FB : OPPORTUNITY LOST: Syracuse fails to capitalize on forced turnovers in loss to Connecticut

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 4, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Mark: mcooperj@syr.edu | @mark_cooperjr EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Ryan Nassib walked off the field in disdain, pulling his helmet off and taking a familiar seat on the left end of the bench on the Syracuse sideline.Three plays earlier, the SU quarterback and his offense ran onto the field with enthusiasm in the first quarter following an Orange fumble recovery to stop a Connecticut drive in the red zone.But Nassib’s drop back and quick fire on a slant for tight end Nick Provo happened too fast. The SU quarterback’s bullet pass sailed over Provo’s head and into the welcoming arms of UConn safety Jerome Junior. The third straight empty possession for SU nullified the forced turnover from moments earlier, a trend that came back to bite the Orange by the end of the game.‘I think it’s just when you think about, the defense got a turnover, we need to score now,’ SU wide receiver Alec Lemon said, ‘instead of just focusing on that first play and then the second play. And then that first first down and turning that into a good drive.’UConn’s five turnovers in the first half led to zero points for Syracuse. The Orange defense made big plays time and time again in the first half, intercepting quarterback Johnny McEntee twice and forcing three different players to lose fumbles. But each time the SU (5-4, 1-3 Big East) defense came running off the field with the ball, the offense didn’t make the Huskies (4-5, 2-2 Big East) pay. And when UConn’s offense got rolling in the second half, Syracuse’s inability to score points off turnovers cost it the game in a 28-21 loss to the Huskies in front of 38,769 at Rentschler Field on Saturday.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange offense also turned the ball over three times en route to a missed chance at becoming bowl eligible.‘You’ve got to make plays, we weren’t able to make plays,’ Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone said. ‘We wound up turning the ball over, too.’Syracuse showed its inability to move or take care of the ball in the first half on its very first drive. Already down 7-0 after a quick Huskies’ score, Nassib and running back Antwon Bailey botched a handoff on the Orange’s second offensive play.The ball came bouncing off of Bailey in the backfield toward the line of scrimmage, where UConn linebacker Jory Johnson recovered.‘It was … the handoff was … it just didn’t happen,’ said Bailey, who was limited to 50 yards on 16 carries.Still, back against the wall, the Syracuse defense made a play. McEntee threw the first of his two interceptions to safety Phillip Thomas. Syracuse got the ball back, no damage.But there was little progress made by the SU offense.Early in the second quarter, after Chandler Jones forced Huskies running back Lyle McCombs to cough up a fumble, Nassib was wild again. His throw on third-and-5 sailed high of Lemon for an incompletion on a slant play similar to his previous interception.Nassib finished the first half just 7-of-17 — a 41 percent completion rate — with a touchdown and interception. He failed to exploit UConn’s 106th-ranked pass defense.‘He came out, the balls were sailing on him, he had a couple guys open and just missed them,’ SU offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. ‘Part of playing the position, you got a lot of guys bearing down on you, get open and they just sailed on him.’In five first-half possessions after a turnover, Syracuse produced 62 yards on 21 plays. Those drives resulted in two three-and-outs, three total punts, an interception and a missed field goal.‘We had opportunities, and we weren’t able to take advantage of it in the first half,’ Marrone said.The Syracuse offense finally began to click in the second half. SU scored touchdowns on its first two possessions. Nassib completed 9-of-10 passes in the third quarter, including a touchdown pass.But the Connecticut offense also began piecing drives together to match SU punch-for-punch. And in what proved to be the most pivotal exchange of the game, UConn turned an interception into the eventual game-winning score.With the pressure mounting in a game tied at 21 in the fourth quarter, Nassib made a long throw to the right sideline intended for Lemon on a deep comeback route.Hackett said Nassib underthrew it a little. Lemon said he should have come back to the ball more. Or maybe Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore just made a phenomenal play when he jumped the route, picked off the pass and gave his offense possession — and eventually seven points.It was exactly what Syracuse couldn’t do all game long.‘Any time the defense does a great job like that, you got to capitalize on the turnovers,’ Hackett said. ‘We didn’t today. We didn’t capitalize at all.’mcooperj@syr.educenter_img Commentslast_img

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