A Syracuse defense that was one of the highlights of the 2014 season lost eight starters entering this year. How would the Orange replace all of that production? They would be relying on a lot of young, inexperienced players.
It was one of the biggest questions entering the 2015 campaign. Through one game, they certainly passed the test. It was an FCS squad, and not a particularly good one at that. But the defense was flying all over the field, played aggressive, forced four turnovers and was in the backfield all night.
“All our young guys definitely felt like they had something to prove, not only to the coaching staff but to themselves and other people looking on,” captain linebacker Zaire Franklin said I still feel like I have a lot to prove and showcase my abilities. I think defensively we came out with a chip on our shoulders.”
Rhode Island only had 64 total yards, including four rushing. They only had two first downs throughout the entire game, and one of those was on a questionable pass interference penalty.
“Every day we do a turnover circuit, so when Corey got that pick it was just like practice,” Franklin said. “We do that every day. Causing turnovers and ball disruptions are things that our coaches preach and I’m happy that we could be successful today.”
The Syracuse defense had nine tackles for loss, recovered three fumbles, forced a safety and had a pick six. While there was only one interception, they were in position for three or four more. Julian Whigham dropped a couple and Daivon Ellison had one slip through his hands.
Those are some impressive numbers, regardless of opponent.
“I think Rhode Island had two first downs and again hats off to that whole defensive staff,” head coach Scott Shafer said. “Coach Bullough, Coach Lea, Coach Daoust, Fred Reed, and our young coaches did a great job in preparation getting these young kids ready to run a lot of defense. We run a lot of defense and I was just really proud of my staff.”
It was Syracuse’s first shut out since they accomplished the feat against Wake Forest, ironically their week two opponent, in 2013.