During training camp, Syracuse defensive end Markus Pierce-Brewster was being compared to Dwight Freeney. While his impact has not been to that level, he has still been productive. But he still feels he can make more plays, starting with putting pressure on the quarterback. Pierce-Brewster believes the defense is coming together.
"Honestly, I don't believe there's been a change in the way we approach things," Pierce-Brewster explained. "I just think everyone's starting to, I don't want to say buy in, but things are just starting to click more. As far as technique, linemen, and assignments, we're doing what we're supposed to do when we're supposed to do it.
"Honestly, I think that (QB pressure) comes down to the ends. When you think about sacks, that comes down to the d-ends. I think overall, we've had times where we've done a good job. But we need to do a better job at winning the one-on-ones.
"I know for me personally, I haven't been doing a good enough job at winning the one-on-ones. I have to fix that first and foremost, and then things will change overall, and I'll get to the quarterback a lot quicker.
Turnovers have been something that have plagued the Orange. Not just in terms of the offense turning it over, but the lack of the defense creating those opportunities. One thing the defense has stressed this week is trying to force more turnovers during the second half of the season.
"During practice we're just focused on forcing turnovers, forcing fumbles," Pierce-Brewster described. "Just today, we were doing tackling drills where we tried to force fumbles. That's definitely one of our keys to our strategy of winning. We have to force more turnovers."
The lack of offensive production is not something lost on the defense either. Pierce-Brewster says they know how good the offense can be.
"There's frustration but not because of how they're (the offense) doing," he said. "It's just that we know what they're capable of. I don't like to say 'wait until next week' because we know they have what it takes. But there is some frustration.
"There's always something we can do better even if they're struggling. We can force more turnovers, maybe force a turnover, or score touchdowns. There's always something we can do to help them out."
This week, Syracuse faces their third straight physical rushing attack. The good news for the Orange? Connecticut has the worst passing attack they have faced in recent weeks. Pierce-Brewster and the Syracuse defense believe if they execute, they will come out on top.
"For this team, I don't want to say we haven't gone through scheme that much, but we're looking to stop the run first and foremost," MPB outlined. "They come out in a lot of two tight end sets. So they're a run heavy team.
They try to throw the ball, but running is their bread and butter just like most teams in the Big East. That's basically the formula for this defense in this conference. Stop the run first and the pass will come second."