Maryland Provides Syracuse With Reality Check
The buzz around the Syracuse football team was palpable. Expectations were high and excitement levels were even higher. In 2018, the Orange won ten games for the first time in seventeen years. They had come into the 2019 college football season at No. 22 in the Associated Press Top-25, and had shutout the Liberty Flames 24-0 in Week One. Syracuse's week two date with Maryland did not lack signifcance, but many Orange faithful had their sights set on week three, Syracuse's home opener against top-ranked Clemson, and a rematch of Syracuse's dome-storming upset victory two years ago.
Dino Babers summed up week two as well as anyone: "This is definitely humble pie."
To say Maryland provided a reality check would be understating it, as the Terrapins toppled the Orange 63-20 on Saturday afternoon. The Maryland defense held Syracuse to just three yards and a punt on the game's opening series. Syracuse's defense did not return the favor. Terrapin quarterback Josh Jackson (21-38, 296 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) orchestrated an immaculate opening drive. After going 3-3 for 63 yards and finding Tyler Mabry in the end zone, Jackson gave Maryland a lead they would not surrender all game.
Down just one touchdown in the opening frame, it was still anybody's game. After a three and out to open the game, Syracuse finally moved the chains with a 10-yard Moe Neal run. That was quickly forgotten after a false start and two incompletions resulted in a 3rd and 15 on the Syracuse 30 yard-line. Down 7-0 facing a third and long deep in their own territory, this was a critical juncture for the new-look Orange offense facing its first real test of the year. The Terrapin defense brought pressure. Tommy DeVito left the pocket, trying to make something happen with his feet. The Terps got to him, and ended up with the football at Syracuse's 32 yard-line after recovering a DeVito fumble. Maryland would score two minutes later, going up 14-0 and punctuating the fumble recovery.
Tommy DeVito (28-39, 330 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT) had a decent day for Syracuse, but threw his third interception in two games and was sacked four times. After managing just 17 completions on 35 attempts for only 176 yards in the opener, the heir to Eric Dungey is testing the patience of Orange Nation.
One positive takeaway from Syracuse's offense is Trishton Jackson. The 6-1 receiver out of West Bloomfield, Michigan joined the Orange last season as a redshirt junior after transferring from Michigan State. Making his debut with a touchdown catch in the 2018 Camping World Bowl, Jackson added two more touchdowns and 157 yards on seven catches against Maryland.
The jury is still out on the Orange defense. After forcing four turnovers, producing eight sacks, and blanking Liberty in the opener, they looked like a shell of themselves at College Park this weekend. Maryland went 11-15 on third down and reached the end zone on seven of their first eight possessions. After allowing negative four yards of rushing against Liberty, the Orange defense was torched for 354 rushing yards against the Terps.
Syracuse has a lot to prove on both sides of the ball, and Week Three is as good an opportunity as any. The Orange will make their Dome Debut this Saturday at 7:30 against the No. 1 Clemson Tigers, hoping to replicate the result of two years ago, but more importantly, figure out their identity as a football team.