Jerome Smith scores two touchdowns as Syracuse pulls off big ACC win at Maryland

The Orange defense did not give up a touchdown for the second straight week in hard-fought 20-3 victory.

On its first possession Saturday against Maryland, Syracuse marched down the field, burning nearly eight minutes off the clock. Running back Jerome Smith capped off the 16-play, 80-yard drive by plowing into the end zone for the game’s first score.

Things didn’t unfold quite as smoothly for the Orange offense the rest of the game, but its defense made sure the early 7-0 lead hold firm. Syracuse (5-4, 3-2 ACC) forced four Maryland (5-4, 1-4 ACC) turnovers and rode a potent defensive effort to a convincing 20-3 victory on a blustery afternoon in front of an announced 37, 231 at Byrd Stadium.

Photo: Tim Drummond/The Diamondback
Free safety Durell Eskridge intercepts C.J. Browns pass in SU's 20-3 victory over Maryland.

Syracuse, who sits one win away of bowl eligibility, won the turnover battle, 4-2, and outgained the Terrapins 382-293, including beating Maryland 242-81 on the ground.

“If we’re plus-one [on turnovers] and run the ball for 50 yards or more we’re going to win that game 90 some odd percent of the time,” Head Coach Scott Shafer said. “That’s the formula we’re going to work at and the kids understand that.”

Behind Smith and quarterback Terrel Hunt, the Syracuse offense produced enough to keep distance from the Terps. Smith carried the 28 times for 118 yards and two scores, while Hunt finished 15-of-24 through the air for 140 yards and added 67 rushing yards.

Smith’s 21-yard touchdown run with 10:33 remaining in the third quarter served as the backbreaking blow, putting the Orange ahead 20-3. Hunt had a 29-yard run to set up Smith’s score, once again proving capable of making plays with his feet.

“Terrel just moved his feet well,” Shafer said. “Nothing outside of the ordinary, though, just ended up being a pretty productive day for him.”

After the Orange’s first possession, both teams fell into patterns of sloppy play. At one point in the first half, four straight possessions ended in turnovers and neither team scored for about 22 minutes of game time.

While Maryland never recovered from its miscues, Syracuse was able to gather itself and settle. SU finally scored again when it took advantage of a Terps’ fumble late in the second quarter by setting Ryan Norton up for a 34-yard field goal that put the team up 10-0 entering halftime.

“We’ll go out there and play and keep playing,” Hunt said. “It shows that our team has a lot of heart.”

 The Orange defense continued to stymie Maryland in the second half, and the Terps never put much of a dent into the Syracuse lead. The Terps only score, Brad Craddock’s 23-yard field goal late in the third quarter, came on a drive in which the Orange committed three defensive penalties.

When the field was clear of yellow flags, however, Maryland had little success against Syracuse’s defense. Ritchy Desir led the Orange with 11 total tackles, while Julian Whigham and Durell Eskridge both snagged interceptions.

After giving up 56 points to Georgia Tech, the Syracuse defense has allowed just three combined points in their past two games.

“There was a lot of doubters of there, but we never doubted ourselves,” Shafer said. “I’m so pleased with what the defensive side of the ball has done.”

Thanks to that stellar defensive effort, the Orange didn’t need any insurance after the long drive to begin the game. Next week, the team travels to Florida State, though, where Jameis Winston and the Seminoles will present an entirely different caliber of challenge.

But the Orange defense is rolling. So despite Florida State’s firepower, Jerome Smith warns against counting Syracuse out.

“Our defense is awesome man,” Smith said. “They’re doing a great job. Almost a second shutout that would have been amazing for us, but they’re helping us out a lot.”


Aaron Kasinitz is an assistant sports editor at The Diamondback.

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