HEADLINE

Tough Syracuse defense to tackle Maryland’s improved offense

Field Level Media

September 03, 2019 at 7:56 pm.

There’s so much to unbundle about No. 21 Syracuse’s visit to Maryland on Saturday.

Dino Babers’ Orange (1-0) opened with a 24-0 win at Liberty last weekend, that Syracuse defense every bit as staunch as advertised.

Maryland registered a shutout, too, in the first game for Mike Locksley as full-time head coach at a school where he’s in his third tenure — twice as an assistant. He was elevated to interim head coach when Syracuse grad Randy Edsall was let loose midseason in 2015.

It’s hard to talk about the Terrapins defense, though, when Maryland (1-0) put up 79 points on Howard, racking up 623 yards total offense and scoring in all manner of ways.

“We wish we had an offensive outing the way their offense played along with the way their defense played,” Babers said of the Terps. “Our eyes are wide open, and based off of how we played and how they played, I could see how many people could have them (as) favorite.”

The Maryland defense held a hapless Howard team to just 68 total yards, the fewest allowed by any team in Week 1, but Syracuse had a much sterner test on the road at Liberty, the hosts eager for a high-profile win in coach Hugh Freeze’s first game. The Flames confused Orange quarterback Tommy DeVito with soft coverages to prevent big plays.

The heralded sophomore wasn’t always patient. He was 17-of-35 passing for 176 yards on the day, and he had two interceptions. Of course there was no tape on Liberty and what they would do defensively. There is tape on what Maryland did, though sorting through all the players the Terrapins got on the field — 90-some bodies, including three quarterbacks who attempted a pass — will be a chore.

Maryland’s new starting quarterback, Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson, threw for 245 yards and four touchdowns. He was one of several high-profile transfers who looked like they can make the Terrapins tougher than expected in the demanding Big Ten East.

Other transfers making an impact were tight end Tyler Mabry (Buffalo), who caught a touchdown pass — equaling the number of TD tosses to Terps tight ends all of last season — and on defense, outside linebackers Shaq Smith (Clemson) and Keandre Jones (Ohio State) led a swarming unit.

“You never know who you are until you play a game,” Locksley said. “You can scrimmage all day long, but your defense knows your weaknesses. The first game you can find out where you need to make adjustments. For us, the biggest thing from game one to game two offensively is our tempo. On defense, the biggest thing was communication.”

Undoubtedly, the Maryland offense will have a tougher time with the Orange, who had eight sacks and 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage at Liberty, dousing the Flames’ rushing attack to the tune of minus-four yards. Senior defensive ends Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson and tackles Josh Black and KJ Ruff will provide the first big test for a largely unproven Maryland offensive line.

“The thing that was really exciting was that lot of those eight sacks weren’t even pressures,” said Babers after Syracuse’s first shutout win since 2015.

The Orange holds a 19-15-2 lead in the all-time series with Maryland, but they haven’t met since 2014, when Syracuse prevailed 34-20. Ironically, that’s the year Maryland left the ACC for the Big Ten, as Syracuse came into the league.