In the absence of a starter in the secondary with Brandon Reddish out, Jeremi Wilkes stepped up his game. He had a big play early on, breaking up a touchdown opportunity for Minnesota, which eventually led to a field goal try that the Golden Gophers missed.
In the following quarter, Wilkes got to Minnesota quarterback Max Shortell and took him down by himself for a solo sack. This play forced the Golden Gophers to punt.
The entire secondary did not allow a single passing touchdown by Shortell through all four quarters, with Shortell coming off of a three-touchdown performance through the air a week before.
Linebacker Marquis Spruill continues to success after being moved to outside linebacker from the middle linebacker position, where he spent a lot of his time last season. Despite respectable gains at times by Minnesota, Spruill got after the ball, continuing to illustrate good tackling. Spruill also had success in coverage in this game, showing an expansion to where he can help on the field. Through the first four games, Spruill looks more comfortable on the outside, becoming more of a factor in an increased amount of plays.
Linebacker Dyshawn Davis, defensive tackle Jay Bromley, and defensive end Micah Robinson made more of a positive impact in this game, getting after Minnesota late in the game after all being more-or-less quiet in the first three games.
The entire Syracuse defense continues to struggle in their quest to stop the run. Shortell came into the game with the notion that he could give trouble to Syracuse's secondary. But the area of most concern for the Orange ended up being all too familiar: stopping the run. Minnesota's two touchdowns of the game came on the ground when Syracuse failed to prevent running back Donnell Kirkwood from crossing the threshold.
But the Orange did improve in one way versus the run. They came into this match-up with the Golden Gophers allowing 180 rushing yards per game. Against Minnesota, Syracuse condensed their allowance to 106 yards.
Also needed to be noted is the fact that the Orange, after allowing two rushing first downs on a late Minnesota drive in the first half, stopped Kirkwood on a rush for no gain and then sacked Shortell, preventing Minnesota from scoring again in The Opening half.
Still, be it total yards or touchdowns or in some cases both, Syracuse has to have a better answer to the run moving forward.
Cornerback Ri'Shard Anderson still seems to not know what pass interference is. He continues to cover receivers without facing the ball when he puts a body on them. His fundamental failures in coverage cost Syracuse yards and continue to put the defense is uncomfortable situations.
Anderson also continues to leave way too much space between the player he is assigned to and himself, leaving quarterbacks a place to send the ball to move the chains, as Shortell did in this game.
Lyn still toeing the equator:
Keon Lyn exhibited his best coverage of the season a week before against Stony Brook. But, as the coaching staff has preached through training camp and the season thus far, consistency is key.
In the first quarter alone, Lyn was giving too much space to his receiver, leaving the defense vulnerable and Minnesota with plays that aided in moving the chains.
But, in the second quarter Lyn broke up a pass attempt on third down, which resulted in a fourth-down field goal attempt by Minnesota, which they missed.
On the next defensive outing, Lyn joined Wilkes by providing good coverage against the Golden Gophers' passing game.
Lyn came into the second half the way he left the first, with better coverage than he had early in the game. He once again knocked away a pass attempt which aided the defense is forcing yet another Minnesota punt.
He rides the equator line because his successes are sometimes negated by his blunders. In this game, he finished better than he began, but against better receivers, Lyn may not be able to take plays off as it appears he does with lax coverage at times.
The defense gave the offense so many opportunities. Hands down the best defensive outing of the Orange all season.
Going into halftime, the Orange defense brought the Golden Gophers' final three drives to an end by forcing back-to-back punts and then sacking Shortell, courtesy of linebacker Cameron Lynch, on Minnesota's final try before the break.
This game was reminiscent of last season's match against Rutgers. The defense was out on the field the majority of the time and kept stopping their opponent, but the offense could not perform. At the end of the game, the defense had little to be sorry about. However the offense left so many opportunities on the field, not capitalizing on the defensive assists that were given to them.
It is no surprise, then, that the outcome against Rutgers and then this season versus Minnesota were the same.