Season in Review: The Opener

CuseNation.com is going game by game to review the season. The first installment takes a look at the season opener against Penn State in MetLife Stadium.

The Game:

Syracuse 17 Penn State 23

Brief Summary:

The Syracuse defense kept a struggling offense in the game with turnovers, hard hits and solid play. However, they gave up 278-yards through the air to true freshman Christian Hackenberg, and Allen Robinson gave the Orange fits in the second half.

Trailing 23-10 midway through the fourth quarter, Robert Welsh intercepted a Hackenberg pass and returned it to the one yard line. After Jerome Smith took it in from one yard out, the Syracuse offense got the ball back twice in the final five minutes with a chance to win the game.

Neither possession proved fruitful however, as the game essentially ended on Drew Allen's second interception with less than two minutes left.

Offensive Player of the Game:

Jerome Smith was the most consistent weapon for the Orange. He finished with 73-yards on 16 carries including the only two Syracuse touchdowns.

Defensive Player of the Game:

Robert Welsh, in his first career start, finished with six tackles, one sack and one interception that nearly turned the tide of the game.

What We Learned:

The Syracuse defense was as advertised. Aggressive, forced turnovers, blitzed regularly and kept the Orange in the game. However, there were concerns about the offensive side of the ball. The passing attack featured a plethora of short throws and lacked down the field ability.

The man Syracuse looked for as a deep threat was Adrian Flemming, who was starting his first game as a senior. However, he would be lost for the season due to injury.

This was the first glimpse that Drew Allen may not be the answer at quarterback. He struggled with accuracy, decision making, and going through his progressions.

Jerome Smith appeared to be improved from his strong year in 2012. He ran with power, a bit more burst and found the end zone twice.

Impact on the Season:

The loss put Syracuse behind the eight ball. The season opener was viewed by many as a swing game. A win guarantees a 3-1 start minimum, while a loss puts the Orange at 2-2 heading into conference play.

Despite falling in a closely contested game, it left a lot of questions among the fan base as to whether Syracuse would be taking a big step back in the first year of the Scott Shafer era. Ultimately, however, it was the beginning of the quarterback change that may have saved the season.


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