Syracuse, NY (October 11) – Florida State (6-0, 4-0) came to the Carrier Come ranked No. 1 in the nation, and the next day after beating a Syracuse team (2-4, 0-2), 38-20, led by two inexperienced college QBs, dropped to No. 2 in the AP poll on Sunday behind Mississippi State, winners over No. 5 Auburn, 38-20. FSU led throughout the game, but the Orange were as much at fault for beating themselves as the Seminoles were responsible for outplaying them. Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston (our 17th seen perform in the annals of our history) had an impressive day statistically (30 of 36 for 317 yards and 3 TDs), but at least three dropped passes in early key situations, a dropped INT on an FSU scoring drive, and a few questionable calls and non-calls by the officiating crew, put the struggling Orange at a somewhat self-inflicted disadvantage. Had a few of these plays worked out favorably for Syracuse, this game would have been much more competitive. A few specific plays made a significant difference in the final outcome between No. 1 and a 2-4 underdog with inexperienced back-ups playing in key positions for the first time. The play-calling by new offensive coordinator Tim Lester seemed effective. Had the execution been better, he and HC Scott Schafer would look like geniuses. Guest Game Analyst Roy McDonald (a Syracuse dad) noted that if SU executed properly, “we’d see a significant chink in Florida State’s armor.”
Florida State looked like they were prepared to roll to a romp as anticipated by the odds makers as they drove 70 yard on eight plays with Mario Pender taking the ball 12 yards off right tackle for a quick 7-0 lead. Austin Wilson led the Orange on to the turf under the Dome to start the game. Runs by Prince-Tyson Gulley (16 for 80 yards) and two pass completions moved the Orange to the FSU 19, but a pass into tight coverage was picked by DB Jalen Ramsey to start the next Seminole possession from the 39. The turnover resulted in an extended 10-0 lead as Roberto Aguayo booted a 34-yard FG for the visitors.
Syracuse’s next possession had freshman AJ Long replacing Wilson under center. Cole Murphy converted a 21-yard FG to cut the score to 10-3. SU moved the ball surprisingly well against the top-ranked Noles. A few dropped passes off the hands of open receivers did not bode well for the Orange. The same could be said on defense as a ball thrown right to FS Durell Eskidge covering deep bounced right off his chest that would have terminated FSU’s next drive to give SU possession. Instead, the Noles continued down field and finished in the end zone as Winston connected with Pender on a crossing pattern for a three-yard TD pass and a growing 17-3 lead. It was a very poor defensive series for Syracuse. FSU’s next series after a punt resulted in Pender fumble recovered by NT John Raymon at FSU’s 16. Two incomplete passes called for a 32-yard FG. Murphy’s conversion cut the lead, 17-6. The Noles put together a drive consisting of five pass completions and an SU interference call with All-American TE Nick O’Leary (8 catches, 93 yards, one TD) at the end of a 21-yard TD pass with 4:38 left in Q2. SU did not wilt. Wilson returned to call signals. RB Adonis Ameen-Moore shouldered most of the workload to place the Orange at the six with a fourth and goal. HC Scott Schafer bargained his team needed more than just another FG. Lester called the right play, but the pass to Steve Ishmael, a freshman, was dropped in the end zone. Roy and I noted it was the fourth drop (including the INT) by SU that was making a significant difference in the first half. FSU took a 24-6 lead into the locker room.
My GGA and I trekked to the far end of The Carrier Dome during halftime to meet with Isaac Alford who does the SU Blog for “Spadora on Sports”, our radio affiliate on Watertown, NY’s WNER 1130 AM. Isaac came out of the press box to meet with us as he’d interviewed me in the past in Pete’s absence. A native of Darlington, SC and an Army vet, we had a good talk. Roy and I talked with Isaac about our impression of SU shooting themselves in the foot during the first half and hoped for the Orange to play better in the second half. It was great to meet up with him. We’ll talk more in the future.
SU feebly started the second half with a three and out. On the other hand, FSU put together a touchdown drive with Winston firing to WR Jesus Wilson for a seven-yard TD. With AJ Long at QB, a 35-yard pass to Gulley that got to the 27 set up a 22-yard TD pass to Ishmael ( 3 catches, 93 yards, 2 TDs – could have been 3). Late in the third, Nate Andrews picked off a pass forced by Long (16 for 27, 167 yards, 2 INTs, 2 TDs) at FSU’s eight-yard line. Roy made his comment about SU’s lack of execution on some critical plays. SU’s passing stats would have been bolstered if not for some key drops.
Early in the fourth and 92 yards later, RB Dalvin Cook (23 carries for 122 yards, 1 TD) ran left for a seven-yard score and a 38-13 lead. Austin Wilson (5 for 9, 89 yards, 1 INT) returned at QB. Though Long played well overall, it seemed strange to us that Austin had been pulled after the initial series of the game as he moved the team well starting at QB for the first time. We would like to have seen what he could have done had he developed a rhythm with his offense. He’s a sophomore as Long is a freshman, and he’s bigger at 6-3, 210 lbs. On this next series, however, he suffered a head injury and Long had to come back in. He capped off this drive with a 35-yard scoring pass to Ishmael on a crossing pattern to make the score somewhat respectable despite the odds, 38-20. For the remaining 10:37, neither team mounted a serious scoring threat. Roy and I came away unimpressed with FSU believing had it not been for a few key miscues by the underdogs manned at several key positions by inexperienced players, the outcome may have been at least closer. When Mississippi State knocked off Auburn later that day, the pollsters evidently felt the same way.
Next week, now No. 2 Florida State will host No. 5 Notre Dame at 8 pm. The Irish won a close game, 50-43 over North Carolina who score a lot but is 127th in the nation for points allowed. This will be an interesting game. Syracuse travels to Wake Forest who has an identical 2-4, 0-2 record with the Orange. Collegefootballfan.com tackles the Ivies for the only time this season where Princeton (2-2, 1-0) hosts Brown (2-2, 0-1). We’re looking forward to our Big Tailgate. Tickets still available. Email me at email@example.com for more info if you would like to attend.
Extra Points: It was Homecoming for Syracuse in front of an announced crowd of 43,293 fans, but there were a lot of empty seats in the Dome. How many schools have the No. 1 team in the nation on the docket as their Homecoming foe? I thought you’re supposed to invite somebody you can dominate from beginning to end so you can have a happy celebration afterward.
It was a little over a three-hour drive up to Syracuse for us. We tailgated before and after the game at the Skytop parking area. The bus trip to and from the Carrier Dome was run pretty smoothly. At the Dome bus stop we met up with Roy’s son Miles who’s majoring in Electrical Engineering. He couldn’t join us today at the game. Miles played on my Little League baseball teams over the years. He ran cross country in high school and now and avid runner. He’s already got tickets for the NCAA eastern regional finals to be played at the Carrier Dome during March Madness. Good planning on his part. I told Roy if he ever wants to go up to a Syracuse b-ball game at The Dome to let me know. I’ve never been. Next season, the football team hosts LSU. We will take that one into consideration.
Florida State has three players from Sussex County, NJ where we are headquartered: back-up QB Sean McGuire who filled in for Winston during the Clemson game hails from Sparta but played high school ball at Seton Hall Prep; Freshman TE Ryan Izzo who played for Pope John HS in Sparta is a Highland Lakes resident; and second team OG Chad Mavety, a junior, is also a Sparta resident. Many people at a party I attended with friends in Stanhope last night asked if I’d seen Sean play. Many know him as he once lived in Byram Twp. where I live.
More action from the Syracuse Dance Team: