Schafer: It doesn’t matter Syracuse beat FSU. It’s more important they finished.
At the ACC Kickoff in July, Syracuse head coach Dino Babers didn’t want a win total to define his team in the 2018 season.“My thing is this: I think that we’ve been in some close games,” Babers said. “If we’re going to turn into winners, we need to win some. What’s the number on that? I don’t know.”Success for his team could be seen in finishing close games, which it’s failed to do in years past (in 2017, Syracuse played Louisiana State, North Carolina State, Miami and Florida State within 10 points on the road but lost all four), Babers said during training camp. On Saturday against FSU, in SU’s first real test of the season, the Orange dismantled the Seminoles, 30-7.After failing to score touchdowns twice on first-and-goal opportunities, Syracuse (3-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) tallied 24 second half points without starting quarterback Eric Dungey. The defense sacked FSU quarterback Deondre Francois on consecutive series late in the third quarter that negated an FSU comeback.In Syracuse’s largest victory in the ACC under Babers, the Orange pummeled a lesser, yet reputable opponent.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textFrom the outside, the win — Syracuse’s first over FSU in 52 years — could be seen as historically significant. But through three games, the Jimbo Fisher-less Florida State team hasn’t looked like the program which won three conference titles in the last seven years. The win isn’t noteworthy because of the opponent. It matters that Syracuse finished.“To get a win on a football team like that where the game was definitely a close game for three quarters,” Babers said, “and then to pull away late like that late in the fourth quarter that’s very, very satisfying as a coach.In 2016, Babers and Syracuse were in the position head coach Willie Taggart and FSU are in now. In the Orange’s third game under Babers, against a then Taggart-led South Florida team, Syracuse was outmatched. The Orange lost 45-20, allowing 454 yards of offense to a USF team that would eventually go 11-2. The loss pushed Syracuse to a 1-2 start in Babers’ first year.A year later, in Week 2, Syracuse choked against Middle Tennessee State in the Carrier Dome. In Scott Shafer’s return, Syracuse entered the fourth quarter tied with MTSU, a team which would record a 7-6 marking after Conference USA play. On paper, Syracuse is better this season than FSU, which won more conference game than SU a year ago. The Orange averages more points and yards per game while holding opponents to fewer yards than FSU has in its first three games. And on Saturday, the Orange created separation against Florida State, which it failed to do against MTSU and USF in years prior.Syracuse’s experienced defensive line torched the FSU offensive line. Tommy DeVito rushed and threw for a touchdown after Eric Dungey left the game early. SU allowed one conversion on third down.To compete for a bowl game, which Syracuse has now set itself up to do, it needs to win the 50-50 battles against other fringe-bowl opponents. Saturday, the Orange did that.The game shouldn’t be glorified because Syracuse beat Florida State. The teams of Seminoles’ past aren’t the team SU beat. But the Orange showed change, too. The ending of Saturday’s game is what Babers and his staff have searched for over the last two years.Now the challenge, as Babers has said many times before, is to do it again.Josh Schafer is the sports editor for The Daily Orange where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Schafer_44. After forcing three turnovers in the first half, Syracuse’s defense folded in the second frame, allowing 220 yards of total offense and three touchdowns.The first play of the fourth quarter was a 49-yard Broncos touchdown pass. The next MTSU series featured three passes for more than 10 yards and ended in another touchdown.Against Florida State on Saturday, Syracuse didn’t collapse. The Seminoles scored once in the fourth quarter with just more than six minutes remaining. Their previous attempts for a comeback had failed, usually due to a Syracuse sack or quarterback pressure. For the first time under Babers, Syracuse held an ACC team to one touchdown.“This performance shows a lot of growth from the team we were two years ago and even last year,” defensive end Kendall Coleman said. “It means everything going forward because this is going to be major in establishing who we are this season.”While media members attempted to compare Saturday’s game to the Virginia Tech game in 2016 and Clemson last year during Saturday’s post-game interviews, there wasn’t a real correlation. Florida State was favored by three points and senior defensive end Alton Robinson added after the game he didn’t think the FSU win was an upset.FSU entered the game 1-1 with a 24-3 home loss to No.13 Virginia Tech and a 10-point over Samford on its resume. The Seminoles had played 10 linemen in their first two games and failed to score in the first quarter in both.The Seminoles team that entered the Carrier Dome on Saturday wasn’t the same program that beat Syracuse 10 times in a row since 1966. After a 7-6 season last year, FSU was forced to replace Jimbo Fisher, who coached the Seminoles to three ACC titles. Three games into Taggart’s tenure, the team is still transitioning.“We’re not playing like we should be,” said Taggart of his team which opened the season ranked No.19. “They should all be frustrated with themselves. We all need to look within ourselves to see what we’re doing and if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing.” Published on September 16, 2018 at 8:11 pm Comments Facebook Twitter Google+