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|Posted on January 7, 2020 at 11:15 PM||comments (0)|
Article by Dan Tortora
The Syracuse Orange came into their 15th game of the season after losing a heartbreaker in the Dome, 88-87, just three days before against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Coming off of a loss themselves inside the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the Virginia Tech Hokies came into Syracuse, New York, following a 65-39 loss to the Virginia Cavaliers.
Both teams entered the match-up looking to get back to .500 in conference play, with the Orange and the Hokies sitting at 1-2 apiece.
Virginia Tech scored the first points of the game when redshirt-junior forward Elijah Hughes was called for goal-tending.
Hughes responded immediately by knocking down a jumper at the other end for an early 2-2 tie.
Syracuse took their first lead of the game at 4-2 off of a jumper by junior forward Marek Dolezaj, but Virginia Tech quickly countered with a three from freshman guard Nahiem Alleyne to go up 5-4.
The Orange would gain the lead back at 9-7 off of a dunk by junior forward Bourama Sidibe at the 13:18 mark of the first half.
Syracuse would hold onto the advantage for the remainder of the first half, keeping their lead for the final 13 minutes and 18 seconds of the opening half.
At the half, the Orange led the Hokies 33-27 with the final make for Syracuse coming from true freshman guard Joe Girard, III, who wanted it from deep, and eventually took it, fading for three. Girard had 10 points in the first half as the lone Orange player in double-figures.
No one on the Hokies' roster had attained double-digits in scoring in the first half. Alleyne led the team with six.
Syracuse began the second half with two offensive boards on their opening possession, the first by Dolezaj and the second by Sidibe, leading to a jumper by sophomore guard Buddy Boeheim to bring the score to 35-27.
But not much else would come from either team to follow, with the Orange and the Hokies combining to score five points in the first six minutes and change of the second half, the Orange with three and the Hokies with two.
Virginia Tech would outscore Syracuse 15-9 to start the second half, tying the game at 42 when redshirt-freshman guard/forward Landers Nolley II dunked it home at the 10:22 mark.
Girard answered quickly with two makes at the charity stripe.
However, freshman guard Jalen Cone would connect from long range while being fouled by Dolezaj, and would complete the four-point play to move the Hokies ahead 46-44. their first lead since being up 7-4 at the 14:20 mark of the first half. The time between Virginia Tech leads in the game was 24 minutes and 32 seconds, gaining it back with 9:48 remaining in the second half.
With 6:22 to play in the second half, the Hokies had already matched their total from the entire first half, with 27 points.
A questionable defensive foul would end Dolezaj's night with 5:34 to go. He ended the contest with six points, six rebounds, two assists, two turnovers, one block, and one steal.
But good news came for the Orange with 3:23 to go, as they were in two possessions of the Hokies at 57-52.
True freshman forward Quincy Guerrier would fight at the rim, eventually knocking it over to Sidibe who would finish for two, moving Syracuse to a three-point deficit, 57-54.
Cone would expand the lead for Virginia Tech back out to two possessions when he answered immediately from long range to make it 60-55 Hokies.
With 1:32 to go, Hughes would make both of his free throws to get the Orange to within four, 60-56.
Upset about the foul called on him that led to two made free throws for junior guard Wabissa Bede, Hughes came back onto the offensive side and drilled a three to get Syracuse back within three, 62-59.
Virginia Tech, however, continued to have an undesirable response for Syracuse, with junior forward P.J. Horne making a two-point jumper, which had originally been ruled a three, giving the Hokies a 64-59 lead with 47 seconds remaining.
Guerrier's offensive rebound and putback followed by a dunk got Syracuse to a three-point deficit again, this time at 66-63, with 9.4 seconds to play.
It just would not be enough, as the Orange lost another close one down the stretch, following their one-point loss, 88-87, to Notre Dame a game ago.
Though they kept Virginia Tech from having the lead for over half of the game, you still have to finish.
The Hokies did, out-scoring the Orange 40-30 in the second half, en route to a 67-63 victory, to move up to .500 in the ACC at 2-2, while the Orange fell to 1-3.
Cone led Virginia Tech with 19 points, followed by Nolley with 13 and Horne with 12.
Syracuse only played one off of the bench, that being Guerrier, who ended the contest with 12 points. Hughes led the Orange with 18, followed by Girard and Guerrier with 12, and Boeheim with 10. Two Syracuse players finished below double-digits in scoring, Dolezaj with six and Sidibe with five.
|Posted on January 4, 2020 at 6:15 PM||comments (0)|
Article by Dan Tortora
The Syracuse Orange rang in the new year at home versus longtime foe, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, for their first contest of 2020.
Syracuse entered the game at 8-5 overall, while Notre Dame came in at 9-4.
The Orange were 1-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and the Irish were still seeking their first conference win after beginning 0-2 in the ACC.
Syracuse began the game with their first two field goals coming from beyond the arc, the first three from sophomore guard Buddy Boeheim and the second from true freshman guard Joe Girard, III.
That trifecta from Girard would give the Orange a 6-5 lead at the 17:56 mark of the first half. Syracuse would not own the lead again until over 11 minutes later, when they went ahead 30-28 off of a layup by redshirt-junior Elijah Hughes with 6:52 left on the first half clock.
Overall, there were two ties and five lead changes in the first half.
The largest lead of the first half belonged to the Fighting Irish, which was nine points, coming on two separate occasions (20-11 and 23-14).
