The Syracuse Strong are 5-0, but it didn’t come easy vs the Troy Fighting Irish. Here are the highlights and how it all played out on Saturday evening.
Usually, a handicap match in WWE is when two opponents face off vs one guy. It’s obviously an unfair advantage in favor of the multi-team squad.
Well, the overall sentiment following the Week 5 matchup between the Syracuse Strong and the Troy Fighting Irish from fans, players and coaches is they experienced a WWE handicap match.
Syracuse didn’t just get the win vs Troy, they apparently also got the win vs the referees. Multiple players and team personnel within the Strong were not pleased with how the game was called.
On top of that factoid, Syracuse was on the road and played in their toughest game of the season.
The Strong had to fend for themselves in Week 4 without their starting quarterback Jason Boltus. Zavon Watkins’ true position is at wide receiver, but he helped Syracuse in a pinch and led the team to victory.
Despite having Jason back with the team in Week 5, the Strong coaching staff kept him on the sideline for the opening drive of the game.
With Watkins in at quarterback, they surprised the Fighting Irish and capitalized on a 51-yard quarterback draw for the score.
Speaking with Syracuse running back Rashad Burns after the game he said:
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“The coaching staff just wanted to give Troy a different look. It definitely threw them off guard and Watkins was able to scamper for that long touchdown.”
But that would be the only touchdown the Strong would score in the first half. Syracuse struggled throughout with costly turnovers:
- Jason Boltus shook off the initial rush before throwing a bad interception.
- Rashad Burns coughed up a fumble in a pile.
- Keison Cannon deflected a Boltus pass up in the air and it was intercepted by Troy.
- Finally, Zavon Watkins lost a fumble as well.
This was legitimate adversity.
Troy ran an interesting goal-line jumbo package that scored two touchdowns. They held a 13-6 lead at the half.
Although it would continue to be a back-and-forth affair featuring long touchdowns and special teams.
Speaking of special teams, that has been the secret sauce to this undefeated campaign for the Strong. Whether it be blocked punts, the coverage teams containing, or returns of their own.
After the game was knotted up at 20, the Strong showed their resolve by scoring 17 unanswered to walk away with the 37-20 victory.
Although a pivotal moment in the game came when linebacker EJ Maeweather snagged an interception at the 27-yard line ran across the field and made every Syracuse Strong coach nearly faint when he decided to pitch the ball back to his teammate.
Despite being in a crowd of opposing players EJ decided to pitch the ball to a teammate. While many would assume this was a spur of the moment decision, it wasn’t:
“Crazy this is me and loodie talked about that before the game in the locker room. I told him if I get an interception, just get behind me and I’m going to pitch it to you then it happened. The only reason we were even talking about it is that my teammates dogged me about my last interception and I said I’ll pitch it to someone else next time.”
It was one of those, NO NO NO, YES plays by the coaching staff and it worked out. After EJ ran three yards, he passed the ball back to his teammate who took it another 40 yards.
Top performers from Syracuse’s Week 5 win vs Troy:
- Jason Boltus was 14-of-20 for 101 passing yards and registered two interceptions.
- Zavon Watkins had two carries for 51 yards and a touchdown.
- While the leading receiver was Watkins with five receptions for 55 yards.
- Linebacker, Josh Tracy (No. 28) got the easiest interception of his career in this game. He had to move a total of six inches.
- Four players each grabbed a sack:
- No. 2, Dewayne Gordon.
- No. 52, Kahari Alford.
- No. 56, Qwamvelique Pettiford.
- No. 75, Scott Irons.
- No. 0, Jeff McDuffie led the team in solo tackles (6).
Up next for the Strong they return home to play the Broome County Stallions in Week 6. The entire league will enjoy a bye week in “Week 7” for July 4 weekend.