Northeastern Recap

The Orange earned its first win of the season Saturday, defeating Northeastern 30-21 in the Carrier Dome. Senior Curtis Brinkley played a starring role for SU, as he ran for a career-high 145 yards and a touchdown.


The Orange earned its first win of the season Saturday, defeating Northeastern 30-21 in the Carrier Dome. Senior Curtis Brinkley played a starring role for SU, as he ran for a career-high 145 yards and a touchdown. Not to be outdone, his backfield mate Doug Hogue tallied one hundred yards and two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving.) While the running backs were able to carve up an FCS defense with ease, which was to be expected since they are the strength of the Syracuse team. Mitch Browning went with a conservative game plan that left many ‘Cuse fans wondering if they will be able to mount any semblance of a balanced attack in Big East play.

The ‘Cuse jumped out to a 10-0 lead, starting fast with Brinkley's heady running (on his birthday, no less) and by using one of the three turnovers they forced on the day to set up a Patrick Shadle field goal. Northeastern would fight back right before the half with a long strike over the top of SU's secondary to cut the deficit to only a field goal. SU pushed two touchdowns in the third quarter and led 24-7 heading to the final quarter. That's when Northeastern regained its offensive touch and cut the margin to just 6 with about five minutes to go. Syracuse then went on a long, sustained drive, culminating in Shadle's third field goal of the day. This gave Syracuse a two-possession lead with under two minutes to go and mercifully, put a win on ice for Greg Robinson's squad.

QB Cameron Dantley finished a very efficient 14 for 17, but again threw very few passes more than 10 yards downfield. Dantley's longest pass was a 25 yarder to freshman Marcus Sales. Sales, along with sophomore wideout Donte Davis, continued to impress even with their limited roles in the offense. The two young targets finished with just three receptions between them, but were always in the middle of running plays, making key blocks downfield to spring Brinkley and Hogue. The offensive line continues to improve gradually, but still managed to commit a couple of costly holding penalties.

While the Orange finished with more first downs than Northeastern (23-22), the defense looked porous in the second half at times and this was against a middling FCS team, mind you. The linebacking corps and secondary were ravaged by Huskies quarterback Anthony Orio, who finished with nearly three hundred yards passing on the day and torched Mike Holmes on a deep route in the fourth quarter to give Northeastern its final score of the day. However, Bruce Williams and Randy McKinnon each recorded an interception and should provide leadership in a young secondary. At linebacker, Mike Mele has been a question mark all season it seems, but Jake Flaherty and Derrell Smith are stepping up. Smith emerged with a forced fumble on Saturday, which was recovered by sophomore lineman Anthony Perkins. Local product Vincenzo Giruzzi also set a personal best, recording nine tackles in the game. Unfortunately, the rest of the defensive line (save perhaps Jared Kimmel) did not play up to its potential and leaves many questions to fester on the minds of SU's disenchanted fan base. This line is not incredibly undersized, yet it could not mount any sort of pass rush on Northeastern all day, finishing with a grand total of ZERO sacks.

There is a lack of killer instinct all around this football team though. Syracuse allowed a whopping 71% third down conversion rate (10 for 14) against Northeastern and that number didn't even skew its season average greatly. SU has certainly made strides on defense and we can see a few select playmakers emerging on both sides of the football. But, on defense, they can't get it done on third down and on offense; they lack a killer instinct to put the game away (reminiscent of last year's basketball squad.)

Overall, a win is a win, but it was merely by nine points over an FCS team that put up nearly four hundred yards of offense on the Orange's beleaguered defense. This game didn't answer many questions, but leaves slight reason for optimism heading into the 2008 Big East campaign.

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