Syracuse, however, would not trail for the remainder of the first half, from the aforementioned 6:52 mark, and they would break a 37-37 tie when true freshman forward Quincy Guerrier kissed the glass with a soft touch on his make from distance, rolling the Orange ahead 40-37 at the break.
Conversely, Notre Dame was without the lead from the 6:52 mark of the first half until 16:09 remaining in the second half, a span of 10 minutes and 43 seconds, The Fighting Irish grabbed the 46-44 lead at 16:09 off of a three by senior guard Temple "T.J." Gibbs.
Boeheim would give the lead back to the Orange with a deep shot at the 12:40 mark that would bring the score to 54-53 Syracuse, but sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb would follow with two long-range connections and Gibbs would knock one down himself, moving Notre Dame forward in a run that would see the Fighting Irish get out to as much as an eight-point lead.
But the Orange would not lay down, and back-to-back threes from Boeheim and Hughes would bring the game to a tie at 64 with 8:40 left on the game clock.
Boeheim would send another shot from beyond the arc into the nylon of the net at the 6:50 mark to get back even with the Fighting Irish, this time at 67 apiece. He would then assist Guerrier on a dunk that gave the Orange a 69-68 lead with 6:12 to go.
Following a technical foul on Hubb, Girard would go 2-for-2 from the charity stripe, giving Syracuse a one-point lead once again, this time at 71-70, with 5:29 left to play.
Including those free throws, Girard would score 10 consecutive points for the Orange, with a jumper and two long-range connections coming after his trip to the line. This would roll the Orange ahead 79-75 with 3:37 remaining in the match-up.
John Mooney would give the lead back to the Fighting Irish when he did exactly that, fight, grabbing an offensive rebound off of sophomore guard Dane Goodwin's miss and then another offensive rebound off of his own miss, making his second attempt when he layed the ball in at the rim to make it 86-84 Notre Dame.
Despite a late three from Girard, Syracuse would fall short, losing by one, 88-87, when Notre Dame got the ball in quick to follow, running off the 00.4 seconds left on the game clock.
The Orange made eight shots from beyond the arc in the second half, four from Boeheim, three from Girard, and one from Hughes, with Girard getting his three second-half deep makes within the final 4:34 of the game.
In total, there were seven ties and seven lead changes in the second half.
The win gave Notre Dame their first conference victory this season, moving them and Syracuse to 1-2 in the ACC.
Mooney led the Fighting Irish with 28 points, following by Hubb's 22 and Gibbs' 21 as the three players to attain double-digits for Notre Dame in the game. With 14 rebounds, six offensive and eight defensive, Mooney would also end the contest with a double-double.
Of the seven players that saw time for Syracuse, five of them finished in double-figures, with Boeheim leading the way with 23 points, followed by Girard with 20, Hughes with 19, junior forward Marek Dolezaj with 13, and Guerrier with 10. Dolezaj joined Notre Dame's Mooney in the double-double realm, adding 10 rebounds to his 13 points.
|Posted on December 21, 2019 at 8:05 PM||comments (0)|
Article by Dan Tortora
In their last game before Christmas and the start of Hanukkah, the Syracuse Orange played host to the visiting North Florida Ospreys.
Down 13-11, Syracuse responded with back-to-back deep shots, the first from sophomore forward Robert Braswell, followed by true freshman guard Joe Girard, III, knocking one down.
Shortly after, junior forward Marek Dolezaj grabbed the ball on defense by the rim and launched it forward to redshirt-junior forward Elijah Hughes for a lay-in, moving the Orange ahead 19-13.
At the 4:52 mark of the first half, however, North Florida had tied it up at 26 on a shot beyond the arc by senior guard J.T. Escobar.
Braswell, Boeheim, Girard, and Hughes had all connected from three-point range in the first half, with the Orange going 5-for-13 (38.5%). There was a stretch late in the first half where Syracuse went 4-for-5 from deep.
But with 1:49 to go before the break, the Ospreys tied and took the lead at the line, 31-30, off of two free throws from senior guard Ivan Gandia-Rosa.
Dolezaj went to the charity stripe on a 1-&-1 attempt with 1:12 left in the first half and made both to roll the lead back to the Orange, 32-31.
Freshman guard Emmanuel Adedoyin swung the score back in favor of the Ospreys with 36.8 seconds before halftime, also at the line, going 2-for-2 to make it 33-32 Ospreys.
With 7.8 seconds left on the first-half clock, true freshman forward Quincy Guerrier grabbed the offensive rebound after Hughes' missed jumper, cashing in at the rim and at the line for an old-fashioned three-point play that gave the Orange a 35-33 lead heading into the locker room.
Overall, there were six ties and 10 lead changes within the first 20 minutes of play inside the Dome.
Syracuse began the second half with a spark when Boeheim cashed in from long range on the team's opening possession, bringing the score to 38-33 Orange.
But the Ospreys out-scored the Orange to start the second half, 11-8, taking back the lead at 44-43 at the 15:58 mark,
Coming out of a short break, Girard connected from long range to put Syracuse up 46-44 but Carter Hendricksen would respond immediately with a three of his own to move North Florida ahead 47-46.
The Orange would get two at the charity stripe from Hughes to get the lead back, at 48-47.
Boeheim would folow with his fourth deep shot of the contest, extending the Syracuse lead out to 51-47.
Just inside 13 minutes, North Florida tied the game at 52 off of a three by senior guard Garrett Sams and junior forward Trip Day would bring the game even at 54 apiece off of his layup for the Ospreys.
Less than halfway through the second half, there had already been four lead changes and three ties.
