Courtesy of the Minneapolis Star TribuneFootball
DIGGING A HOLE: Multiple turnovers, miscues cost Syracuse in 17-10 loss to Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS — Syracuse and Minnesota ran a combined 135 plays on Saturday night. They traded possession for 60 minutes and piled up more than 600 yards of total offense.
But Orange players and coaches could describe their 17-10 loss to the Gophers with one word.
“For me, it’s about turnovers,” SU offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “The whole thing’s about turnovers.”
Syracuse (1-3) turned the ball over four times against Minnesota (4-0) in front of a sold-out crowd of 50,805 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis and dropped its third game of the season heading into a bye week. The costly mistakes dominated the postgame discussion as the SU players and coaches tried to deal with another defeat.
SU head coach Doug Marrone pointed to the turnovers as the cause for the loss. Hackett said the word 12 times, saying the miscues far outweighed any other issues his team had in the loss. Ryan Nassib said he and his teammates shot themselves in the foot, and Alec Lemon also said turnovers ruined SU’s ability to find any rhythm on offense.
“At the end of the day, you can’t have four turnovers,” Marrone said. “One obviously inside the 5, two inside the 25 going in. When you do those things, it’s very difficult to win a game.
“For us to even be in the situation — an onside kick — to get the ball back is pretty unbelievable when you have four turnovers.”
Fittingly, Syracuse’s night started with a turnover.
On the Orange’s first play from scrimmage, Nassib dropped back and fired a bullet to the left sideline, releasing the ball before wide receiver Jarrod West even broke off on his route. By the time West turned his head, the ball had already snuck up on him, hit his hands and ricocheted behind him high in the air.
Minnesota safety Cedric Thompson dove for the ball and scooped it up for an interception, giving the Gophers momentum and killing morale on the Syracuse sideline right away.
“Honestly, what I think about, ‘Why do we deserve so much of this bad luck?’” Marrone said. “That’s the first thing that went through my mind and that’s the truth.”
Syracuse’s luck didn’t get any better the rest of the way. An offense that was second in the nation in passing never got going, as three more turnovers followed.
“At the end of the day, you can’t have four turnovers. One obviously inside the 5, two inside the 25 going in. When you do those things, it’s very difficult to win a game."
Doug Marrone, Syracuse head coach
With Syracuse trailing 7-3 in the second quarter, Nassib zipped consecutive passes to West and Lemon to pick up a combined 27 yards and move the Orange down to the 31 yard line.
But SU couldn’t keep the drive alive.
On first-and-10 from the 31, Nassib stepped up to avoid an outside rush. Minnesota nose tackle Ra’Shede Hageman broke through Syracuse’s offensive line and collapsed the pocket, forcing a fumble that the Gophers recovered.
“A lot of it, we shot ourselves in the foot,” Nassib said. “Some bad plays by myself that I wish I could have back.”
The frustration only grew after the break.
Minnesota expanded its lead to 14-3 after a beautifully executed 16-play, 87-yard drive to open the third quarter. Syracuse answered with a 13-play march down the field to the 2 yard line to set up first-and-goal.
After Jerome Smith failed to score on two rushing attempts, the Orange went to the air on third down. Nassib was pressured again. And again, he turned the ball over.
This time, he was drilled in the backfield, and his pass hung in the air and came down in the hands of linebacker Aaron Hill.
“Red-zone turnovers, those are the worst,” Nassib said. “And it’s really hard, almost impossible to win a game with four turnovers.”
Minnesota’s lead was safe and the sellout crowd was ignited after the second Nassib interception. But the Gophers offense didn’t close the door on an SU comeback.
Syracuse got the ball back at the 49 yard line with 3:12 to play in the third quarter.
A 19-yard completion to Lemon, followed by two rushes by Ashton Broyld, got the Orange down to the 23 yard line. Broyld got the call again and picked up the first down with a 2-yard gain, but he coughed it up before going down. Another Orange drive ended in misery.
Any time the offense got rolling, it all came back to that one word for Hackett and the Syracuse offense.
“Turnovers,” Hackett said. “It was just turnovers. It was the turnovers. You can’t turn the ball over four times. It’s that simple.”
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