Syracuse survives terrible defensive third quarter in 55-42 win

first_imgEskridge burst down the sideline for 21 yards and a touchdown. In 40 seconds, with less than a minute gone in the third quarter, the Broncos had gotten one score back.After the game, when asked about the third quarter, SU head coach Dino Babers started to say he was frustrated, then paused.“I’m not going to say the word ‘frustrated.’ I was disappointed,” he said. “Because we talked about this at halftime: what we needed to do to put the game away. We went out and did the exact opposite in the game.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAfter smothering the Broncos for the better part of 30 minutes, Syracuse’s defense allowed 336 yards and 28 points in the third quarter. Save for a four-play drive that ended in a punt, the four Broncos’ possessions yielding touchdowns took, altogether, 3:26 and 12 plays. Complacency, a loss of control and an absent pass rush kept the door open wide enough for Western Michigan to elbow its way back into a would-be blowout.But after almost bleeding a 27-point lead to nothing, Syracuse (1-0) restored authority over the contest, outlasting Western Michigan (0-1), 55-42, at Waldo Stadium on Friday night.“Defense or offense,” defensive lineman Kendall Coleman said, “it only takes a couple of plays to get the ball rolling.”After an SU 3-and-out and trading punts, Western Michigan started a drive pinned at its 5-yard line. Two plays and 11 yards later, the Broncos lined up from their own 16. With two receivers out left, a wingback, tailback and a receiver wide right, Wassink took the snap and dropped back. He took one step and heaved a pass 45 yards down the field. Syracuse defensive backs Scoop Bradshaw and Andre Cisco sprinted to the landing spot, poised to intercept the pass when Eskridge glided between the two, hauled in the pass and dashed into the end zone.Western Michigan’s two ensuing drives followed a similar pattern: Chunk plays getting the Broncos into the end zone. Fewer than nine minutes into the quarter, Syracuse’s lead had shrunk to six.“They kept on throwing it ‘deep-deep,’” safety Evan Foster said. “My first thoughts were, ‘They’re about to run the deep post behind me.”Wassink and Eskridge’s flourishing connection stemmed from SU’s lack of a pass rush, defensive end Kendall Coleman said. The Orange’s pass rushers simply didn’t win one-on-one matchups, Coleman said. And though it didn’t matter much in the first half, giving Wassink the time to stand in the pocket and steadily dissect the defense, Coleman said, set the Broncos up for key halftime adjustments.  “They came out running different plays,” Coleman said, “and we weren’t quite ready to adjust to it.”Cornerback Scoop Bradshaw, whose main assignment was covering Eskridge, said the scout on the receiver — and running back LeVante Bellamy, who gashed the Orange repeatedly — centered around game-breaking speed. In response, Bradshaw played soft coverage. On a play when Bradshaw left more than 10 yards of cushion, Eskridge simply ran away from him for a 59-yard completion.Bradshaw was also expecting more safety help over the top, mainly from freshman Andre Cisco. But Cisco was often out of position or beat by Eskridge’s speed himself.Further, Coleman said, there was a general lack of urgency and focus from the Orange during halftime. Safety Evan Foster went further, saying during the week he wasn’t as focused as he should’ve been and there was a certain sense of security.“We weren’t really mentally prepared,” Foster said. “(We weren’t) mentally in the game, really.”As the game unraveled before them, the defense knew it was, to some degree, letting it happen, Coleman said. Starting quarterback Eric Dungey came back in, and SU started trading touchdowns with WMU.The defense wanted to make its play, and to seize back the control it had in the first half.On the first play of the fourth quarter, Wassink rolled right and looked downfield. He didn’t see the hit coming, nor did he see Kielan Whitner standing right where he threw the ball. A 20-yard interception return and a 27-yard touchdown scamper from Dungey later, and Syracuse had survived its woeful third quarter. KALAMAZOO, Mich. — It only took two plays for Western Michigan to get the spark of life it needed out of halftime. After a Ravian Pierce fumble on the first play from the scrimmage gifted the Broncos possession at midfield, the offense that finished the first half with as many first downs as interceptions — one — went on the attack. Standing in the shotgun at his own 42, WMU quarterback Jon Wassink dropped back and delivered a 37-yard strike to Jayden Reed. The next play, Wassink dropped back again. This time, he instantly looked left and linked up with his favorite target: D’Wayne Eskridge. Comments Published on September 1, 2018 at 12:55 am Contact Andrew: aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Graham Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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