Syracuse would go on an 11-0 run to end the seesaw, elevating up to a 65-54 lead with 9:06 to play.
Escobar ended the Orange run with his three-pointer at the 8:52 mark that brought the score to 65-57 Orange.
With more than five minutes to play in the second half, Syracuse had already tied their first-half total of 35 points.
Yet with a little over four minutes to go, North Florida had cut the Syracuse lead to two possessions, 70-64, after Gandia-Rosa's three at the 4:54 mark.
Junior forward Bourama Sidibe slammed home the silencer on an alley-oop from Hughes, as the Orange rolled to a 82-70 win, thanks to a second-half surge.
Syracuse out-scored North Florida 47-37 in the second half, turning a two-point lead at halftime into a 12-point victory.
Hughes, Boeheim, and Girard played all 40 minutes for Syracuse, scoring 18, 16, and 14, respectively.
Dolezaj concluded the contest with 17 points in 34 minutes.
In total, five of the seven Orange players who took the court versus the Ospreys scored in double-figures, with Guerrier attaining 10 points of his own.
Sidibe ended the game with four and Braswell with three off of his aforementioned deep make.
Escobar led four Ospreys' players who reached double-figures, with 19, followed by Hendricksen with 17, and Sams and Gandia-Rosa each with 11.
With the win, Syracuse gets one more step above .500 at 7-5, winning three of their last four games.
North Florida moves to 7-7 on the season.
|Posted on December 8, 2019 at 7:00 PM||comments (0)|
Article by Dan Tortora
The Doug Marrone era in Jacksonville looks to be close to the end of its road.
After going 10-6 in his first official season as head coach of the Jaguars, which was 2017-18, it has gone from bad to worse for the Jaguars under Marrone. Jacksonville went 5-11 in the 2018-19 season and are currently 4-9 this season with three games yet to be played.
Watching the way this team is trending downward makes it hard to believe that they were less than a touchdown away of advancing to the Super Bowl just a couple seasons ago, back when they went to the belly of the beast to visit the New England Patriots in Foxboro, Massachusetts in the AFC Championship.
Not all of this, however, can be on Marrone, such as linebacker Telvin Smith announcing on social media that he would not be playing this season, cornerback Jalen Ramsey's constant cries for attention, and quarterback Nick Foles not even coming close to being worth the $88 million contract that the Jaguars decided to give him.
But, Marrone is the head coach.
He is responsible for the overall operation of this team week to week.
Marrone oversees the offensive and defensive schemes. He implements the game plan, runs practices, and monitors the individual and collective growth or regression.
The onus is on him.
As we get further and further from that 10-6 campaign, the Jaguars seem to be losing all semblance of the strength and vigor they had not so long ago.
Jacksonville began this season on a two-game losing streak and have not strung together more than two consecutive wins all season.
They are currently on a five-game losing streak, with the last time they were on the right side of the win-loss column coming back on October 27th, a Week 8 home victory over the visiting New York Jets, 29-15. Their most recent loss came at home at TIAA Bank Field on December 8th to the Los Angeles Chargers, 45-10. Jacksonville has a 2-4 record at home this season.
Going back-to-back seasons without a playoff berth since that AFC Championship run is not the direction owner Shad Khan and company were looking for.
A taste of success has not turned into eating at the big table.
That was all it was, a taste.
And it would be difficult to see this organization rest on the scraps of a season well-gone-by with a coach that has nothing to show on his hook for today's meal.
|Posted on December 8, 2019 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
Article by Dan Tortora
The Syracuse Orange football program has gone through what feels like a long, unending nightmare.
Pulling at the heartstrings of fans that have worn Syracuse proud across their chest for years.
Families that have loved the orange and blue for decades.
They finally got a taste of what the past felt like, in that moment where Syracuse rose to 10-3 and defeated historic rival West Virginia for the fourth consecutive time, this time at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, for the Camping World Bowl.
And here they are again, with a losing record and no postseason to look forward to.
The last time the Orange had back-to-back winning seasons was 2012 to 2013. In 2012, their final season in the Big East Conference, Syracuse posted an overall record of 8-5. Following in 2013, the Orange needed a bowl win to secure an above .500 record, ending the season at 7-6. This was also the last time the Orange advanced to the postseason in consecutive seasons, and the last time they won back-to-back bowl games, gaining victories in the Pinstripe Bowl over the West Virginia Mountaineers and in the Texas Bowl against the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
When it comes to back-to-back double-digit winning seasons, you have to go all the way back to 1991-92, when Syracuse finished 10-2 in both years.
Then-head coach Paul Pasqualoni would follow those consecutive 10-win seasons with nine-straight winning seasons. This would add up to 11-consecutive winning campaigns for Pasqualoni from his first season at Syracuse (1991) through 2001, giving the Orange more than a decade of continued success.
Since Pasqualoni's firing following back-to-back 6-6 seasons (2003 and 2004), the Orange have had four winning seasons in the last 15 tries.
Greg Robinson, who succeeded Pasqualoni, amounted a mere 10 victories over four seasons with Syracuse, and an overall record of 10-37. To somehow make this four-year stint even worse, the NCAA took away five of those victories that he achieved in his first two seasons of 2005 and 2006, giving him five wins to 37 losses over his total time in Central New York.
Doug Marrone, a former Syracuse offensive lineman, gave the Orange some life during his four years that followed Robinson's firing. Marrone had two 8-5 seasons, but also two losing seasons, at 4-8 and 5-7.
