Just as it has all season, the Orange’s defense showed up against Liberty and its superstar quarterback Malik Willis. With the help of a raucous Carrier Dome crowd, the Syracuse defense limited the potent Flames offense for much of the night.
Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze said he was impressed by the Orange’s fourth ranked defense.
“They’ve got one of the top defenses in the country, and I think the stats showed that,” said Freeze. “That defensive front is very athletic, and they are very well-coached on the backend.”
One of the primary necessities for the Orange was to limit the mobility of Willis as much as possible. Syracuse head coach Dino Babers best described Willis as a Mack truck.
“He’s tough to bring down. But our guys continuously found a way to get him down for the most part,” said Babers. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this many NFL scouts at a game before, so thank you, Mr. Willis.”
Sophomore linebacker Mikel Jones credited film study for the team's success.
“I was preparing up until an hour before the game just seeing where he wants to go with the ball,” said Jones. “The whole defense did a good job of watching film this week knowing what to expect.”
Though every person in the locker room was needed for the win, it cannot go without saying that a part of the teams’ success of this was due to the stellar play of Jones. Babers calls him “the guy.”
“He’s the key to everything, and he’s definitely our quarterback on defense with no equal,” said Babers.
Friday night, Jones had eight tackles and one sack. He said they had to summon the strength to force the turnover when momentum had turned to the Orange's opponent.
“We just dug to our roots. We knew what type of defense we are,” said Jones. “We knew we shouldn’t have let them get that far, and once we saw they were going for it on fourth down, we knew we couldn’t let them in.”