The First Line of Defense

Former Syracuse defensive end Dwight Freeney may have moved on to the NFL four years ago, but his spirit was in Ryan LaCasse Saturday. The senior defensive end had three sacks and two forced fumbles in the first half during the Orange's 31-0 win over Buffalo. And, it probably could have been more (LaCasse was taken out for most of the second half because the game was well in hand).

"That didn't surprise me. Ryan is an athlete, and he has a great motor," Coach Greg Robinson said. "I am happy for him (Ryan), and all of our defensive linemen because they work so hard and it is good to see him have that kind of production."

           

"It felt great just to get some pass rushes under my belt," LaCasse said.

 

LaCasse and the rest of defensive line weren't just pressuring the quarterback either, they were stuffing the run. Syracuse held buffalo to 50 yards rushing on 29 carries. That's less than two yards per carry.

           

"We didn't win at the line of scrimmage in any way remotely needed," Buffalo coach Jim Hofher said. "We haven't run the ball on offense, we haven't pass protected, in the end, we haven't produced."

 

Although Coach Robinson admitted Buffalo was "outmanned", it's quickly becoming obvious that the defensive line is the leader on Syracuse's team. Last week against West Virginia the starting line combined for 28 tackles and two fumble recoveries.

           

"We put it on our shoulders to do our thing," LaCasse said. "We're always trying to pitch shutouts. If we do that, all the offense needs is a field goal to win."

 

The line wasn't able to make this big of an impact last year when Syracuse allowed seven of its 12 opponents to score 30 points or more last season. That includes 51 points allowed in Syracuse's first and last games of the season. So what's the difference this year? LaCasse is the first one to point to Syracuse's new defensive scheme put in by coach Robinson.

           

"We're doing a couple of different things," LaCasse said. "I don't care whether I am rushing the quarterback or getting the pick off.  I think it's good that we can go out there and mix stuff up and make offenses think a little more."


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