His defensive coordinator, Scott Shafer, was elevated to head coach after Marrone left to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills inside the National Football League (NFL). Shafer went 7-6 in his first season at the helm (2013), as aforementioned, but followed with 3-9 and 4-8 finishes, respectively. After those three seasons, the university let Shafer go.
Fast-forward to now.
Dino Babers ends his first and second seasons at 4-8 apiece, but within that time defeats two top-25 ranked teams, the Virginia Tech Hokies and Clemson Tigers. The victory over Clemson came with the Tigers ranked in the nation's top two, when they came into the 2017 season as reigning national champions after having won the College Football Playoff.
He followed with the previously-mentioned 10-3 record, seemingly showing that Syracuse was on an upward trajectory. Two quality wins in rough seasons, with a double-digit win season in his third campaign began to create the notion that the team could potentially have some sustainable success.
Then 2019 happened.
A 5-7 record in a season that saw the Orange give up 63 points and lose by a 43-point margin to a Maryland Terrapins' team that ended their season 3-9 overall, and 1-8 in the Big Ten Conference.
Syracuse also gave up 58 points to the Boston College Eagles, who finished this season 6-6 and fired their head coach, Steve Addazio.
On top of that, the Orange lost to the N.C. State Wolfpack in an off-year for head coach Dave Doeren, a year in which the Wolfpack went 1-7 in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) play, and ended 4-8 overall.
Syracuse would give Willie Taggart one of his few wins this season as well before he was fired by Florida State.
So where do we go from here?
The Orange will be looking for a new defensive coordinator after Babers fired Brian Ward during this season. Ward had allowed over 38 points in 2016 and more than 32 points per game to opponents in 2017, along with the 63 points given up to Maryland and 58 to Boston College this season.
There looks to be an opening at quarterback after redshirt-sophomore quarterback Tommy DeVito was replaced by redshirt-senior Clayton Welch by the end of this season. Syracuse has David Summers and Drew Gunther returning with full eligibility having both used their redshirt year here in 2019.
Syracuse will also be looking for leadership on both lines, with Matthew Bergeron returning after having to play as a true freshman at right tackle, along with Airon Servais coming back for his final season, following playing center and left tackle for the team. Evan Adams' eligibility ending means that the Orange will have a vacancy at guard, and with the carousel that was this season, both guard positions may be up for the taking, following a season where Syracuse was in the top-four most penalized teams in the nation and gave up the third most sacks in the country, of 130 Division I-A (FBS) college football teams. The defensive line returns nose tackle Josh Black, but loses defensive tackle Kenneth "K.J." Ruff and both Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson at defensive end.
The Orange will be replacing leadership in the linebacker core for the third straight season, with Andrew Armstrong and Lakiem Williams concluding their time in college. This comes after Syracuse lost Zaire Franklin, Parris Bennett, and Jonathan Thomas following the 2017 season and Kielan Whitner and Ryan Guthrie after the Camping World Bowl in 2018.
Change, therefore, is evident with this program.
A program that has gone through change every 3-5 years with coaches coming in and out of Central New York.
Let us hope that this time change will be the movement back to sustained success.
That that faith Babers asked us all for, "belief without evidence", will pay off with evidence that we are on the right path.
A path that will lead us into the future instead of always looking back to more than 20 years ago, when success did not feel so far away.
|Posted on December 8, 2019 at 9:25 AM||comments (0)|
Article by Dan Tortora
The perfect storm happened for the Oklahoma Sooners during this year's Championship Week.
Oklahoma came into Championship Week ranked sixth in the most recent College Football Playoff poll.
Ahead of them were the fifth-ranked Utah Utes. Utah faced off against the Oregon Ducks in the PAC-12 Championship to open up Championship Week and were blown out by Oregon 37-15, giving them two losses on the season, moving them out of Oklahoma's way.
The Ducks were no threat to the Sooners whether they won the PAC-12 Championship or not after having already lost two games, including to the unranked Arizona State Sun Devils.
Next were the Georgia Bulldogs who had already suffered a loss this season to the unranked South Carolina Gamecocks.
The Bulldogs went into Championship Week as the last team in the College Football Playoff top four.
But they were also blown out in their conference championship, losing to the LSU Tigers in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Championship, 37-10, for their second loss of the season.
However, none of this would matter if Oklahoma failed to win their own championship game.
Seeing the Baylor Bears for the second time in 22 days, the Sooners did exactly that, defeating the Bears 30-23 in the Big 12 Championship.
With the LSU Tigers, Ohio State Buckeyes, and Clemson Tigers all winning the SEC, Big Ten, and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship games respectively, and, thus, remaining undefeated on the season, one spot remained.
That spot now belongs to Oklahoma, who showed up to the party later than Sooner, but it all shook out for them in the end as they will seemingly take the fourth spot in this season's College Football Playoff, marking their fourth appearance in the College Football Playoff since its institution in 2015, and third consecutive appearance.
|Posted on December 7, 2019 at 7:20 PM||comments (0)|
Article by Dan Tortora
The stage was the same, but the setting was different.
That is because the Memphis Tigers were playing in their third consecutive American Athletic (AAC) Football Championship Game, but unlike the past two, this one was at home in familiar digs at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee.
Their opponent was new as well, with the Cincinnati Bearcats advancing to their first-ever AAC Championship Game.
The UCF Knights represented the American East Division the last two seasons, with both games being played on their grounds at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
Memphis won the coin toss and did not disappoint coming right out of the gate, when they tried to catch the Cincinnati Bearcats off-guard with an onsides kick.
