Flames Smoke Orange
Liberty gashed Syracuse on the ground and made enough plays through the air as they blew out the Orange in the Dome 38-21. The loss drops Syracuse to 1-4 on the season.
Syracuse is without starting quarterback Tommy DeVito, their top three running backs, have multiple injuries along the offensive line and are missing two starting safeties including All-American Andre Cisco, among others. Still, this game was a microcosm of how the season has gone for the Orange thus far. The inability to stop the run, inconsistent offense that struggles in the red zone and too many penalties.
The game started out well for Syracuse. After each team went three and out on their first drives of the game, Syracuse struck first as Rex Culpepper hit Taj Harris on a 17 yard touchdown pass to cap a nine play, 61 yard drive. That lead was short lived as Liberty would score on a 75 yard run just two plays later in what would prove to be a foreshadowing of things to come.
The 75 yard score by Shedro Louis was a simple run up the middle where he was completely untouched on his way to the end zone. He would later add a 57 yard score on a very similar play. Louis would finish with 170 yards rushing and two scores on just 10 carries. Liberty ran for 313 as a team despite starting running back Josh Mack not playing a down. Peytton Pickett also ran for over 100 yards for Liberty.
Syracuse's offense moved the ball at times, but struggled to find consistency and take advantage of opportunities. One example was with the Orange trailing 14-7 in the second quarter. Liberty muffed a punt and Syracuse recovered it inside the Flames' 15 yard line. Syracuse would turn the ball over on downs as a fourth and one run by Sean Tucker was stopped for no gain.
Liberty went into halftime with a 21-14 lead, and took the opening drive of the second half 78 yards in four plays capped by a 36 yard pass from Malik Willis to DJ Stubbs. That extended the lead to 28-14, and it felt all but over at that point.
Liberty would add another score in the third to go up by three scores. Syracuse tried to claw back late, and pulled to within 35-21 midway through the fourth when Culpepper hit Anthony Queeley from 21 yards out for a score. The touchdown catch was the first of Queeley's career. A subsequent onside kick was unsuccessful, and Liberty turned the next possession into a field goal to put the game away.
Culpepper finished 19-40 for 211 yard, three touchdowns and one interception. Sean Tucker ran for 111 yards on 21 carries. Taj Harris caught 9 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. Liberty ran for 338 yards on the game, and quarterback Malik Willis was 16-20 for 182 yards and one score. Syracuse won the turnover battle two to one and managed just 308 yards of total offense compared to 520 for Liberty.
Syracuse plays at top ranked Clemson next week. That game kicks off at noon and will be broadcast on ABC.