|Posted on September 11, 2021 at 5:30 PM|
Article by Dan Tortora
The Dome opened for fans for the first time in almost two years here on a suitable day, that being September 11th.
Twenty years ago to the date, our freedom felt attacked.
We were facing the unexpected.
None of us knew exactly what life would look like around us moving forward.
Here we are, twenty years later, feeling and thinking very similarly in a different situation.
But, we have each other, and there is no substitute to hearing REAL fans in the stands, REAL noise in the Dome.
That noise was heard immediately when the fans cheered for returning redshirt-junior quarterback Tommy DeVito and he came onto the field for the first drive of the contest.
The first play that Orange fans would see after not being inside the Dome for almost two years was a completion from DeVito to redshirt-sophomore wide receiver Anthony Queeley for a gain of six yards. On the second play of this drive, freshman running back Sean Tucker would gain a first down for Syracuse on his five-yard run.
But DeVito would miscue on consecutive throws and the Orange, as a result, would punt. The snap was high and true freshman punter James Williams would try to get the punt off, but freshman cornerback Max Melton would block the attempt, starting the Scarlet Knights on the Orange 18-yard line for their first drive of the game.
Rutgers would have had a touchdown reception on this possession, but it was called back for offensive pass interference.
On the next play, defensive ends Josh Black (redshirt-senior) and Caleb Okechukwu (redshirt-sophomore) would combine to sack senior quarterback Noah Vedral for a loss of nine yards, setting up 4th-&-27.
Senior punter Adam Korsak would lose eight yards when redshirt-freshman cornerback Garrett Williams got to him, giving Syracuse the ball by midfield, at their own 43.
The Orange would run the ball six times and DeVito would go 2-for-3 through the air, moving down the field to the Rutgers' 16-yard line.
However, following junior wide receiver Taj Harris' second catch of the game, the officials ruled that he fumbled inside the Rutgers' 10-yard line. That ruling was upheld, resulting in Syracuse taken away from prime scoring position and Rutgers gaining possession on their own five-yard line.
But the Orange defense would prevent the Scarlet Knights from capitalizing on this turnover, not allowing the Scarlet Knights past their own 33-yard line as they ended their drive in a punt.
DeVito, on 3rd-&-5, fired to redshirt-freshman wide receiver Courtney Jackson, to gain a new set of downs. The first quarter would end without a score by either team, with Syracuse still in possession.
However, the Orange would punt it away early in the second quarter, putting the Knights in their own redzone.
With both teams still scoreless, Syracuse would get the ball back, and sixth-year Syracuse head coach Dino Babers would call Garrett Shrader's number, letting the transfer quarterback, a sophomore from Mississippi State, take the reigns.
Shrader's completion to Harris on third down would be called back due to an illegal formation and Shrader would be sacked on the next play as he tried to take off to the right, concluding his first drive of real minutes with a punt (Shrader played the last drive for Syracuse on the road at Ohio when they were ahead 29-9, with Babers seemingly looking for Shrader to run the clock down).
The Orange would sack senior quarterback Noah Vedral twice to open their next series, the first coming from redshirt-senior defensive tackle McKinley Williams and the second from a combination of Okechukwu and Steve Linton; this drive would end shortly after in a punt.
Shrader came back for his second series, getting out of traffic and finding Courtney Jackson for a three-yard gain on 3rd-&-8, getting the Orange to their own 20, but closing yet another drive out in a punt.
Syracuse's offense gained -1 yards on Shrader's first drive, where Shrader was sacked for a loss of four yards after the offense had gained five yards cumulatively, followed by the team amounting five yards on his second drive. Neither drive saw the Orange get out of their own redzone.
The Scarlet Knights would go for it on 4th-&-1 from the Orange 37 on their next drive, and sophomore linebacker Mikel Jones gave Scarlet Knights' junior running back Isaih Pacheco no time, taking him down for a four-yard loss and a turnover on downs.
On the following Syracuse drive, Shrader would go 3-for-6, with his third completion of the drive coming with him on the run out of the pocket, without his feet set, and throwing across his body. Harris gathered the ball for an 18-yard gain, placing Syracuse just outside the Rutgers' red zone, at their 20, with 35 seconds before halftime.
