SU fails to handle USC passing game

The Syracuse football team could not stop the Trojans aerial attack, losing, 38-17.


On a day with reports of Syracuse University heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference, a Pacific-12 offense gave the Orange more than they could handle.

Syracuse’s banged-up secondary could not contain the USC passing attack Saturday night, as the Orange fell 38-17 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Syracuse offense was held to 331 total yards, and USC quarterback Matt Barkley threw for 324 yards and a school-record five touchdowns (his third time passing for five scores).

Photo: McKenzie Carlile
Jeremiah Kobena secures the ball as a USC defender gets ahold of him at Saturday night's game against USC.

Starting strong safety Shamarko Thomas and cornerback Keon Lyn both suffered injuries in the game, allowing Barkley to attack the Orange deep with touchdown passes of 44 and 43 yards in the second half to put the game out of reach.

“We just got caught up in some matchups and some coverages and they had some good route combinations for that,” Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone said. “Credit to [USC], they made plays and we weren’t able to do it. We did have young guys and guys moving in and out, but we were ready for that.”

The Orange (2-1) started strong, opening up the contest with a 3-0 lead on a 70-yard scoring drive, one in which quarterback Ryan Nassib completed eight straight passes.

“We came out of the tunnel, got the ball first, and were just ready to go,” Nassib said about the opening drive. “It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to score a touchdown.”

Nassib began the game 11-for-11 passing before his first incompletion, making for 22 straight completions dating back to the previous week’s game against Rhode Island. That completion streak came just a bit short of the FBS record of 26 held by former California QB Aaron Rodgers.

“I was just getting the ball out, making quick reads and just trying to move the ball,” Nassib said.

USC responded immediately to Syracuse’s score with a 66-yard touchdown drive, the start of 24 unanswered points to give the Trojans a lead that they would not relinquish.

Trojans wide receiver Robert Woods hurt the Orange defense in several ways in the second quarters. Woods started a USC drive by running for 14 yards on an end around, and then drew a pass interference penalty a play later to put the Trojans in Syracuse territory.

Woods finished off the drive by pulling in a 31-yard touchdown pass from Barkley to put the Trojans up 14-3. A 26-yard Andre Heidari field goal gave USC a 17-3 lead heading into halftime.

The Orange offense failed to establish much of a ground game, with running back Antwon Bailey gaining just 47 yards on 11 carries.

After USC started the second half with a 44-yard TD pass to a wide open Randall Telfer to go up 24-3, Syracuse coach Marrone focused on trying to recover some points with his passing game.

“I felt that we did get some good push and some good movement in the run game,” Marrone said. “But sometimes when things get out of hand, we need to throw it a little bit. We got caught being behind.”

Some trickery by Marrone kept the game close after USC took their 24-3 lead. The Orange scored their first touchdown of the game when receiver Alec Lemon connected on a 28-yard pass to Van Chew. Lemon is the first non-quarterback to throw a TD pass for Syracuse since Kevin Johnson did so in 1997.

“Chew made a great play on it,” said Lemon, who played some quarterback in high school and noted that the play was drawn up on Monday. “It was a bad ball, and everyone was joking around with me. But a touchdown is a touchdown.”

USC and Syracuse proceeded to trade punts, but the Barkley’s offense followed up with a 4-minute, 14-second scoring drive. The march down the field was capped off by receiver Marqise Lee torching Orange cornerback Brandon Reddish for a 43-yard touchdown to go up 31-10.

Marrone had nothing but compliments for the Trojans quarterback and a USC offense that converted 10 of 14 third downs.

“I thought he was a great player coming into the game and I think he’s a great player after the game,” Marrone said of USC’s junior quarterback.

Nassib was one of the lone bright spots for the Orange, finishing the game 25-for-37 for 230 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Nick Provo pulled in eight passes for 85 yards (both career highs), and Lemon had seven catches for 72 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown reception in the 4th quarter.

The Trojans’ defense recorded three sacks on Nassib, cueing up the USC band to play Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” for each one.

“They dialed up more pressure and did some things we hadn’t seen,” Nassib said.

Phillip Thomas led the Orange with 11 tackles on the night, and Deon Goggins’ six tackles included two for loss.

After a tough road defeat, Marrone did not have much to say about the very likely possibility that the Syracuse program will hit the road to the ACC.

“My responsibility is to get the football team ready,” Marrone said. “I’ll let other people handle those [conference] decisions.”



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