Memphis did recover their own kick, but were flagged for interference and Cincinnati took possession at Memphis' 30-yard line to begin the contest.
Graduate kicker Sam Crosa would connect from 32 yards out to give the Bearcats a 3-0 lead on their opening possession, but the Bearcats would get one better, when senior cornerback Chris Claybrooks was flagged for roughing the kicker, providing a new set of downs for the Bearcats.
With new life inside of the Tigers' redzone, it would take the Bearcats just two plays, back-to-back runs by junior running back Michael Warren, II, to score, the scoring run from six yards out to give Cincinnati a 7-0 advantage just inside the 12:30 mark of the first half.
Memphis would respond by getting all the way to Cincinnati's 11-yard line, but two incompletions on second- and third-down by junior quarterback Brady White would end the drive with three instead of seven, as junior kicker Riley Patterson sent a 29-yard attempt through the uprights to make it 7-3 Cincinnati at the 8:21 mark.
On the Bearcats' second drive of the game, the Tigers forced 4th-&-12 when senior linebacker Austin Hall took sophomore quarterback Desmond Ridder down, forcing a punt with a little over five minutes to play in the opening quarter.
Starting their second possession of the game from just outside of their own end zone, Memphis would have a quick three-and-out, courtesy of redshirt-freshman cornerback Arquon Bush knocking the ball away from senior wide receiver Antonio Gibson in single-coverage.
But, hold on.
Cincinnati would run into the kicker and a punt from deep inside their own territory would, instead, become a new set of downs for Memphis.
This Bearcats' blunder would prove costly when Gibson, who had the ball swatted away on the aforementioned try to keep the drive alive, would take a carry 65 yards up the gut, through traffic, and off to the races to give the Tigers their first advantage of the contest, 10-7, inside three minutes to go in the first quarter.
On their third drive of the game, Ridder aired out to sophomore wide receiver Jayshon Jackson, who was wide open after outrunning multiple defenders. Ridder's pass fell effortlessly into Jackson's hands and there was nothing but daylight... but, Jackson dropped the gimme and the Bearcats had to punt it away.
At the end of the first quarter, a glaring stat, aided by Gibson's 65-yard run, was the rushing-yard discrepancy, which favored Memphis 126 yards to 29 by Cincinnati. Memphis achieved over 100 yards on 11 carries, while Cincinnati amounted their 29 yards over seven carries.
The Bearcats proved to continue to be their own worst enemy, with mulitple dropped passes followed by Ridder fumbling after a substantial run, with the Tigers recovering the ball at the 11-minute mark of the second quarter. Ridder's fumble was caused by Claybrooks who knocked the ball out of Ridder's hands after Ridder's 39-yard quarterback keeper that would have placed Cincinnati at the Memphis 22-yard line.
Instead, the ball would move back into the hands of Memphis after being recovered by sophomore free saftey La'Andre Thomas.
But the Bearcats would get out of this debacle without giving up any points, as the Tigers' drive ended on their own 15-yard line, with a punt.
On Cincinnati's subsequent drive, Ridder would somehow elude a sack attempt and gain 14 yards for a first down with his feet, but yet another dropped catch attempt would continue the bleeding from self-inflicted wounds, and Cincinnati would punt it back to Memphis with 7:51 before halftime.
Starting at their own 10-yard line, ahead 10-7, the drops would continue, as the Tigers would punt it right back after gaining minimal yards, following a drop by redshirt-freshman running back Kenneth Gainwell.
Coming off of a mistake-laden first half by both teams in the catching game, junior wide receiver Malick Mbodj reeled one in in single-coverage with hands in his way for a 32-yard gain to the Tigers' 24-yard line.
Three plays later, Ridder would keep it himself, roll off of contact and virtually walk it in for a 15-yard touchdown run that would place the lead back in the paws of the Bearcats with a little over 2:30 to go before the half. This comes on the drive that followed Ridder's fumble where he was charging toward the same left side of the end zone.
On 3rd-&-2, Cincinnati would get some help from Memphis on a pass-interference penalty that would provide for them a new set of downs and move them to the Memphis 45-yard line. Claybrooks, who had aided Cincinnati accidentally when he ran into the kicker earlier in the first half, was responsible for the interference,
He would work to make up for it later on in the drive when he hurried Ridder on third down, forcing him to throw it away, and the Bearcats to ultimately punt it away with 1:01 to go in the half.
Three straight completions by White clawed the Tigers to the Bearcats' 40-yard line, but a sack by sophomore defensive end Myjai Sanders sent the Tigers back 12 yards.
A last-second heave by White before halftime ended in an interception that gave Memphis fans a scare as sophomore safety Ja'Von Hicks returned it 70 yards before getting pushed out-of-bounds to end the first half of play 14-10, advantage Cincinnati.
Leading the charge on the ground by 97 yards in the first quarter over the Bearcats, the Tigers would amount just two yards on the ground in the entire second quarter, while giving up 125 rushing yards to the Bearcats in the second quarter alone. As a result, Cincinnati went into the locker room with 154 rushing yards to Memphis' 128. Ridder led all players that had carried the ball on either side, with eight carries for 96 yards (12 yards per carry) and one rushing touchdown at halftime.
Memphis opened the second half with a six-rush, one-pass drive that concluded with a one-yard keeper by White to get the lead back on their end, this time 17-14 with 11:59 left on the third-quarter clock.
