With almost a year away from their last win and coming off of two losses in games that they were never truly out of, the Orange were hoping for a sweet slice of victory against the Seawolves.
They got it, with a 28-17 victory. Here is how the defense looked during the game, with both positives and negatives to take from each unit, and overall:
Defensive Line: There was very little presence in the pass rush from Syracuse's first line of defense. After recording seven sacks over their first two games, the Orange failed to take down Seawolves' quarterback Kyle Essington even once. Essington was not even hurried that much.
By not sacking Essington or even forcing him into hurried-up situations, the defensive line did not aid the back line of the secondary. Essington came into this game with 23 attempts over his first two matches, something Nassib would attempt in a quarter. Whenever Essington did take a chance through the air, he had a tendency to go deep. By having the time to do so in this game, the defensive line did not assist the secondary which gave up 63 yards on one passing play to wide receiver Kevin Norrell that resulted in a touchdown.
Syracuse was not much better against the run, allowing Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet to accumulate 158 yards alone, including a 71-yard burst despite having numerous defenders in his vicinity in the initial part of his run.
Overall, the Orange gave up over 200 yards on the ground.
However, the total could have been much worse. Newcomer, defensive end Markus Pierce-Brewster, was in on back-to-back tackles on a third quarter drive by Stony Brook, silencing Maysonet, which was not an easy task. On two carries, Maysonet amounted -1 yards thanks to Pierce-Brewster. Aid from fellow defensive linemen, defensive ends Brandon Sharpe and Robert Welsh, also helped to slow the rushing attack in the second half that had shot through the defense in The Opening half.
Linebackers: Speaking of shooting through, no one in the linebacker core showed much speed as far as getting to the backfield in this game. The only linebacker to get to Essington was Siriki Diabate, but the play was negated by a Syracuse penalty.
But despite not having a strong showing in sacks or tackles for a loss, this core had was top among all Orange defenders in tackles for the game, with Marquis Spruill and Dyshawn Davis tying with eight apiece.
There is no real negative or positive to say about coverage against the pass because when Essington took to the air, he went deep. A short completion over the middle or utilizing a tight end were not options given by Essington, so the middle of the field was not tested by receivers against the linebackers.
However, the backfield did test the middle of the field where the linebackers reside. Diabate struggled throughout the game, obtaining three total tackles. Going into this match with the Seawolves, Diabate had nine solo tackles and twelve tackles overall between two games. His output versus Stony Brook was half his average, which has been six tackles per game.
Like the defensive line, the linebackers spent most of the game chasing Maysonet and at times, his teammate Marcus Coker, instead of stopping them in the early stages of their runs.
Secondary: Easily the best unit of the defense in this game. Strong safety Shamarko Thomas and cornerback Brandon Reddish stuffed the run at times, aiding the struggling defensive line and linebackers.
In coverage, outside of the 63-yard touchdown play from Essington to Norrell, the secondary navigated the waters of the Seawolves well.
Besides the 63-yarder, Essington only amounted 31 yards through the air. He completed a mere four of his 19 attempts.
Proving to be the best in coverage for the game on Syracuse's side was cornerback Keon Lyn. He was responsible for preventing a completion on three different Stony Brook drives, all leading to punts by the Seawolves.
Along with Lyn's best outing of the season in coverage, the Orange secondary negated two Seawolves' drives with interceptions, the first by free safety Jeremi Wilkes and the second by Reddish.
Where to improve: Including this game, Syracuse is allowing an average of 180 rushing yards per contest.
Also, within the past two weeks, the Orange have given up a running play of more than 70 yards: Robert Woods of USC's 76-yard run that helped set up a touchdown and Maysonet's 71-yard gainer that resulted in a touchdown.
Positives to take: After giving up eight first downs in the first quarter, including five on one drive, the Orange only allowed five more first downs the entire game. Stony Brook had a mere five first downs to spread amongst the second, third, and fourth quarters combined. The Seawolves gained three first downs in the second quarter, then one each in the third and fourth quarters.
For the first game of this young season, the Orange adjusted in the second half to quiet their opponent's rushing attack. After allowing 117 yards in the second quarter alone, and 172 rushing yards total in the first half, Syracuse gave up a mere 45 yards on the ground for the entire second half. The Orange allowed 20 yards in the third quarter and 25 in the fourth to close out the game. Without the run, there was no play action, leaving Essington with little to work with in the second half.
Despite giving up two big plays for touchdowns in the first half and failing to anchor down on the run, Syracuse came back to hold Stony Brook scoreless in the second half. The Orange defense forced four punts on the first four Seawolves' drives of the latter half and intercepted their final offensive opportunity.