FB : UCan’t: With passing game in disarray, Syracuse falls to 2-9 after loss to UConn
NOV. 17, 5:10 P.M. EAST HARTFORD, Conn. - The Syracuse football team cheered wildly on the sideline.
Greg Robinson, caught in a moment of animation, clapped his hands and pumped his fist. It was a goalline stand by the SU defense, and the Orange celebrated with vigor, perhaps forgetting that the score was still 30-7 Connecticut and the game had less than two minutes of life.
‘What’s me is that goalline stand,’ said Robinson, the Syracuse head coach, in response to whether the season has taken a toll on him. ‘That’s me. That’s what I’m all about.’
Lately, that’s what Syracuse football has been all about, too. Empty victories on top of losses, the latest coming here to UConn. Welcome to New England.
The Orange allowed 21 first-half points to drop its record to 2-9 following a 30-7 defeat by Connecticut on a chilly, November afternoon at Rentschler Field in front of Huskies fans ready to see the new cream of the Big East’s crop take down a past power.
Syracuse floundered offensively as penalties and missed opportunities on third down mollified any momentum and, while the running game finally gained positive yardage, the passing game seemed out of synch. SU quarterback Andrew Robinson, either rusty or sore from missing the last game with a rib injury, overthrew his receivers on several occasions, even one opportunity to a wide-open Taj Smith in the end zone in the first quarter.
Robinson completed seven passes for just 39 yards before halftime. And early in the second half, after a solid drive down to the UConn 3-yard line, Robinson forced a pass into double-coverage that was intercepted by safety Robert Vaughn.
‘Obviously his stats tell you that he wasn’t great,’ Greg Robinson said. ‘But I think later in the game he was feeling it a little bit. All in all, I think we weren’t throwing the ball very well in general. … Obviously the passing game wasn’t working.’
The Huskies supplied Syracuse with a diet of screen passes and hard rushes, rarely attempting a pass deeper than the first-down markers, but they didn’t need to. UConn’s first touchdown came on a 63-yard pass from Lorenzen to receiver Terrence Jeffers; after that, short passes barely out of the backfield would suffice to get the offense going.
‘I fell asleep out there a little bit,’ SU cornerback Mike Holmes said of the touchdown pass to Jeffers. ‘It was a great ball, he caught it in stride, I was a step or two behind him and he took it to the house. That’s just how the game of football is.’
Andrew Robinson didn’t start well in his first appearance since halftime of the Pittsburgh game on Nov. 3. On just the second play of the game, he scrambled up the middle and took a hard hit from UConn linebacker Danny Lansanah that couldn’t have helped a healing midsection. Five plays later, he made another scramble on third down and barely managed to recover the ball that popped out after a hit by Cody Brown.
Robinson ran eight times in the game and was sacked four times. He appeared tentative in the pocket and even more unsure of his throws to wide receivers heavily covered by Connecticut’s secondary. He was finally taken out of the game after three quarters of play.
‘That’s what I felt like it was in the beginning,’ Robinson said, when asked if he was out of sync. ‘I kind of came out a little rusty. I wasn’t seeing everything I had to see, I wasn’t making good throws.’
In replacement, Cameron Dantley wasn’t much better-his second pass was intercepted for a touchdown by Lansanah. But by then the game was already out of reach.
UConn went up early with three scores in its first four drives. Initially, running back Andre Dixon buried the Orange with his bursts of speed and catching ability out of the backfield. Then UConn’s second running back, Donald Brown, took over, scoring on a 21-yard scamper in the second quarter and contributing his share of clock draining with his bruising style.
Between the accurate Lorenzen and the effective running game, Connecticut’s offense had no trouble building an early lead. And the defense had no trouble holding it.
‘Leaky yardage, that never helps,’ SU defensive end Jameel McClain said. ‘I guess the running game did wear us down a little bit.’
Interestingly, Syracuse had success with its running game, an area of significant trouble for the team all season long. Freshman starter Doug Hogue had 41 yards on the ground (including a run of 20 yards) in SU’s first two drives and appeared to be finding more room on the left side behind linemen Corey Chavers and Carroll Madison. Hogue, who finished with 65 yards in the game, didn’t play in the second half due to coach’s decision. His replacement, senior Paul Chiara, picked up 55 yards. It was just the third time all season the Orange has gained over 100 yards rushing.
Yet the passing game could not hold its own end of the deal.
After the game, Greg Robinson was steadfast and defiant when jabbed about his anticipations for the future. Nonetheless, it was clear this loss stung, if not because of who it was to, but what it may or may not represent.
‘I never thought we’d be sitting right now at 2-9,’ Robinson said. ‘There was too many question marks to really state that we were this kind of team or that kind of team. That’s why I refrained from really making statements because I really didn’t know for sure.’
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