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Credit the Syracuse defense for this win

This game was a 12:30pm start. It was just after noon and we were in the parking lot finishing up our last beers & cleaning up our tailgate before trekking up the Hill to get to the Dome for kickoff. Turns out, we could have tailgated another two hours, and not missed a thing. Neither team scored in the first half -- something that defensive-minded Head Coach Scott Shafer thought was "sexy." Out of the locker room, Syracuse was able to put up 13 in the third quarter, which is all the scoring this game ended up seeing. Syracuse wins 13-0, advancing to a 4-4 record (2-2 ACC) and two wins away from bowl eligibility.

Some may call this grade harsh (like probably BH, who would've given them a solid B probably), but let's face it, overall they played average. Not putting anything on the scoreboard for three of the four quarters isn't exactly good offense. Terrel Hunt had a decent 18-30 passing day for 144 yards; he also ran the ball ten times for a net gain of 36 yards, and scored the game's first touchdown from six yards out. Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith again split the majority of the rushes, combining for 147 yards net. As a team, Syracuse passed for 169 yards and rushed for 183. Clearly the play of the game was the reverse to Jarrod West, who faked a run and instead threw to a wide open Brisly Estime in the end zone for the touchdown. He caught it right below my seats in section 215, I had a great view of it. It was a greatly designed play, and props to the players for executing it. Sadly, it couldn't create any more offensive momentum for the rest of the game.

I teetered between A and A+ for this grade, but settled on the A+. They held a conference opponent scoreless for the entire game. They allowed only 173 yards passing, and held Wake to an abysmal 25 yards rushing. Not a typo. 25 yards. This was absolutely the key to the game. The defense also produced three QB sacks, and Isaiah Johnson came up with the big interception that led to Syracuse scoring on the trick play. I don't think you can ask your defense to do much else, especially when your offense really isn't explosive.

Special Teams
Syracuse punted 11 times for 442 yards -- but of note, three were punts of 50 yards or more, and three were pinned inside the Wake Forest 20. In a back and forth battle of field position, you need your punting team to step up and play like that. With Ryan Norton suspended for the game, Syracuse attempted no field goals, and went 1-2 on extra points.

Most of the credit here goes to the defensive game plan to stop the Wake run and get tackles for losses, and for the designed reverse run fake to pass for a touchdown. Other than that, the offensive game plan left much to be desired. Still, though, a win is a win.

B (2.925)
It wasn't necessarily pretty (especially if you like scoring), but a win is a win and you really have to feel good about the way the defense played. Granted, Wake Forest contributed to its own incompetence, but Syracuse exploited it.

It should also be noted that Syracuse honored legendary quarterback Donovan McNabb during a halftime ceremony, and his #5 jersey now hangs in the Carrier Dome rafters. DNabb thinks Hunt will be a really good quarterback next year. Let's hope so! But before we talk about next year, we have a game coming up against departing ACC member Maryland, with an opportunity to get one game closer to bowl eligibility.

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