Cincinnati would respond with a nine-play drive where Ridder would go 3-for-3 and share the carries with Warren en route to their next score, when Warren went in from three yards out to grab the lead back at 21-17 with a little under 7:30 left in the third quarter.
White would go 3-for-6 on Memphis' next drive, leaving Patterson with a 52-yard attemplt that he would boot through to close the gap to one, 21-20 Cincinnati, with just under four minutes remaining in the quarter.
Claybrooks, who had made big plays and blunders alike in this contest, intercepted Ridder on the first play of the Bearcats' following possession, going for no gain as he went down at his own 37-yard line.
In the third quarter, Cincinnati gained 35 yards on the ground and 45 through the air, while Memphis added 46 on the ground to their total as White woke up to the tune of 101 passing yards with the 15-minute period.
The Tigers would take their late third-quarter drive into the fourth, ending the 11-play possession with a 50-yard field goal from Patterson, his second field goal of the day from at least 50 yards out. This one would give the lead to Memphis at 23-21 just 13 seconds into the final quarter, at the 14:47 mark.
Both teams would punt away their next opportunities before the Bearcats took a 13-play drive for a score when Crosa cashed in from 33 yards away to gain the one-point lead, 24-23, taking 6:27 off the fourth-quarter clock on the possession.
Memphis responded by taking a 10-play drive from their own five-yard line to paydirt, scoring on a pass from White to Gibson from six yards out, which Gibson darted his way in on.
The Tigers would try for a two-point conversion, but the pass attempt would fall incomplete with blanket coverage by the Bearcats, making it 29-24 Tigers with 1:14 to play.
Ridder responded with a 30-yard pass-play to sophomore wide receiver Alec Pierce and a 24-yard completion to senior wide receiver Rashad Medaris during their final drive of the game.
Junior linebacker JJ Russell would hurry Ridder on third down, forcing Cincinnati into one final down.
A false start would make it 4th-&-15 for the Bearcats and a holding penalty would follow, resulting in a turnover on downs with 26 seconds to go, clinching the first-ever American Athletic Championship win for the Memphis Tigers after their first two tries fell short to UCF.
I guess home truly is where the heart is.
Memphis moves on to 12-1 on the season, their first 12-win season in the history of the program, as Norvell continues to impress and his Tigers refused to be tamed.
|Posted on December 7, 2019 at 5:55 PM||comments (0)|
Article by Dan Tortora
Mike Norvell is hard to keep off of the radar of the rest of the world.
After all, his lowest number of wins in a season at Memphis was eight wins, with an 8-5 record in his first season with the team (2016) and 8-6 a year ago.
In between those seasons, Norvell posted a 10-3 record and the current 2019 campaign has seen the Tigers reach 11 wins for the first time ever, and now 12 wins for the first time (following American Athletic Conference Championship victory), in their school's football history.
Amidst this time, Norvell has aided Memphis to reach the American Athletic Football Championship on three occasions, becoming the first head coach and team to achieve this in the 6+ year history of the conference. Add to this that these trips are back-to-back-to-back, and it becomes even more impressive.
He has advanced the Tigers into the postseason with a bowl appearance in each of his four seasons, which includes this 2019 campaign.
Under Norvell, six players have been drafted to the National Football League (NFL): Quarterback Paxton Lynch (1st Round, 26th Overall) in 2016, Kicker Jake Elliott (5th Round, 153rd Overall) in 2017, Wide Receiver Anthony Miller (2nd Round, 51st Overall) and Linebacker Genard Avery (5th Round, 150th Overall) in 2018, and Running Back Darrell Henderson, Jr., (3rd Round, 70th Overall) and Running Back Tony Pollard (4th Round, 128th Overall) in 2019.
Norvell takes over a Florida State Seminoles' program that did not even give Willie Taggart two full seasons at the helm after Jimbo Fisher left for the Texas A&M Aggies' job in the Southeastern Conference (SEC).
Florida State saw five straight seasons with double-digit wins under Fisher, from 2012 through 2016, but went 7-6 in his final season with the program, back in 2017.
Since then, the Seminoles have gone 5-7 in 2018 and 6-6 most recently, most of that under Taggart.
Norvell is the second consecutive head coach to leave the Memphis program for a head-coaching opportunity in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), with Justin Fuente leaving for Virginia Tech before the 2016 season, which had opened up the job at Memphis for Norvell originally.
*Story updated following 12th win of the season with the 29-24 conference championship victory over the visiting Cincinnati Bearcats.
|Posted on December 3, 2019 at 8:55 PM||comments (0)|
Article by Dan Tortora
The Syracuse Orange would return home to the Dome after losing both of their "NIT Season Tip-off" games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, versus the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Penn State Nittany Lions to host the Iowa Hawkeyes for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Syracuse would take the early advantage and hold onto the lead or be tied for the 4:10 of play until Joe Wieskamp connected from long range to make it 10-7 Iowa at the 15:49 mark.
There were five ties and nine lead changes before the break.
Syracuse's last lead was 26-25 at the 2:45 mark off of a three by sophomore guard Buddy Boeheim.
Iowa took a 30-29 edge into halftime after both squads failed to score in the final 1:28 of play.
Early on in the second half, the Orange failed to protect the rim at a time where the Hawkeyes went cashing in from deep as well, resulting in the Hawkeyes staving off the Orange and moving out to a 42-36 lead with a little over four minutes played in the half.
That lead would balloon to double-digits for Iowa, 49-38, just before the 12-minute mark of the second half.
