Head Above Water Against Seawolves

The first win of the season for Syracuse was not an easy one. Facing Stony Brook, the Orange were in a surprising battle to the end. Big plays and a strong second-half defensive effort allowed Syracuse to hold on 28-17 and improve to 1-2 on the 2012 season.

In the First Quarter:

Cornerback Brandon Reddish made his first big play of the season, taking down Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet for a loss of two on third down. Reddish's speed and ferocity on the tackle forced Stony Brook to punt away their first opportunity.

However, the offense did not make the most of the gift provided by the defense: Syracuse punted after a quick three-and-out. Even worse for the Orange is the short punt from Jonathan Fisher.

The Seawolves, like the Orange, had a short drive, but unlike the Orange, made it into a scoring drive. Going into the match-up, Stony Brook wide receiver Kevin Norrell had an 80-plus yard receiving play in each of the team's first two games. Despite Stony Brook quarterback Kyle Essington not taking many attempts through the air, when he does, he usually goes deep, as he did in a completion to Norrell for a 69-yard touchdown play.

Stony Brook on the scoreboard first, 7-0.

Continuing the "I see your and I'll raise you" motif that was the early portion of the first quarter, Syracuse running back Prince-Tyson Gulley took a short pass from quarterback Ryan Nassib 61 yards to paydirt for the Orange, bringing the score back even at 7-7.

Syracuse's touchdown drive only took 38 seconds, whereas most of their touchdown drives in the first two games have taken anywhere from three to six minutes.

On the kickoff, Syracuse free safety Durell Eskridge pitted Stony Brook at their own 15 off of his tackle. The play was one of the best all season by a struggling special teams' unit, but it was erased by a penalty on cornerback Wayne Morgan.  

The trouble on special teams spilled into the defensive unit with the Orange giving up five first downs on the Seawolves' following drive, while penalties also continued to be a negative factor for Orange with a sack by linebacker Siriki Diabate begin erased by a penalty. However, what appeared to be a go-ahead touchdown for a Stony Brook offense that had little trouble moving the ball on the ground was taken away by their own player. Tight end Brent Arce was wide open, but the ball touched his fingertips and fell to the ground. The Seawolves settled for a field goal to go up 10-7 with under five minutes to go in the quarter.

Syracuse failed to score on their next drive, once again punting the ball away. Fisher failed to assist the defense by sending another punt short. The special teams' woes continued to start this failed drive when running back Steven Rene decided to catch the ball off a kickoff that looked to be going out of bounds, starting the Orange drive at their own seven-yard line.

Syracuse had better defense on the Stony Brook rushing attack toward the end of the third quarter, causing a three-and-out.

At the end of the first quarter, Syracuse running back Jerome Smith led all rushers with 36 yards on the ground.

Essington led in passing over Nassib thanks to the 63-yard touchdown play to Norrell. Outside of that, Essington had 26 yards through the air.

Stony Brook had eight first downs to Syracuse's five. The Seawolves matched the Orange's five on one drive.

In the Second Quarter:

Smith began the second quarter the same way he ended the first, with a new set of downs courtesy of one of his runs. But with the team just outside the red zone, Syracuse failed once again to gain six, after Nassib used third down to throw the ball at Gulley who was running toward him. Kicker Ross Krautman's field goal attempt hit one of the uprights and resulted in a turnover on downs.

Syracuse had another nice showing on defense against the run, sending Stony Brook back a yard. Then, free safety Jeremi Wilkes was knelt down in the passing lane to gain the Orange's first interception of the game. But, the offense wasted another opportunity to score, missing on another fourth-down field goal off the foot of Krautman.

Maysonet began to open up the offense for Stony Brook on their following drive, but cornerback Keon Lyn, who demonstrated good coverage throughout, got his hand in and moved it about until the ball hit the ground.

Wide receiver Jarrod West, who came into the game averaging a little over 15 yards per catch, doubled that already respectable number with his first catch of the game, a 31-yard play.

Speaking of firsts, running back Ashton Broyld achieved his first career touchdown on his second successful run up the middle on the drive. The Orange gained back the lead, going up 14-10 with about six minutes left in the first half.

Just as Syracuse responded to Stony Brook's touchdown on the next drive in the first quarter, so, too, did Stony Brook in this quarter when Maysonet went 71 yards to paydirt. In order to get there, he got through traffic by the sideline, leapt over a defender, and then outran the entire Orange defense. Seawolves back in the lead at this point, 17-14, with about 4:30 remaining in the quarter.

A quick three-and-out for Syracuse gave the ball back to Stony Brook. A penalty on the Seawolves, coupled with good coverage once again by Lyn gave the ball back to the Orange.

But the Orange gave it right back off of a fumble by Gulley, giving up another opportunity in the first half.

Over the first 30 minutes of the game, Syracuse gave the ball back to Stony Brook off of two punts, two missed field goals, and a fumble. They trailed at halftime, 17-14.

In the Third Quarter:

Syracuse begins the second half with a substantial gain by Sales, who caught a pass from Nassib and then pulled his defender for more, back-peddling into a 38-yard play. Nassib then completed passes to three other players on the same drive, wide receiver Alec Lemon, tight end Beckett Wales, and wide receiver Jarrod West. West's catch was for a touchdown, his first of the season, swinging the lead back to the Orange, 21-17 with approximately 11:30 left in the quarter.

