'Cuse Football comes up short in Death Valley

The Orange got within two in the fourth quarter, but couldn't tame the LSU Tigers.

BATON ROUGE, La. – ‘Cuse wasn’t the “new fast” tonight, No. 25 LSU was.

Nine seconds into the game, LSU running back Derrius Guice scored from one-yard out after Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey opened the game with an interception. Fifteeen seconds into the second half, LSU quarterback Danny Etling connected with Drake Davis for an 87-yard touchdown.

Where it seemed out of reach at first, Syracuse marched back to get within two points of the Tigers. It was too little, too late for the Orange and the upset in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Lousiana — known simply as Death Valley —  slipped through its hands.

Photo: Jonathan Singh

In the first quarter, Syracuse held LSU to only 15 yards of total offense and 4:49 time of possession. The front seven for the Orange didn’t give Etling a lot of time in the pocket, and LSU’s rushing game picked up in the second half, totaling 151 rushing yards in the game.  

There was a missed opportunity by the Orange in the second quarter. Wide receiver Sean Riley dropped a pass in the end zone while he was wide open with just under nine minutes to play in the first half. After a defensive chess match, LSU broke through with 1:15 left to play in the second quarter. Etling hooked up Stephen Sullivan for a 43-yard touchdown. Sullivan’s touchdown capped a six-play drive for 71 yards.

Down by 11 to start the second half, Davis silenced the Syracuse fans. On the first play of the third quarter, Etling heaved a deep throw to Davis for an 87-yard touchdown to take a 21-3 lead.

Early in the game, the Orange tried a double pass play with Dungey and Devin Butler that gave Dungey a 13-yard reception. Syracuse responded to LSU’s quick second half touchdown with another Butler trick play, this time to wide receiver Ervin Philips from 30-yards out to cut the deficit to eleven.

In the middle of the third quarter, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron decided to pull Etling and put in true freshman quarterback Myles Brennan. His second pass was a 43-yard pass to running back Darrel Williams. Immediately after, Williams ran it in for a 20-yard touchdown to give the Tigers a 28-10 lead. Another six-play drive, but this time for 91 yards.

Syracuse punter Sterling Hofrichter did a great job pinning LSU deep in its own territory. He averaged 46.7 yards per punt and pinned five of his seven punts inside LSU’s 20-yard line. A punt to LSU’s one-yard line set up an Orange safety with Paris Bennett tackling Williams in the end zone.

The Orange then put together an impressive 10-play drive for 72 yards in 3:16 led by Dungey, who ran in the next touchdown himself to put the Orange within 10 points. Syracuse decided to then kick the extra point, instead of going for two and potentially getting within one possession.

“Point are so hard to come by,” head coach Dino Babers said regarding his decision to kick the extra point.

Redshirt junior defensive back Juwan Dowels was getting picked on most of the game by LSU’s speedy wide receivers. Brennan and the Tigers put together a promising drive in 4:26 with 47 yards in nine plays. But, Dowels picked off the young gunnin’ Brennan with 10:41 left in the fourth quarter -  LSU’s first turnover of the entire season.

A scary moment in the fourth quarter occurred when Dungey took a run to midfield and slid to the ground, but a LSU player’s knee his him in the head. He went down for a few seconds but got back up very frustrated, throwing his helmet.  

“We got to be healthy,” Babers said. “It’s going to be a long road.”

Nonetheless, the Orange went 80 yards in 13 plays which ended in a 22 yard catch in the end zone by Steve Ishmael. That score put the Orange down 28-26 with 5:39 left to play. A very methodical drive by ‘Cuse, but a decision to onside kick the ball started LSU off at its 44-yard line.

That methodical drive, however, wasn’t enough. LSU used 3:47 of the clock and drove 56 yards down the field that ended with a DJ Chark touchdown.

Even though the Orange gave LSU a hard-fought game, Coach Babers wasn’t satisfied with the performance.

“We just lost a game,” Babers said. “I don’t know if you can turn a corner when you lose.”

The Syracuse Orange (2-2, 0-0) travel to NC State (3-1, 1-0) next weekend to kickoff ACC play. NC State is coming off an impressive 27-21 win against No. 12 Florida State.

“I want to win,” Dungey said.” That’s all I want to do.”

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