Syracuse would go on a drought that lasted seven minutes and 24 seconds from the 16:10 mark where junior forward/center Bourama Sidibe made a layup to 8:46 remaining when redshirt-junior forward Elijah Hughes connected from beyond the arc. That three by Hughes got the Orange to within 15, down 56-41.
After being down a mere one point at halftime, the Orange would be out-scored 38-25 in the second half.
One of the rare highlights of the second half for Syracuse was the play of junior guard Howard Washington, Jr., who knocked down a three and then stole the ball and elevated for the transition layup shortly after.
The loss moved the Orange to .500 on the season at 4-4, riding a three-game losing streak, to the aforementioned Oklahoma State and Penn State, and now Iowa.
Iowa, on the other hand, improved to 6-2, with this being their first true road win of the season.
Three Hawkeyes ended in double-figures, with junior center Luka Garza leading the way with 23 points, followed by senior guard Jordan Bohannon with 17 and sophomore guard Joe Wiescamp with 13.
Syracuse junior forward Marek Dolezaj led the Orange with 12, followed by Hughes with 10.
|Posted on November 30, 2019 at 4:25 PM||comments (0)|
Article by Dan Tortora
The Syracuse Orange and Wake Forest Demon Deacons came into the Dome on two totally different ends of the spectrum.
Syracuse was 4-7 with no postseason to look forward to.
Wake Forest was 8-3, with a winning record in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) at 4-3, and a bowl game coming on the horizon.
The Orange received the ball first after the Demon Deacons won the coin toss and deferred. Syracuse would accomplish little on their opening drive, with redshirt-senior punter Sterling Hofrichter punting the ball away after redshirt-senior quarterback Clayton Welch, who was named the starter for this game, was sacked for a loss of two by redshirt-junior linebacker Ja'Cquez Williams to set up fourth down on a quick three-and-out.
Wake Forest would begin the game with six rush attempts and a 2-for-3 start from redshirt-junior quarterback Jamie Newman that all led to a 43-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Nick Sciba to give the Demon Deacons an early lead, 3-0, at the 10:02 mark of the first quarter.
Syracuse senior running back Moe Neal would rush up the middle for back-to-back first downs, of 15 and 12 yards respectively, on the team's second drive of the contest.
On 3rd-&-4, Welch threw to redshirt-junior wide receiver Trishton Jackson who reeled it in and pushed for the first down at the 14-yard line of Wake Forest.
Two plays later, sophomore wide receiver Taj Harris spun twice, lowered his head, and pushed forward, advancing when the Demon Deacons went for the strip, breaking free for what looked to be a 14-yard touchdown after his reception.
But the officials reviewed the play and ruled that Harris stepped out at the two-yard line, giving Syracuse a first down instead of a touchdown.
On the very next play, sophomore running back Jarveon Howard ran forward but the play was called back on a holding penalty, rolling the Orange back to the Demon Deacons' 12-yard line.
Welch responded immediately, sending a pass to Trishton Jackson who caught the ball by the goal-line and turned away from his defender and into the end zone to give Syracuse their first lead of the game, 7-3, at the 6:27 mark of the first quarter.
Immediately following the touchdown, sophomore free safety Andre Cisco would intercept redshirt-junior quarterback Jamie Newman and the Orange would have the ball back on offense, this time at the Deacons' 28-yard line.
However, the excitement on this drive would be short-lived after Welch saw his receiver and undershot the pass, with redshirt-junior defensive lineman Manny Walker intercepting Welch, but Welch did chase down Walker and take him down after throwing the interception.
Syracuse's defense would strike again and force another turnover by Newman when senior linebacker Lakiem Williams would force Newman to fumble on his quarterback keeper and Cisco would recover the ball at the Wake Forest 13-yard line. This drive, the third of the day for the Orange, would end with a 24-yard field goal by redshirt-sophomore Andre Szmyt to move the Orange ahead 10-3 with 2:19 remaining in the first quarter.
The Orange defense would open the second quarter by allowing nothing to the Deacons on a 4th-&-3 pass attempt, gaining the ball on their own 44-yard line after a Deacons' turnover on downs.
Welch would throw three straight completions on the following offensive drive for Syracuse, the final a pass to true freshman tight end Luke Benson, who was wide open, that resulted in a 29-yard scoring play to move the Orange ahead 17-3 just 1:42 into the second quarter (13:18 mark).
With the touchdown reception, Benson had attained a score in half of the games he played in this season (3 of 6), those scores coming versus the Holy Cross Crusaders, visiting the Duke Blue Devils, and in this game versus Wake Forest.
Syracuse's next drive would go no further than their own 12-yard line on a three-and-out performance.
The Orange defense would send an onslaught of pressure toward Newman, sacking him, but an illegal hands-to-the-face penalty would take the Deacons away from a fourth-down situation and, instead, give them a new set of downs at their own 48-yard line.
Sophomore quarterback Sam Hartman would come in later in this drive and send a strike to redshirt-senior wide receiver Kendall Hinton, who did not hold on, and Wake Forest would punt the ball away.
Syracuse would punt it right back less than two minutes later, with Wake Forest gaining possession at the 6:37 mark of the second quarter and gaining a few extra yards as a result of a dead-ball penalty on Lakiem Williams during the return, putting Wake Forest on the Syracuse 44-yard line.
Hartman went over the middle to Hinton on third down once again, but this time Hinton held on, attaining the first down, this moving the Deacons to the Orange nine-yard line.
