Football

Syracuse defense shuts down Rutgers’ Jamison in losing effort

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Jawan Jamison wore the target.

On a Rutgers offense that’s been uninspiring this season, the Scarlet Knights running back has the ability to singlehandedly tilt the game in his team’s favor. Against Syracuse, he was mostly a nonfactor, as he could only muster 64 yards.

The Orange’s defense did almost everything it needed to do, but it did not matter. Despite giving the offense more than enough chances, members of the unit took on a team-first attitude. They maintained they were not frustrated that that their efforts were mostly negated by Syracuse’s costly turnovers. In a game where SU’s defense was not flawless, but stout nonetheless, the Orange (2-4, 1-1 Big East) never took advantage and handed the Scarlet Knights (6-0, 2-0) a 23-15 win at High Point Solutions Stadium on Saturday.

“Whatever the team needed, that’s what we’re going to do,” linebacker Siriki Diabate said. “If the team needs us to be out there the whole game, we’re going to be out there the whole game. We’ve got to make a stop. We’ve got to find a way to win.”

Syracuse’s defense was on the field about four minutes longer than Rutgers’. It seemed much longer. Though the unit made mistakes, its performance should have been enough for SU.

Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova was held to 157 passing yards. Jamison, the Big East’s rushing leader at 112.5 yards per game, had run for at least 100 yards in each game this season, and seven of the last eight dating back to last year. But the Scarlet Knights finished with only 85 rushing yards on Saturday.

Shut him down, and suddenly the door to a win opens wider. Or at least that was how it was supposed to be.

On Rutgers’ first play of the game, quarterback Gary Nova handed off to Jamison. The running back rushed for no gain. The next play, Jamison earned two yards. He could not get anything going as the Syracuse defense executed its plan of attack.

“That’s just who we are as a defense. We stop the run first and we earn the right to rush the passer,” defensive tackle Deon Goggins said. “That’s a goal of ours, stop the run, especially these backs coming in, rushing for a hundred and something every game.”

Even when it was not stopping Jamison, the defense repeatedly gave SU opportunities to score.

With Rutgers leading 17-7 at the end of the third quarter, the Orange could still come back. A couple of well-played drives could have swung the momentum. SU’s defense forced a Scarlet Knights’ three-and-out as Rutgers back-up tailback Savon Huggins ran for a total of 2 yards during the series.

Syracuse could start chipping away from the opening seconds of the final quarter thanks to a well-played series by its defense. Except Steve Rene, back to take the punt, dropped the ball.

RU recovered, and the Orange defense was right back out on the field.

“I thought our defense did a very nice job during the game,” head coach Doug Marrone said. “The whole course of the game, despite being put in some very difficult situations.”

Syracuse forced Rutgers into a situation it hasn’t dealt with this season. An offense that’s already lackluster lost its brightest hope each time Jamison was stuffed for a short gain.

In the Scarlet Knights’ previous two Big East games, against South Florida and Connecticut, he ran for 151 and 110 yards, respectively.

On Saturday, Jamison’s unspectacular numbers blended into the stat sheet.

RU had to abandon its running game and resort to the air. Wide receiver Brandon Coleman finished with 104 yards, but one of his six catches was for 43 yards. Goggins said he was surprised Rutgers started passing so much so early. He only expected that if Syracuse was winning, he said.

Goggins said to compensate for SU’s offensive mistakes, the defense needs to force more turnovers. Still, Goggins and his unit should not have needed anything extra on Saturday.

They found an answer few other teams have in taking Jamison out of the game. But it was not enough.

“It was a good thing on the stat sheet,” Goggins said. “But it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t come together as a team and win.”

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