Syracuse would lose five yards when Shrader was taken down on the run.
Redshirt-junior kicker Andre Szmyt would attempt a 43-yarder from the Rutgers' 25-yard line, missing wide left, resulting in the game remaining scoreless at the half.
The Orange would open the second half with DeVito back at quarterback. Syracuse would have a quick three-&-out on this drive after Harris and redshirt-junior wide receiver Sharod Johnson would get their hand on but not come up with back-to-back throws by DeVito.
Rutgers takes over six minutes off the clock (13:01 to 6:46) on their second drive of the third quarter, gaining the first score of the game by either side, with an 11-yard touchdown run by freshman running back Kyle Monangai.
The Scarlet Knights were moved from the Orange 22-yard line to the 11 after Babers was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Off-setting penalties were called prior to the penalty on Babers, so Syracuse went from not being penalized to giving up prime territory after their call on their head coach.
Vedral went 7-for-8 on this drive and Rutgers ran the ball six times, with the final time being the scoring play by Monangai.
Syracuse would respond with a 51-yard pass-play from DeVito to Harris on the second play of their next drive, placing them at the Rutgers' 24-yard line.
Tucker would carry the ball the rest of the 24 yards on the following play, answering Monangai with a rushing score of his own, tying the game at 7-7 with 5:54 left in the third quarter. This was the first touchdown scored by the Orange in the Dome this season, and first overall score by the team in the Dome in 2021.
Each team, after scoring on their previous drive, would follow with a three-&-out.
Freshman linebacker Marlowe Wax, Jr., would sack Vedral on the first play of Rutgers' next drive.
Vedral would respond by going 2-for-3, with his third pass attempt going over the middle to senior tight end Jovani Haskins who pushed his way into the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown play, moving the Scarlet Knights back ahead, 14-7, with 24 seconds left in the third quarter.
Syracuse would take their drive into the top of the fourth quarter and go three-&-out after DeVito was sacked on second down by Young and then overthrew Queeley on third.
Backup punter, freshman Colby Parker, would come in to punt it away, and shanked it, sending the ball a mere eight yards.
The Orange would be called for an illegal formation on the punt as well, moving the eight-yard punt back five yards, giving the Scarlet Knights the ball on the Orange 26-yard line.
Syracuse's defense prevented a touchdown, giving junior kicker Valentino Ambrosio a 29-yard attempt, which he missed to the right, keeping it a one-score game with under 11 minutes to play.
But DeVito would fumble the ball on the very first play for the offense, giving the ball right back to Rutgers, now on the Syracuse 10-yard line, with 10:22 to go.
Syracuse's defense would once again prevent a touchdown, but Ambrosio would not miss this time around, connecting from 27 yards out, to elevate Rutgers to a 10-point lead, 17-7, with 8:23 left on the game clock.
DeVito would open the following Orange drive with a 21-yard run after the fake hand-off, which would get another 15 yards added to it after a late-hit penalty, taking the Orange from their own 24 to the Scarlet Knights' 41.
On 4th-&-10, Babers would elect to punt, down 10 (17-7), with under eight minutes to play.
As the mass exodus of fans happened in the stands, DeVito saved the drive with his feet, getting the Orange to their own 37 on 4th-&-6.
Shortly after on third down, DeVito threw right to Melton, who intercepted the ball on his own 44 to close out the contest.
Melton was by far the player of the game for Rutgers, with a blocked punt and interception on the day.
With a 17-7 victory in the Dome, the Scarlet Knights have now won three in a row against the Orange, this being their first victory since they and the Orange were in the Big East; that win came in Piscataway, New Jersey.
Vedral went 22-for-28 (78.6%) for 145 yards and a touchdown.
DeVito ended the game 15-for-25 (60%) for 149 yards and an interception.
Shrader, who Babers never brought back in the second half, was 4-for-6 (66.7%).
DeVito was sacked five times and Shrader once.
Harris was the highest for the Orange offensively with 122 yards on eight catches.
Rutgers moves to 2-0, while Syracuse falls to 1-1, each in non-conference play, following the 17-7 Rutgers' win.