COLLEGE PARK, MD – Syracuse was led by a stifling defense for the second week in a row as the Orange picked up a road 20-3 win at Maryland on Saturday. The defense forced four turnovers, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, on their way to allowing only three points just one week after a shutout victory.
While Syracuse was only able to turn those four turnovers into six points, it more was more than enough for defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough's group who continue to play solid in all three levels.
"If we're plus one and rush for 50, we're going to have a shot to win that game 90 some-odd percent of the time," head coach Scott Shafer said. "Those are ones we're always going to work at and the kids understand that. Real pleased. I thought coach (Chuck) Bullough, coach (Tim) Daoust, coach (Clark) Lea and coach (Fred) Reed did a great job getting the defense prepared to play a couple weeks in a row."
The tone was set early in the game by each team's first possession. Syracuse, which had previously struggled on their opening position this season, marched 80-yards on 16-plays for the game's first score. The Orange converted on two fourth down tries, including the one yard touchdown run by Jerome Smith who finished with 118-yards on the ground and two scores.
"We knew what we had to do," quarterback Terrel Hunt said. "We knew we had to come out of the gate and fix a few things. We got the tempo going and got the ball first. It was really just everyone on the same page and knowing what they had to do."
Maryland tried to respond on their first chance, and appeared to be on the way to doing just that. But on third and five from the Syracuse 41, Dyshawn Davis came on a delayed blitz and sacked Terrapins quarterback C.J. Brown for a loss of 13.
The pressure by Davis was a theme for the Orange linebackers, who blitzed and wreaked havoc in the Maryland backfield all game. Marquis Spruill pressured Brown on numerous occasions, and was a force against the run. Davis was nearly unblockable all game, while Cam Lynch also got into the mix including a fumble recovery on Maryland's first second half possession.
The unit helped led the defense to three sacks, seven tackles for loss, five forced fumbles (two recovered) and four forced turnovers.
The Syracuse defense kept the Orange in the lead after both teams missed opportunities in opponents' territory. Durrel Eskridge, who left the game with an upper body injury, had an interception in the end zone. Julian Whigham, who was solid in coverage all game, picked off a Brown pass deep in Syracuse territory. p>The passing attack continued to struggle for Syracuse, as Hunt managed only 140-yards through the air, including an interception on a poorly thrown ball, on 15-24 passing. He was able to make plays with his feet, including a 29-yard run that set up Smith's touchdown. But the defense was the difference for the second week in a row, even when the offense could not take advantage of miscues by the Terrapins.
Leading 13-0 late in the third quarter, Maryland was aided by several Syracuse penalties to give them their best scoring chance of the contest. The Orange defense stood strong again, and forced the Terrapins into a short field goal. Maryland managed only 81-yards on the ground on the night, averaging only 2.3 yards per carry.
The Orange, on the other hand, were strong on the ground as they racked up over 240-yards at a clip 5.4 yards per tote. One of the bigger carries was Jerome Smith's 21-yard scamper, which iced the game less than five minutes into the final frame.
"It was nice to grit it up and play the old hardnosed football like Floyd (Little) played," Shafer said. "Not be afraid to go for it on fourth and one or two. Just run that power play. Run that inside zone play and feel good about it."
The win improves the Orange to 5-4 on the season (3-2 in ACC play). Syracuse next faces Florida State on Saturday, November 16th at 3:30pm in Doak Campbell Stadium.