In what could potentially be the biggest challenge yet this season, the Orange still feel the sting from last year's loss against Liberty. The aura surrounding this game is a personal one, providing remnants of last year's failed attempt to knock the Flames off.
Syracuse linebacker Stefon Thompson is coming off a dominant performance against UAlbany in which he had 4 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 2 forced fumbles. The backer prides himself in rallying to the ball and being a part of such a cohesive unit. Thompson visualizes this defense as “one” displaying a one beat mentality. With the threat of Malik Willis this Friday, Thompson and the Orange are looking for ways to contain the dual threat quarterback.
“Just not letting him run out of the pocket, limiting the sprint outs they do,” Thompson said. “And eliminating the big plays he makes.”
The electrifying quarterback was once in the Heisman conversation after passing for 2,260 yards, 20 touchdowns and rushing for 944 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. It is no mystery the Liberty offense runs primarily through Willis, so expect the Orange to treat him a bit differently.
The loss last year waned on the Orange as they went on a seven game losing streak to close out the season. With the new opportunity ahead to redeem themselves playing “Syracuse football” is of the utmost importance. Expect the Orange to have a lot of movement upfront on defense this game, as well as intensively echoing the calls throughout the Loudhouse.
Friday Night games provide a Friday Night Lights feel to football. The bright lights, glaring fans, and weight of the air encompass the game and its tumultuous events. There’s just something about Friday Night games opposed to Saturday games, Thompson said.
“It all goes back to high school for real,” Thompson said. “Friday Night Lights you know everybody is going to be watching those games, so you have to go out and ball.”
The last time Thompson played in a Friday Night game was last season versus Louisville. Thompson tabbed 7 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and 1 sack. The linebacker core of Thompson, Jones, Wax, and Cantin-Arku rely heavily on their communication amongst one another to make the game easier.
“All of us are close, tight, and we do everything together,” Thompson said. “If one of us doesn’t see something the other will tell us and let us know.”
The camaraderie in the box this year has been up to par this year. With a highly equipped Liberty offense coming into town, the Orange intend on standing up to the test. The matchup between Syracuse and Liberty is now going into its third contest with the two teams splitting 1-1, vying for the lead in the record.