Syracuse shuts out Liberty in season-opener, 24-0

first_img Published on August 31, 2019 at 9:25 pm Contact Josh: [email protected] | @Schafer_44 LYNCHBURG, Va. — Andre Cisco knew that Liberty quarterback Stephen Calvert often doesn’t look off receivers. He followed Calvert’s eyes and ran. Before the pass made it near the intended Liberty receiver, Syracuse’s All-American sophomore safety had the ball trapped in his gloves, prepared to hand the Syracuse offense another opportunity. “That’s just the technique I happened to be playing on that play,” Cisco said. “So I ended up being on that side of the field pretty quick.”No. 22 Syracuse (1-0) scored a few plays later in a 24-0 victory on Saturday evening over Liberty (0-1) at Williams Stadium. In the Orange’s first opening game shutout since 2015, Liberty finished with negative-four net rushing yards and Syracuse tallied eight sacks, its most in a single game since 2009. For a Syracuse team so often defined by head coach Dino Babers’ fast-paced offense and scoring, the first game of 2019 couldn’t have been more different. “You know how hard it is to get a shutout?” said Babers, whose team scored over 40 points per game in 2018. “That’s big in today’s game.”Cisco’s interception bailed Syracuse out of position it was never supposed to be in. Not this year — the year after its best season in nearly two decades. The Orange entered their season-opener ranked for the first time since 1998. It was their opponents first game as an FBS team and their first-year head coach Hugh Freeze had to dictate from a hospital bed in the coaches booth.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBut Syracuse just couldn’t get out of its own way. It started with a fumbled punt. Then, an unsportsmanlike conduct came after a pair of missed tackles, leaving Syracuse back tracking deep into its own zone. A swing from Trill Wiliams arm changed that. The sophomore defensive back clubbed the ball out of a Liberty’s receiver’s hands only for Syracuse to eventually hand the ball back on a fourth down interception. Still, the momentum had shifted. Liberty would barely breach 100 more yards of offense in the game. “It’s something that I haven’t experienced a lot in here,” said senior Kendall Coleman when asked about the defensive dominance. “I’m glad to be a part of it and I think that we just scraped the surface of what we can do this season.”Courtesy of Liberty AthleticsBabers said that SU’s defense, which features eight returning starters, was ahead of its offense all summer long. Four turnovers against Liberty proved that and kept SU near its pace from last year when it finished tied for second in the country in turnovers. It came in part from constant quarterback pressures and 14 tackles for a loss. And from storming defensive end Alton Robinson (.5 sacks) on one side, Coleman (2 sacks) spinning on the other and redshirt junior Josh Black (2 sacks) following close behind in the middle. One play in the third quarter epitomized the absurdity of it all. Syracuse lined up in a 3-3-5, meaning three defensive linemen would rush against six blockers.  Like an assembly line of fighting in an action movie, Coleman passed off each minion on his way to the bad guy.  The offensive tackle was too far outside Coleman off the line. The Orange pass rusher shifted inside where the guard wasn’t fast enough. Then came the short and stout running back, who Coleman spun past. Liberty’s blockers turned and watched as their assignment tore their quarterback down once more. “I’ve never been in a fight,” Coleman said. “But if you get in a street fight with three dudes are you going to fight them all at the same time? I feel like that’d be pretty tough.”After the game, as Babers dissected his team’s up-and-down opening game, he couldn’t help but put the result in perspective. Syracuse struggled at points against Liberty; there’s no doubt about it, but so had other teams across the country. Babers held a list of those teams which struggled in his hands, though he declined to share which teams were on the list. He referenced teams that were favored on Saturday and lost. Teams like Tennessee and Purdue, whose seasons now appear immediately grim. “And all those guys are going home now and they wish they had an ugly game where they won,” Babers said. “Instead they got an ugly game where they lost. I’m happy we got the win.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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