Miami has had some issues throughout the season getting the momentum going early, and today was the end of that drought. They scored 13 points in the first 20 minutes of the game and weren’t giving the Orange’s defense any breaks. They came out attacking strong through the air, scoring a field goal on their opening possession after quickly reaching opposing territory. Setting the tone for the rest of the game, the Canes seemed to have not lost a step from their wild finish last week against Georgia Tech. Syracuse had just come off of a win against previously 2nd ranked Clemson, but Miami was certainly unfazed and immediately showed why they are still one of only eight undefeated teams in the nation.
Miami quarterback Malik Rosier was throwing the ball fearlessly to start the first half, let alone the first quarter. He was 7 of 11 passing with 103 yards at the end of the first quarter and was unstoppable the rest of the way. He had his star wide receiver Ahmmon Richards return for the game and displayed more of a comfortable outing behind his linemen. Richards’ return was solid, as he had six catches for 99 yards. Tight end Christopher Herndon stepped up for the Canes in tremendous fashion, scoring the first touchdown of the game and adding 10 catches for 96 yards. He was this week’s Travis Homer. Actually, this week’s Travis Homer was none other than……Travis Homer. He contributed with 122 all purpose yards and was one of Rosier’s heavily targeted pass catchers. He added 4 catches on 5 targets for 27 yards and 95 rushing yards. He is showcasing his worth to remain the starter, and it will be close to impossible to remove someone who is playing this well from that role without any complications. Wide receiver Jeff Thomas had a spectacular 48 yard touchdown catch and run for the Canes, as Rosier was connecting with his receivers from all angles. Rosier finished the game with excellent numbers, going 26 for 43 for 344 yards and two touchdown passes.
The Syracuse Orange just couldn’t get anything going against a very stout defense and struggled to move the ball upfield. QB Eric Dungey just couldn’t get the team moving and had very subpar numbers at the end of the half, only going 7 of 22 passing for 62 yards and a passer rating of 19.1. He finished very poorly, going 13 for 41 and only passing for 137 yards for the entire game. While he did have 100 rushing yards on 20 attempts, the Canes defense attacked Dungey all game and forced him to throw four interceptions in the first half. Having come off a very impressive performance against Clemson last week, Dungey became the second quarterback in a row to be held under 150 passing yards by Miami’s stingy defense. With two defensive starters returning in this game, the chemistry and cohesiveness of the Canes’ defense was just too much for this stagnant Syracuse offense.
Syracuse running back Dontae Strickland was the most consistent when given the ball. He finished with 105 rushing yards on 14 attempts, but running back Moe Neal had the lone touchdown on a 10 yard run late in the third quarter. He finished with 46 rushing yards on 14 attempts, as Syracuse’s running game was the only thing that was somewhat of a success. The ground game kept them close throughout the afternoon, similar to Georgia Tech’s game plan against Miami last week. Even as the passing game was somewhat better than the Yellow Jackets’, it just wasn’t enough to get them over on the scoreboard. Yes the yardage added up, but it didn’t position them to get another touchdown other than that one play.
As the Canes’ offense started to slow up, it was efficient and consistent enough for the defense to play with the lead and maintain it. Miami’s defense had three sacks and eight tackles for a loss to go with those four interceptions. They hawked for the ball and gave their offense every opportunity to extend the lead. Sheldon Redwine, who was sidelined last week, returned to have 6 tackles and one pass break up. Still playing without starting senior cornerback Dee Delaney, this defense fired on every cylinder which is what great teams do. Cornerback Michael Jackson led the team with two interceptions, and he is now the new recipient this week for the team’s self-created “turnover chain”.
Even with the team pulling out the win, Coach Mark Richt has one problem: They need to be playing well and consistently at the same time on both sides of the ball. After the game he states:
“For some reason we can’t find a way to play really good on both sides of the ball at the same time. It’d be nice to be more consistent. It was an inconsistent effort offensively, and defensively some bright spots.”
The Canes had numerous chances to build a comfortable lead and dominate a team in the manner they should. He states how the team isn’t “dominant, but really just more resilient”.
“There were moments, especially in the first half, where we had a couple touchdowns and we had to kick a couple field goals.” That “got me bent out of shape,” Richt said. The team fought hard after many mistakes and look ready for big time showdowns as the end of the season comes near. This team can only keep moving up, and they have the pieces to keep doing so.
Miami will go into Chapel Hill and take on the North Carolina Tar Heels at 12:00 pm ET next week as they will put their undefeated season on the line. The Syracuse Orange look to bounce back from this devastating loss after an upcoming bye week against the Florida State Seminoles, who today just lost against a 5-3 Louisville team. That might just be the matchup they need to regain the confidence from last week’s win.