Syracuse fell to the Big Ten's Minnesota Golden Gophers 17-10 last night, chalking up its third loss for a 1-3 record while Minnesota improved to a perfect 4-0.
The Orange struggled on offense all night, scoring its first and only touchdown in the last minute of play in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Ryan Nassib, who has been averaging over 300 yards per game this season, completed 21 of 31 passes for 228 yards, one touchdown, one fumble and two interceptions. Kicker Ross Krautman notched a field goal early in the game, but turnovers and penalties killed the Orange in the end as they failed to capitalize on redzone opportunities and couldn’t get into a scoring groove.
The Gophers defense was impressive, effectively blitzing and pressuring Nassib and getting past the weaker right side of the Syracuse offensive line multiple times. It forced Nassib to make quick decisions including quarterback keepers that yielded minimal yardage. Nassib was sacked three times.
WR Marcus Sales had a quiet night, catching a 14-yard TD pass for Nassib at the last minute but not doing much else. Alec Lemon broke the SU career receptions record with his nine catches for 106 yards.
Penalties were a huge issue for the Orange, too – four false starts due partly to crowd noise hurt its chances. Defense was on the field for much of the game, but struggled to keep Minnesota back – the Gophers twice drove into field-goal range and missed. It turned into a “lesser of two evils” matchup, with errors and penalties on both sides that caused chaos. Despite missing starting QB MarQueis Gray, the Gophers’ offense got it done. Backup Max Shortell went 16/36 for 231 yards and ran the clock for much of the game. Though he was no superstar, he was consistent and turnover-free, essentially leading Minnesota to fewer mistakes and smart play. Overall, the multitude of errors led the Orange to shoot themselves in the foot through four quarters, and Minnesota held on for the entirety of the game to grind out their fourth victory of the season.
Syracuse will head into Big East play in two weeks after a bye week. Injured star left tackle Justin Pugh will return for that game, possibly allowing Sean Hickey to move to the right tackle spot that has been causing a lot of problems for Syracuse of late. The Orange look to bounce back in Friday night lights in the Dome October 5 vs. Pittsburgh. That game could set the tone for the rest of the season after a struggling start for Syracuse, who is still on the quest to rebuild a damaged program (rich in history but with no shortage of recent struggles) and go bowling once again with head coach Doug Marrone at the helm.