FB : Syracuse’s implausible bowl hopes over after loss to USF
TAMPA, Fla.-The pipedreams are over. The optimists quieted. The hopefuls are hopeless. Syracuse lost to South Florida, 27-10, in front of 29,694 at Raymond James Stadium for its seventh loss this season, ensuring a losing record and mathematically eliminating SU (3-7, 0-5 Big East) from far-fetched bowl aspirations. It’s head coach Greg Robinson’s second-straight losing season and as has been the case the past five games, Saturday kept Robinson winless in the Big East.
Despite an inspiring opening drive that resulted in a Patrick Shadle 29-yard field goal, Syracuse’s offense showed little progress from its last game-a 17-3 loss on Oct. 28 when it totaled only 180 yards. The Orange finished with 250 total yards, 47 of which came on a Delone Carter run. The defense forced three turnovers in the third quarter and SU’s offense didn’t capitalize on any of them.
‘We didn’t take advantage of our situations,’ Robinson said. ‘That’s the bottom of the line. I like to feel like the game was a closer game than 27-10 but how it comes out is how it comes out.’
It’s actually surprising the game was so close. SU had the ball with 9:20 remaining in the fourth quarter trailing by 10 points. It scored its first touchdown in 112 minutes on a 27-yard pass to Mike Williams to cut the Bulls’ lead to 20-10.
The Orange was starting a drive on the 3-yard line with any lottery-like bowl hopes 10 points away. It ran to Delone Carter on two straight plays for a total of three yards. On third down, Perry Patterson dropped back and was smashed by USF linebacker Chris Robinson, who had two sacks in the game. The ball popped loose and the Bulls (7-3, 3-2) recovered it.
‘My arm was about to go in motion, and that’s when the ball was out,’ Patterson said. ‘(The referee) said the ball was out before that.’
The bye week didn’t help the offensive line, which allowed pressure on Patterson throughout the afternoon. The Bulls had seven sacks and controlled the line of scrimmage on defense.
Patterson actually supported the offensive line, acknowledging the experience on the Bulls’ defense. Eight USF defensive starters are juniors or seniors. But still, SU has allowed 21 sacks in five Big East games.
It apparently didn’t effect SU’s playcalling, which continued to favor an aerial attack.
Patterson threw the ball 29 times, completing 15 passes for 174 yards. SU came out throwing on nine of its first 11 plays, only giving the ball to running backs Carter and Curtis Brinkley 24 times. Carter had 86 yards, including his 47-yarder when he was caught from behind by South Florida’s Trae Williams. Had Williams not caught Carter, the run would have been a sure 75-yard touchdown.
‘I heard him at the last second,’ Carter said. ‘I’m thinking touchdown.’
It was SU’s lone big play against the Bulls defense, one that Robinson praised after the game.
‘I don’t know if we’ve played a defense that is really that gifted,’ Robinson said. ‘This team could apply real pressure on you, and I give them credit.’
USF’s offense was impressive, too-especially freshman quarterback Matt Grothe, who threw for 364 yards. His biggest play was a 79-yard touchdown in the third quarter, when SU sent a blitz and the inside receiver, Taurus Johnson, beat safety A.J. Brown.
Robinson said the Orange was close on the blitz and almost brought down Grothe. Brown took responsibility for getting beat, the dark spot in a game that he also nabbed an interception.
It was one of SU’s three forced turnovers in the third quarter but those, like SU’s bowl hopes this season, were left unfulfilled.
The Orange ended up inserting freshman quarterback Andrew Robinson when the game was all but decided late in the fourth quarter. Besides those final six minutes, though, SU made no notable personnel changes. It was instead the usual suspects, a group that’s proving suspect.
Now Syracuse has only Connecticut on Saturday followed by Big East-leading Rutgers to close the season to earn Robinson an elusive Big East victory. Otherwise, it’s a 3-9 season.
‘I think we’re all frustrated but at the same time, there’s no time to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves,’ Robinson said. ‘We have Connecticut at home, and doggone it, that’s going to be very important to us.’
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