Luke Rafferty | Design EditorFootball
RUNNING OUT THE CLOCK: Ground game pushes Syracuse past Temple in final Big East game
Syracuse 38, Temple 20
PHILADELPHIA — Adonis Ameen-Moore couldn’t wait to get to the sideline.
The Syracuse running back had just run 18 yards for a touchdown through a wide-open hole created by his offensive line. There was no Temple defender in his path to even threaten him on his way to the end zone. For a running back who is used to getting a couple carries per game in goal-line situations, an 18-yard run strayed far from his usual workload.
“My goodness,” Moore said. “That hole was so wide open I couldn’t wait to see Sean (Hickey) and (Rob) Trudo when I got to the sideline; I just had to thank them.”
Temple tried to shut down Syracuse’s offense by double-teaming Alec Lemon. The Owls (4-7, 2-5 Big East) had no answer for the Orange’s triple-threat running game, which once again carried Syracuse (7-5, 5-2) to a win. This time it was a 38-20 victory over Temple in front of 22,317 fans at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday in SU’s regular-season finale.
The Orange’s three-headed monster of Jerome Smith, Prince-Tyson Gulley and Ameen-Moore combined for 236 yards and three touchdowns. As a team, SU racked up 260 yards on the ground.
When Temple’s defense all but shut down Syracuse’s biggest downfield threat, Lemon, the Orange never panicked.
“They doubled Alec pretty much most of the game,” quarterback Ryan Nassib said. “They did a good job of switching up their looks, but they had a tough time stopping the run game, so we stuck with the run game and we kept gashing them, pounding the rock.”
Temple jumped out to a 10-0 lead and the game took on an ugly look for Syracuse. The Orange lost two fumbles on its first two drives, both in Temple’s territory. But turnovers that could’ve sent Syracuse into a tailspin early this season were minor blips on an otherwise spotless day for the Orange.
Syracuse first scored early in the second quarter. After Nassib picked up 21 yards on a pass to wide receiver Jarrod West, Gulley and Smith combined for 30 yards on three plays to march the Orange down to the Owls’ 24. Nassib then found Sales in man-to-man coverage with Temple defensive back Anthony Robey, and Sales caught the pass in the front of the end zone while falling to his back.
After Temple went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, Syracuse scored again on Ameen-Moore’s burst through a hole that came from stellar blocking from SU’s offensive linemen for the 18-yard scoring run. Moore had 10 carries on Friday, the most he’s had all year.
But Syracuse had a group of banged-up tailbacks and needed its running game to beat Temple. So Ameen-Moore stepped up and barreled through the Owls defense all game long. It was what Syracuse needed.
And even though Temple tried to take Lemon out of Syracuse’s game plan, he still managed to create space for long catches when he needed to. In the third quarter, he caught a 31-yard pass that brought Syracuse from Temple’s 45 all the way to the 14.
From there, Syracuse’s running game took over again. Smith and Ameen-Moore finished off the drive by covering 10 of the final 14 yards, capped off with a 1-yard run from Ameen-Moore to put the Orange up 24-20.
Syracuse never gave up the lead again, and only tacked on late touchdowns to seal the win.
“We are pretty banged up and we just kept fighting through this game; it was a very physical game and a well-fought game,” head coach Doug Marrone said. “It was a game where we made some plays in the end and we were able to win.”
Gulley covered 40 yards on three plays at the start of the fourth quarter to add one more touchdown for the Orange, and then a late pick-six by Keon Lyn in the game’s final minutes made it an 18-point rout for Syracuse.
The Orange’s running backs, a unit that developed into Syracuse’s most dangerous threat for opposing defenses, kept the team’s offense clicking again.
It was a familiar story through the second half of the regular season, and in the final tune-up before Syracuse’s postseason appearance, the Orange’s tailbacks opened up the field for another win.
“Coming out in the second half, it was just that first drive we had; we ran the ball very well,” left tackle Justin Pugh said. “So the coaches said ‘Hey, we’re going to put this on the offensive line. We’re going to put this on the running backs.’”
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