Syracuse is off to a 3-2 start, but one loss still stings several weeks after it happened.
The Orange were ranked in the preseason and excitement was building for a home game against defending national champion Clemson on Sept. 14, but then a roadblock popped up.
Maryland racked up 354 rushing yards and six touchdowns and also passed for 296 yards and three scores to roll to a 63-20 home win over Syracuse Sept. 7. The Orange’s defense got exposed in the loss, and then fell 41-6 against Clemson.
Syracuse has won twice since then to get back above .500. Here is a full scouting report on Syracuse.
Five Syracuse Players To Watch
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tommy DeVito — The 6-foot-2, 212-pounder has been trying to replace Eric Dungey, which hasn’t been easy. He also recently got dinged up with an “upper-body injury,” but he is expected to play against NC State.
The Cedar Grove, N.J., native has gone 106-of-167 passing for 1,234 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. He has eight scoring tosses in the last two games, wins against Holy Cross and Western Michigan. Versus WMU on Sept. 2, he threw for 287 yards and four scores, and rushed eight times for 85 yards and a TD.
Redshirt junior wide receiver Trishton Jackson — The 6-1, 191-pound transfer from Michigan State leads the Orange with 24 catches for 393 yards and five touchdowns, which easily eclipses his marks with the Spartans.
Jackson had seven catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns in the loss at Maryland, and totaled six receptions for 141 yards and a pair of scores in the 52-33 win over Western Michigan. His cousin is former Michigan and NFL wide receiver Braylon Edwards.
Senior defensive end Alton Robinson — The sack-master is off to a slow start this season, with 2.5 sacks in five games — two of which were against Western Michigan. He also has 14 tackles, one forced fumble, six quarterback hurries and three passes broken up this season.
The 6-4, 260-pounder from Converse, Texas, has 17.5 career sacks, including 10 last year. He had three sacks against Connecticut and two apiece against Pittsburgh and Louisville during his junior campaign.
Redshirt sophomore kicker Andre Szmyt — The reigning Lou Groza Award winner has made all five field-goal attempts this season, with a long of 45 yards, and has gone 17 of 18 on extra points. The Vernon Hills, Ill., native went 30 of 34 last year on field goals with a long of 54 yards, and he made all 61 extra points en route to 151 points.
He was named the Lou Groza Award star of the week for his efforts last year against NC State, Clemson and Louisville. He made three field goals, including a 45-yarder, against the Wolfpack.
Senior middle linebacker Lakiem Williams — The 6-0, 225-pounder played his first two years at Butte College in Oroville, Calif., and then made his way east to Syracuse. He played in seven games and had just four tackles last year, but has settled in this season. He leads Syracuse with 39 tackles. He also has five tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two quarterback hurries. He had a career-high 11 tackles at Liberty in the season opener and posted eight stops against Clemson.
What To Watch From Syracuse
1. Quick passing attack. Florida State and Syracuse are opposites when it comes to their approach to the passing game. The Orange want to get rid of the football quickly, but have still allowed 18 sacks in five games this season.
NC State torched the porous Florida State offensive line for eight sacks Sept. 28, and if it can have half that number against Syracuse quarterback Tommy DeVito, who is mobile, that would be considered a win.
2. Talented defensive ends. Seniors Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman punished NCSU quarterback Ryan Finley last year and are back. Robinson has 17.5 career sacks and Coleman is right behind at 13.5. They have combined for 47.5 career tackles for losses.
Syracuse pass defense has struggled this season (280.2 yards allowed per game), but the Orange also have 17 sacks and six interceptions. Fifth-year senior defensive end Brandon Berry has 2.5 sacks this season, which trails only middle linebacker Lakiem Williams’ 3.5 sacks.
3. Great special teams in all facets. Kicker Andre Szmyt isn’t the only special teams standout for the Orange. Punter Sterling Hofrichter is a master at his craft, averaging 46.5 yards with a long of 65 on 30 punts thus far this year. He has averaged 43.4 yards for his career.
Senior Sean Riley has averaged 12.3 yards on 43 career punt returns with a touchdown, and has averaged 21.6 yards on 108 career kick returns with a long of 68. Opponents have returned seven punts for just 12 yards and are averaging 21.8 yards on eight kick returns this season.
Three Keys To The Game
1. Stop the run. NCSU recruited both senior running back Moe Neal of Gastonia (N.C.) Forestview High and redshirt junior Abdul Adams of Durham (N.C.) Hillside High, the two primary running backs for Syracuse.
Thus far this year, the Wolfpack rank sixth nationally in rush defense, allowing 71.8 yards per game. Florida State rushed 32 times for only 53 yards, with 41 yards coming on a touchdown gallop by junior back Cam Akers in the Seminoles’ 31-13 win.
Neal has 317 rushing yards and is averaging 4.4 yards per carry, and Adams, who transferred in from Oklahoma, has added 193 yards and 3.9 yards a rush. The duo has combined for five rushing touchdowns, and Neal has been a factor in the passing game with 14 catches for 159 yards.
2. Can NC State connect downfield? If there was ever a game to get the passing game going for the Wolfpack, this can be one. NC State has turned to redshirt sophomore lefty Bailey Hockman at quarterback this week, with redshirt sophomore Matthew McKay falling to third string after starting the first five games.
Hockman came off the sideline to go 21-of-40 passing for 208 yards and a touchdown against the Seminoles, but while he didn’t throw an interception, several of his passes were nearly picked. The longest completion for the Wolfpack that day was 33 yards on a nice jump ball catch by redshirt freshman wide receiver Devin Carter.
3. If it's not broke, don’t try to fix it. Will Syracuse go back to the Sean Riley-well against NC State? The 5-8, 178-pounder caught 10 passes for 164 yards in the win over the Wolfpack last year. His quickness in the slot proved tough to contain. However, he’s off to a slow start this season with 16 catches for 117 yards and a touchdown.
Riley is also a feared return man for the Orange. He has eight punt returns for an average of 13.1 yards and nine kick returns for 17.1 yards.
Three Syracuse Numbers Of Note
74.6 Plays per game this season for the Syracuse offense. The Orange averaged 81.8 plays per contest last year and have averaged 81.7 plays in 42 games under coach Dino Babers, who is in his fifth year at the helm.
280.2 Passing yards allowed per game for the Syracuse defense, which ranks No. 113 in the nation and No. 12 in the ACC.
2,000 Career milestone for rushing yards for senior running back Moe Neal, who has rushed 387 times for 2,031 yards and 11 touchdowns in 42 games. Neal became the 23rd member of the 2,000-yard rushing club at Syracuse.