SYRACUSE Looking at the big picture, Syracuse’s football game against Connecticut last Friday night was a must-win if it either side wanted a bowl appearance. But it was abundantly clear that only one team played with a sense of urgency.
What was a competitive battle in the first half transitioned into 27 unanswered points in the latter stages, as the Orange crushed the Huskies 40-10 at the Carrier Dome.
It was the Orange's best performance of the season as the offense, defense, and special teams were all outstanding. The week before, in a 23-15 loss to Rutgers in New Jersey, SU mostly beat themselves, committing five turnovers and were one-for-five scoring inside the Scarlet Knights’ 20-yard line.
So in the week of practice that followed, head coach Doug Marrone and his staff told the team to be vigilant and atone for all their mental mistakes.
Whatever was said sure worked. In front of 37,135 in the Dome, the Orange ended a recent series of struggles against UConn, as it had only won one of the previous five meetings.
The much-maligned Orange defense shut down the Huskies on the ground, holding UConn to a listless 46 yards. In addition, SU forced a key first-half turnover, and pitched a second-half shutout.
SU (3-4, 2-1 Big East) also broke out of its offensive slump as Ryan Nassib was 14-for-20 for 251 yards and two touchdowns. Supported by a strong offensive line, Jerome Smith posted a career-best 19 carries for 133 yards, while Ashton Broyld ran the ball 11 times for 63 yards.
The Orange's running and passing attack was perfectly balanced. SU amassed a total of 251 yards on the ground and 251 yards through the air.
Wide receiver Alec Lemon struggled against Rutgers, but raised the level of his performance, tallying eight receptions for 166 yards, and caught and an 11-yard touchdown pass. Junior tight end Becket Wales had four catches for 69 yards, including the first touchdown of his career on a three-yard diving reception.