Syracuse followed up with their best special teams' play of the season, when Morgan and linebacker Dan Vaughn pitted Stony Brook at their own 10-yard line with a joint tackle.

The Orange opened their defensive portion of the half with a strong stance against the Seawolves' rushing attack, forcing a punt.

Right tackle Lou Alexander had the best block of his career when he hit and moved his defender to create a lane for Smith, but the play was negated by a penalty on Alexander.

From the Stony Brook three-yard line, Syracuse tried through the air twice on third- and fourth-down. Nassib went to West both times on throws that looked forced, resulting ultimately in a loss of downs.

With the ball back and down by four, the Seawolves failed to create any points on their following drive. A penalty took away what appeared to be a first down off of a run by Maysonet. Then, Lyn outran his receiver once again, closing down the passing lane. Stony Brook punted once again.

The Seawolves came up dry in this quarter, failing to add any points.

In the Fourth Quarter:

Off of the Stony Brook punt, Syracuse began the final quarter on the ground. The bulk of the carries were given to Smith, including the final three of the drive. Smith amounted two yards on those three carries, unable to reach the endzone, giving the ball back to the Seawolves due to a turnover on downs.

Stony Brook hurt themselves with yet another penalty on offense. Then Syracuse silenced the drive with Lyn once again providing good man-on coverage. The Seawolves called on their punter as a result.

Little to write home about for the Orange on their next drive, which ended in a punt, this time, by Riley Dixon.

Stony Brook chose to utilize running back Marcus Coker moreso on this drive than Maysonet, who had been so successful in the first half. Coker failed to gain a first down, as did Essington, who tried wide receiver Myles Campbell on a pass attempt. Campbell got his hands on the ball, but did not gather it, ending another Seawolves' offense try with a punt.

Nassib had his most successful drive on the Orange's next opportunity, with passing plays of 27, 12, 25, and 19 yards. Three of those four plays came off of receptions by Sales, making this drive reminiscent of the Nassib-Sales connection that was the New Era Pinstripe Bowl in 2010. The touchdown extended Syracuse's lead to 11, at 28-17, with just under six minutes remaining in the game.

Penalty issues and an improved Orange defense closed the flood gates on the Seawolves. Broyld locked the gates off of his final first down that secured the Orange's first victory of the season, 28-17.

Overall:

Syracuse is now 1-2 heading into next week's road match with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

Offensively for the Orange, Nassib ended the game with 335 yards passing, completing 22 of his 35 attempts. Three of those attempts were for touchdowns. No interceptions were thrown by the Syracuse offensive general. Nassib's 335 yards added to his 804 from the first two games combined now put him over 1,000 yards passing on the season, through a mere three games at 1,139.

On the ground, Smith led Syracuse with a single-game high for his career of 95 yards.

Broyld added 61 yards for his single-game/career high to go with his first career touchdown.

At the receiving end, Sales led the lot with 117 yards on five receptions. Gulley followed with 70 yards off of his five catches. West totaled 58 yards from three catches. All three reached the endzone once each off of passes from Nassib.

Lemon, who moved into fourth-place last week in career receptions among all Syracuse football alum, continued to elevate himself in the ranks, catching two passes, which gave him 136 catches in his career and third-place all-time for the Orange.

Defensively, this was Syracuse's first game of the season with multiple interceptions, one by Wilkes, the other by Reddish.

Lead tackles for the game were fellow linebackers Marquis Spruill and Dyshawn Davis, who accounted for eight tackles apiece.

Orange Head Coach Doug Marrone stated that the team did a good job with staying away from penalties last week, but during this game, Syracuse recorded eight penalties, giving up 80 total yards. "It's just inexcusable," said Marrone. As far as how to handle the team's problem with penalties, "I don't want to say ‘punish', but we have reminders," stated Marrone.

As far as Krautman's early season struggles, Marrone shared that he is "more concerned" than he has been in the past. "He's missed three field goals, and that's unlike him," expressed Marrone.

Despite the win, Marrone did not look excited, but rather concerned. "We're going through a process of eliminating things," stated Marrone.

One thing that does not look to be eliminated are the opportunities for Broyld. "We try to do as much as we can [with him]," stated Marrone. "I have zero issues with his work ethic."

Another player to not question when it comes to work ethic this season is Nassib. He has nine touchdowns through three games to go with his 1,000-plus yard performance.

Nassib has also looked superb in his ability to spread the ball around. In all three games, he has completed passes to at least eight different receivers.

One of those receivers, Sales, has been showing that the Pinstripe Bowl was not just a special case. "A lot of times, I really don't doubt he'll be open," said Nassib, who shared that though Sales is not always his target, he will end up throwing the ball his way anyway.

Trusting Sales to catch what he knows at him may be a familiar feeling, but a victory has not been. "It's sad to say it's kind of an unfamiliar feeling," stated Nassib.

He and the Orange will look to make it more familiar as they head into the remaining nine games of their season in hopes of another bowl birth.


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