Smith, Syracuse look to control tempo against No. 2 Florida State

Spencer Bodian | Asst. Photo Editor

Jerome Smith and the Orange will look to slow the game down with its running attack against a high-powered No. 2 Florida State.

Syracuse started off its 20-3 win over Maryland with its longest touchdown drive of the season.

From its own 20-yard line, the Orange took 7:54 and methodically marched down the field. Sixteen plays and 80 yards.

Jerome Smith carried the ball eight times on the drive and punctuated it with his 1-yard plunge into the end zone.

“Everybody was comfortable,” Smith said, “the running game settled everybody in early.”

Much like it did against Maryland, Syracuse (5-4, 3-2 Atlantic Coast) will look to dictate the tempo against No. 2 Florida State (9-0, 7-0) on Saturday. Facing the Seminoles’ high-octane passing attack, SU’s offense will look to eat clock and keep Jameis Winston and Co. off the field.

And Smith will be at the forefront of that effort.

“We pride ourselves in being able to run the ball and keep teams with good offenses off the field,” SU center Macky MacPherson said. “Jerome’s a big part of it. He’s a big piece of it and he’s our star for a reason.”

Smith ran the ball a season-high 28 times against Maryland, one carry less than his career-high 29 against West Virginia in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl last season. On Saturday, the junior accumulated 118 yards and ran for both of SU’s two touchdowns, and helped set the tone for a physical game.

Fellow running back Prince-Tyson Gulley left in the first quarter with an ankle injury, which led to Smith’s increased workload. Gulley will play on Saturday, but running backs coach DeAndre Smith said he’s not opposed to running Smith at a similar rate.

“It’s the first time he’s carried that much this year and he handled it really well,” DeAndre Smith said. “If we need him to carry it 30 times, I’ll let him carry it 30 times.”

It’s a prospect that Jerome Smith certainly isn’t opposed to.

“That was fun,” Smith said with a large grin on his face. “I enjoyed it a lot more than getting it maybe 16 times, but whatever’s in the game plan is good for us.”

On the season, Syracuse’s opponents possess the ball for 31:11 per game, while SU averages 28:49. But the Orange out-possessed the Terrapins on Saturday and Wake Forest in its previous ACC win.

FSU scores 52 points per game — the second most in the country — yet has possessed the ball for 279 minutes, the 39th most in the country.

Still, in the Seminoles’ closest win of the season against Boston College, it possessed the ball for nearly 27 minutes, four minutes below its season average. BC nearly upset FSU in a 48-34 loss, and had the ball for more than 33 minutes.

But in its largest win of the season — a 63-0 trouncing of then-No. 25 Maryland on Oct. 5 — the Seminoles’ time of possession exceeded 34 minutes.

Coddling the football has been the lone antidote to FSU’s unyielding attack. On Saturday, Syracuse’s offensive approach will be as much about limiting damage as scoring points.

“When teams have a really good offense you want to keep them off the field,” Smith said. “When you want to eat the clock up, you definitely run the ball.”

Smith’s success against Maryland will in all likelihood translate to a similar game plan against FSU. But looking past the Seminoles, it’s a script the Orange could follow for the rest of the season.

Inflated wins against Wagner and Tulane could have created the mirage that Syracuse can excel through the air. But an up-and-down conference showing thus far has placed the spotlight back on the steady run game.

Heading into the weekend, SU is one win away from bowl eligibility and, starting with the Seminoles, will get back to its roots to make the push toward six wins.

“After 10 games or weeks you can kind of see that’s our identity,” DeAndre Smith said. “We can run the ball and be physical, and when we’ve played well that’s what we’ve done.”


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