Sam Maller | Staff PhotographerFootball
Nassib makes big plays to lead Syracuse to 28-17 victory over Stony Brook
Nathaniel Hackett couldn’t believe the statistics. Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib completed just 40 percent of his 15 passes in the first half.
But Hackett’s surprise remained after he learned of Nassib’s turnaround in the second half. The quarterback hit on 80 percent of his throws and eclipsed the 300-yard mark for the third-straight game.
“He threw for 300 again?” Hackett said. “I would have not even known that.”
Hackett’s surprise was matched with excitement for Nassib’s performance as the quarterback sparked the Orange past Stony Brook 28-17 at the Carrier Dome on Saturday. Nassib finished 22-of-35 for 335 yards and three touchdowns in the game, making all of his big throws after the break to help SU erase a three-point halftime deficit. Hackett turned to the running game to power the offense early, but Nassib stepped up and led SU to its first win of the season, which ended a seven-game losing streak dating back to last October.
“It’s big,” Nassib said of getting the win. “It’s sad to say that it is sort of an unfamiliar feeling, but we got it.”
To get it, Syracuse had to overcome two failed fourth-and-goal conversions and two missed field goals. And Nassib’s play in the second half was enough for the Orange to pull away from the Seawolves late.
Syracuse entered the game averaging 402 yards passing per game. Nassib picked apart Northwestern and nearly led SU to a comeback victory with a record-setting day in the opener. He then turned in a strong 322-yard performance against Southern California a week ago at MetLife Stadium.
Early Saturday, the running game stole the show.
Nassib finished the first quarter 2-of-6 for 69 yards and a touchdown, but both completions came on swing passes to running backs Prince-Tyson Gulley and Ashton Broyld.
Gulley, Broyld and Jerome Smith combined for eight carries in the opening period, and they continued to burst through holes in the Seawolves’ defense before the break. By halftime, the backs rushed for 108 yards and accounted for both SU touchdowns.
“I thought they did a really nice job,” Hackett said. “That’s why we didn’t have to really lean on the pass game as much at that point.”
Nassib’s first completion downfield — an 8-yard pass on a slant route to Marcus Sales — came with just more than 13 minutes left in the second quarter. He would finish the half with 112 yards passing on the six completions as the Stony Brook defense took away the bubble passes and quick hits he had so much success with in the first two games.
“They played a lot of coverage,” SU head coach Doug Marrone said. “They did a hell of a job with it. They really did.
“A lot of two-deep, a lot of four, a lot of four-man — stuff that we have seen but we haven’t really seen a lot of it. It’s difficult.”
But the quarterback quickly made adjustments to the Stony Brook defense coming out of halftime.
With the Orange offense on the verge of a three-and-out to start the second half, Nassib connected with Sales for a 38-yard gain down the left sideline. Two plays later, he nailed Alec Lemon on a slant pass for 7 yards and followed that with a quick pass to Beckett Wales for 9 more yards later on the drive.
On the next play, he fired a touchdown pass on a crossing route to Jarrod West. Nassib was a perfect 5-of-5 on the 85-yard drive, and the Orange had its first lead of the game 21-17.
But the Orange offense failed to put away the Seawolves. SU tried to push its lead to 11 twice on fourth-and-goal, but a miscommunication on one and a failure to score from 1 yard out on the other left the door open for a Seawolves upset.
Syracuse started the final period at the 8 yard line. Smith picked up a first down to set up first-and-goal at the 4-yard line. But he couldn’t punch it in on three consecutive runs.
“It’s not on me. It’s not on anybody else,” Smith said. “It’s a team thing, and even if I’m frustrated, I know somebody else is frustrated and we got over it.”
Nassib and Sales made the red-zone failures a footnote on the team’s first win of the season, connecting on a 19-yard touchdown with less than six minutes remaining to seal the win.
And for Hackett, those big plays in the passing game pushed the Orange past the Seawolves on Saturday.
“We said, ‘Hey Ryan, you’re just going to have to make a big throw and you’re going to have to start really getting it downfield,’” Hackett said. “And that’s what he did.”
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