Syracuse defense shuts down No. 17 Virginia Tech in 31-17 upset victory

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on October 15, 2016 at 9:48 pm Contact Jon: jrmettus@syr.edu | @jmettus Chris Slayton and Kendall Coleman ran past the 30-yard line, chasing down Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans and the Hokies’ hopes at a comeback. The duo dove together from behind Evans at the 25-yard line and Parris Bennett met them from the other side, the collision of the four bodies jarring the ball loose.It tumbled forward about another 10 yards as bodies piled on top of it next to the Orange sideline.Four minutes were left in the game. Syracuse held a 31-17 lead over No. 17 Virginia Tech. And in that moment, with the eventual fumble recovery, came the defense’s biggest play in its best game of the year.“I mean our defense,” Syracuse head Dino Babers said. “Coach (Brian) Ward. Wow.”SU (3-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) held Virginia Tech (4-2, 2-1) to 17 points in a 31-17 upset win in the Carrier Dome on Saturday. The Hokies’ last two drives ended in a three-and-out and a turnover. The heavily criticized defensive unit that had been torched for an average of more than 52 points against two top teams this season shut down a potent Virginia Tech attack that averaged nearly 40 points per game this season.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“The thing that you guys won’t see is the minimum of mental mistakes,” Babers said. “We played a really, really clean game as far as being in the right spots. That’s the part you won’t see.“The part that you did see is that it was the most physical game that you’ve seen in a long time here. There were people that were actually being struck. You could hear the sounds in the stands. You could see people being inflicted.”Babers has spoken often about the defense’s mental mistakes, including missed assignments and players executing the wrong plays. Against Notre Dame two weeks earlier, the mistakes led to four touchdowns of 50-plus yards.On Saturday, though — for the most part — the mistakes weren’t there. And when SU needed the defense to step up, it did.With Virginia Tech facing fourth and one at Syracuse’s 38-yard line in the first half trying to respond to SU’s score that made it 14-3, linebacker Zaire Franklin burst into the backfield to tackle Evans for a 2-yard loss.It was a play he had seen before, safety Rodney Williams said, because then-Memphis head coach Justin Fuente ran the same play in the same situation against a Dino Babers-led Bowling Green team last year.“(Defensive coordinator Brian Ward) thought he had a bead on his tendencies and he put us in a really good position to make plays and just to execute and get off the field,” Williams said.When Virginia Tech was threatening to score a touchdown one drive after cutting SU’s lead to 19-7, Williams dove to snag a pass. It was only Evans’ second interception of the year.After the Orange took the lead back with 7:56 left in the game, SU’s defense shut down the immediate comeback attempt in three plays. Evans threw a deep pass incomplete, then scrambled to the right after pressure for a loss of one yard. The third down play had promise with VT’s No. 1 receiver, Isaiah Ford, getting hands on the ball. But safety Daivon Ellison and cornerback Christopher Frederick, a redshirt freshman who played the bulk of the game in place of Cordell Hudson, ripped it loose.Syracuse gave up just one play of more than 30 yards.  The Orange held the Hokies to their lowest point total of the season, including just three in the first half. VT was just 4-of-13 on third downs.With Syracuse’s standout defense play, the Orange was able to turn an underdog matchup into one of the biggest upsets the Carrier Dome has seen in recent memory.“All week coach just been saying, ‘Why not us?’” defensive end De’Jon Wilson said. “… ‘Why can’t we be great?’ We felt like we had nothing to lose. We felt like we just had to leave it all on the line today.” Commentslast_img

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