Syracuse falls to Rutgers in 2OT

Missteps and mistakes rule the day for Syracuse football as the team drops its first game in Big East Conference play, 19-16.

The game started ominously for the Syracuse University football team when Antwon Bailey, the running back who had been downright dominant against Toledo last week, fumbled on the opening offensive play of the game.

Though there would be some bright spots during the day, it was the miscues—a blocked extra point and field goal attempt, three interceptions, including one near the goal-line, and a game-ending fumble—that defined the Orange’s play Saturday.

Photo: David Trotman-Wilkins
Rutgers WR #6 Mohamed Sanu is tackled by SU LB #11 Marquis Spruill during the 2nd quarter at the Carrier Dome.

The mistakes were simply too much for SU to overcome as they lost to the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers in double overtime, 19-16. The loss drops SU to 3-2 in the season and 0-1 in Big East Conference play.  

“We didn’t take advantage of opportunity,” head coach Doug Marrone said. “We’re not good enough not to do that.”

It’s not like the Orange didn’t have chances to execute. On one series, the team drove to the goal line, only to have a pass from Ryan Nassib to a slanting Kyle Foster deflect and end up in the hands of Rutgers safety David Rowe, who returned the ball 28 more yards before Zack Chibane dragged him down. On another play, Phillip Thomas dropped an interception that probably would have given him a clear path to the end zone. Also, after driving deep into Rutgers territory, SU had their field goal blocked. The Scarlet Knights scored on the ensuing possession. 

“I’m not going to stand up here and say it was our offense’s, defense’s or special team's fault,” defensive end Mikhail Marinovich said. “If they (Rutgers) don’t score, they don’t win.”

Marinovich’s play was a bright spot for the Orange, as the senior registered two sacks and a forced fumble. Then again, the entire defense had an inspired effort against the team from Piscataway, N.J., recovering three fumbles, grabbing an interception and chasing the starting quarterback from the game.

Despite his dropped interception, Thomas kept his hands on another throw by quarterback Chas Dodd, registering his third pick of the season. Jeremi Wilkes set a career-high with nine tackles. Kevyn Scott, the hero last week, played a major role in shutting down wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, Rutgers' main offensive weapon.

Plus, even with their injury problems, cornerbacks Keon Lyn and Ri’Shard Anderson helped stifle Rutgers' offense. Despite a cast on his hand, Lyn successfully defended against deep passes and Anderson scored the first touchdown for the Orange by scooping up a fumble forced by Dyshawn Davis and running 66 yards into the end zone.

It would be fair to say that Davis had an impressive game, as the freshman finished with six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. The entire linebacker corps contributed immensely on defense. Cameron Lynch and Marquis Spruill registered five tackles apiece while Dan Vaughan registered a career-high of 15. Walk-on Dom Anene also recorded a sacked in the second overtime.

“Before the game, we sat down and we had a talk that this was going to be a statement, that this was our game,” Davis said. “This was the game for us and we were going to come out and play 110 percent.”

Offensively, the team saw Nick Provo with with a more involved role. The senior tight end finished the game with four catches for 50 yards, moving him into sole possession of second place on Syracuse’s list of career receptions by a tight end.

“He’s doing a lot of things well,” Marrone said.  “He’s playing hard, he’s playing banged up, now he’s a banged up player for us. So he’s done a very good job, he’s been very productive.”

Unfortunately, other players on the offense weren’t as successful as Provo. Van Chew finished the game with only one catch for nine yards, his lowest on the season. Bailey, despite his touchdown and 124 yards rushing, fumbled twice during the game, both at critical junctures.

Nassib, the quarterback who had been cruising through the first four games, couldn’t find a rhythm against the Scarlet Knights. He only threw for 169 yards in this game, his lowest total this season. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw three interceptions, the last of which nearly led to a last-second field goal by Rutgers.

“I’m very disappointed," Nassib said of the game. "Any loss is disappointing. You can’t win a game when I throw three interceptions.”

Even with the Syracuse mistakes, Rutgers saw multiple errors from its own team. Kicker San San Te missed three attempts, including one with only six seconds remaining on the game clock. Despite throwing for 232 yards and three touchdowns, quarterback Dodd was benched at halftime for true freshman Gary Nova. Sanu, the ballyhooed receiver who had 16 catches last week, only had seven for 65 yards today.

Rutgers' defense allowed 124 yards rushing by Bailey. The Scarlet Knights couldn’t get the ground game going, finishing with just five yards.

Despite Rutgers' advantages in time of possession and first downs, only three points separated the Big East rivals. 

But if you ask Ryan Nassib, he knows exactly how many points Syracuse left on the field against the Scarlet Knights.

“Too many.”


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