The Syracuse defense, with Wake Forest at their seven-yard line, would intercept the ball in the end zone, when redshirt-sophomore cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu fought the ball away from his adversary, giving Syracuse possession with 4:23 to go before half.
This interception by the Orange defense gave the team an interception versus both quarterbacks seen in this game.
Alas, Syracuse would not come away with any points, punting the ball back to the Wake Forest 25-yard line with 2:41 left on the first-half clock.
On the fourth play of the Deacons' next drive, Hartman would get intercepted for the second time, this coming when the ball went through the out-streched hands of his intended receiver and into the hands of redshirt-senior cornerback Christopher Fredrick.
However, Syracuse's fourth created turnover of the contest would end with a turnover from their own offense when Welch forced a pass with pressure coming and junior cornerback Ja'Sir Taylor would intercept the ball at his own 24-yard line.
Wake Forest would create points off of this turnover when Sciba made his second field goal of the game, this from 45 yards away, at the close of the first half.
The tale of the first half was that the Orange defense brought about four turnovers in the first half (3 interceptions, 1 fumble), but the offense only came away with three points.
Nevertheless, the turnovers aided the Orange in taking a 17-6 lead into the break.
Syracuse began the second half with a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Wake Forest's first play of the half on a drive that would conclude with Wake Forest's first touchdown of the game, a 19-yard run by senior running back Cade Carney, that brought the score to 17-13 Syracuse just 1:49 into the half (13:11).
On the first drive of the second half for the Orange, Welch would take a hit that would result in a personal foul on the Deacons and redshirt-sophomore quarterback Tommy DeVito came in.
DeVito, playing in his first drive of the game, would find junior wide receiver Nykeim Johnson for an 18-yard pass play that would end at the Wake Forest two-yard line.
Welch would come back in on 3rd-&-1 for the Orange.
This drive would end with a 20-yard field goal after Syracuse failed to get the ball across the goal-line on three consecutive runs inside the Wake Forest three-yard line by sophomore running back Jarveon Howard.
With 5:57 left in the third quarter, the Orange had extended out to a seven-point lead, 20-13.
But the game would be even just 12 seconds later, at the 5:45 mark, when Hartman completed a pass on the first play of this drive to freshman wide receiver Donavon Greene that Greene would take in between defenders and then outrun the entire defense en route to a 75-yard touchdown.
Thus, Syracuse would be on the wrong side of a 17-3 swing that saw the Orange go from up 17-3 to tied 20-20.
With momentum out of their hands, the Orange would respond by punting the ball away.
The Deacons would take a little over two minutes off of the third-quarter clock before punting it back to the Orange with 1:54 left in the quarter.
On 3rd-&-8, Welch went out to Neal by the line of scrimmage. Neal turned nothing into something. He caught the ball, came upfield diagonally from right to left, saw traffic, changed course, and went left to right for a first down on what looked like a play that would be stopped well-short of the first-down marker. This 19-yard gain moved Syracuse ahead to their own 47-yard line to begin the fourth quarter on 1st-&-10.
But Howard would fumble on that same drive, forced by redshirt-junior nose tackle Sulaiman Kamara and would be recovered by freshman free safety Trey Rucker at his own 39-yard line.
Sciba, who was 23-for-23 on field-goal attempts this season going into this drive, missed his 53-yard try at the end of this possession, marking his first miss of the season and keeping this game tied at 20 apiece.
From 13 yards out, Neal would take the carry and head in untouched for his seventh rushing touchdown of this season and 14th career rushing touchdown. This score gave the lead back to the Orange, 27-20, with 8:29 remaining on the game clock.
Wake Forest would respond by taking over four minutes off of the game clock on a scoring drive that ended on a pass from Hartman to Hinton on 4th-&-2, tying the game at 27 with 4:12 to play.
On the following kick return, junior wide receiver Nykeim Johnson would be thrown out of the game for contacting an official.
Welch dropped back on 3rd-&-10 and found junior tight end Aaron Hackett for a first down on an 11-yard completion to keep the drive alive. He would send the ball to Harris on the very next play, which would end in a 33-yard gain and yet another first down.
Neal would carry the ball up the middle for a nine-yard gain to the Deacons' 25-yard line.
The Orange, however, would move back 10 yards on a holding penalty called on junior fullback/tight end Chris Elmore to the Deacons' 35-yard line.
With 44 seconds remaining, Szmyt would connect on a 49-yard field goal to move the Orange out to a 30-27 lead.
Wake Forest moved the ball so well and got to the sidelines multiple times to the point where they did not have to use their final timeout until four seconds were remaining. Sciba lined up from 43 yards away and sent it through the uprights, forcing overtime at 30 apiece.
Receiving the ball first in overtime, Syracuse amounted nothing on offense, hoping in the leg of Szmyt, who made it from 40 yards out to give the Orange a 33-30 lead, forcing the Deacons to have to score.
A field goal would keep the game going.
A touchdown or a turnover by Wake Forest would bring the game to its conclusion.
Hartman would keep the ball himself and rush for a 12-yard gain and a first down to the Syracuse 10-yard line.
He would send the ball to one of his key targets, Hinton, on what looked like a short gain, but sophomore defensive back Trill Williams crept up and stole the ball out of Hinton's hands, taking it all the way downfield for a defensive score.
Syracuse wins on this all-or-nothing attempt by Trill Williams, closing out the game after one overtime period, 39-30.
With the loss, the Deacons close out the regular season at 8-4 overall and 4-4 in ACC play, with a bowl game coming.
The Orange conclude their 2019 campaign at 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the ACC.