Syracuse Football: Orange sputters late, loses opener to North Carolina

Syracuse football kept the North Carolina offense in check until the fourth quarter, but then the Tar Heels opened things up to cruise, 31-6.

Syracuse football unveiled its new 3-3-5 defensive scheme on Saturday afternoon versus No. 18 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and for three quarters, the Orange held the prolific Tar Heels offense to a modest 10 points.

But, by the end, Syracuse football had withered away to North Carolina inside a fan-less Kenan Memorial Stadium by a final count of 31-6, a result that snapped the Orange’s win streak at six years in a row emerging victorious in season-opening encounters.

UNC (1-0), deemed by national and Atlantic Coast Conference pundits as a top-three team in the league, went off in the fourth quarter against a ‘Cuse defense that couldn’t seem to get off the field in the final 15 minutes.

That’s because the Syracuse football offense proved pretty anemic throughout this contest, and certainly in the fourth quarter, when it had way too many three-and-out drives.

The Tar Heels, a crew installed as a 23-point favorite by odds-makers before things got underway, definitely looked sluggish in parts of this ACC clash, as the Orange forced several turnovers, including two interceptions of star sophomore quarterback Sam Howell.

However, while the ‘Cuse (0-1) managed to stay within a 10-6 margin of UNC after three quarters of play, the Tar Heels rattled off multiple touchdowns in a row, putting this bout out of reach.

By around the eight-minute mark of the fourth quarter, Howell’s day proved done, and a few minutes later, the same applied to the Orange’s redshirt junior quarterback, Tommy DeVito, who gave way to redshirt senior Rex Culpepper.

DeVito struggled with his accuracy, and the Syracuse football running attack didn’t do all that much. Redshirt junior placekicker Andre Szmyt missed an easy field goal, which totally shocked me.

A ‘Cuse punt return for a touchdown got brought back due to a penalty. The offense couldn’t connect with consistency on third down, and it had to settle for field goals rather than getting the ball into the end zone.

Field goals, as I noted earlier this week, wouldn’t get it done against an explosive North Carolina offense. Without question, Syracuse football had opportunities to enter the half with a lead, and it didn’t.

Then, it all fell apart for the Orange in the fourth quarter, and a once-close game turned into a rout. I guess the odds-makers knew what they were doing, because UNC beat not just Syracuse football, but also that 23-point spread.

The ‘Cuse will seek to even its 2020 record at 1-1 when it travels to Pittsburgh on Saturday, Sept. 19, for another noon start-time. The ACC Network will provide television coverage.