
Defensively, Syracuse continued to move in the right direction, allowing three scores on 13 attempts by the Rutgers’ offense. They continue to improve in their rush defense, keeping the Big East Conference’s leading rusher, Jamison, under 100 rushing yards in a game for the first time this season.