Football

Defense reflects on bounce-back game versus Wake Forest

Jay Bromley knows that each week a different unit will step up. Against Tulane, it was the passing game. Against North Carolina State, it was the running backs. And against Wake Forest on Saturday, it was the defense.

The SU (4-4, 2-2 Atlantic Coast) defense returned to form against the Demon Deacons on Saturday following a thrashing at the hands of Georgia Tech. Syracuse lost that game 56-0, but the blowout was largely a product of unfamiliarity with the triple option.

This week, the Orange flipped the outcome and shut out Wake Forest.

“We knew coming into the season that the offense was changing a lot of pieces around,” Bromley said, “and defense was the backbone of the team.”

The consensus among the players is to forget about the Georgia Tech game. It was an anomaly, and the SU defense won’t face anything close to as perplexing all season.

During the week leading up to Wake Forest, Syracuse didn’t change its approach at all. Head coach Scott Shafer stressed that things would fall into place, and they did.

“I think we bounced back very well,” Bromley said. “We just made sure that we looked at the film and we got back to the way we play football.”

The defense did what it had to. The Orange hit the quarterback a season-high six times and finished with three sacks. The defensive pressure forced quarterback Tanner Price into bad throws, many of which went to the receiver’s wrong shoulder.

There was one highlight-reel play, though, and it came from an unlikely source. In the third quarter, freshman defensive end Isaiah Johnson tipped the ball to himself, dove and corralled it for an interception.

His teammates mobbed him and Syracuse scored on the very next play on a reverse that saw Jarrod West throw a 25-yard pass to fellow wide receiver Brisly Estime.

Johnson said he knew he had to step up, so he did. He was ecstatic after the play happened, but now it’s just a distant memory.

“I forgot about that play,” Johnson said. “I watched it 30 times that day. After that, we onto Maryland right now.”

Maryland likes to run the ball frequently — a stark contrast from the pass-happy, yet ineffective Wake Forest offense. The Terrapins are missing their two top wide receivers.

Both Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are out for the season with leg injuries. Diggs’ absence is part of the reason Maryland has placed more emphasis running the ball in the past few games. It’s also a reason why the team has lost three of four after starting 4-0 and sneaking into the Top 25.

But Syracuse defensive end Robert Welsh knows the Orange can’t get complacent. Welsh said Maryland’s backups are just as lethal as their starters, so Syracuse has to prepare for the worst.

Said Welsh: “The defense has to come ready to play.”

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