Luke Rafferty | Design EditorFootball
Orange defense shuts down Temple in 2nd half to help secure victory
PHILADELPHIA—Temple refused to go quietly.
Trailing by four and in desperate need of a spark, the Owls moved ahead of Syracuse by three when quarterback Clinton “Juice” Granger strolled into the end zone midway through the third quarter. Granger, a dual-threat quarterback, gave SU fits in the first half in leading Temple to an early 10-point lead.
But this time, Granger easily crossed the goal-line as fullback Wyatt Benson didn’t have an Orange defender to block. The message on the SU sideline was simple after the defense bit on a play-action fake — one of many on the day — that suddenly gave the Owls the lead and the momentum.
“All we talked about was doing our job and finishing strong, being physical and doing a good job with taking the adjustments to the grass,” SU defensive coordinator Scott Shafer said.
The Syracuse (7-5, 5-2 Big East) unit accomplished each part of Shafer’s message and held Temple (4-7, 2-5) scoreless the rest of the way — a span of 23:53 — in the Orange’s 38-20 win at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Friday. Temple stayed in the game behind Granger. The quarterback completed 12-of-14 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 75 yards and another score up to the go-ahead run in the third quarter, but the Syracuse defense buckled down and dominated the rest of the game.
And Granger’s production suffered as a result. He finished the game 4-of-9 with two interceptions and 61 yards on the ground after three sacks by the SU defense.
The strong finish came down to adjustments made by Shafer and his staff, and better execution by the players.
“Defensively we did make some adjustments and they did a nice job, they really did,” SU head coach Doug Marrone said. “They hurt us on some things and we had to make some adjustments during the course of the game.”
Granger entered Friday with just 32 passing attempts and one touchdown in six games of action. But he made big plays with his arm to put the Owls up early.
After Syracuse forced Temple into third-and-goal from the 12 in the first quarter, Granger fired a strike to wide receiver John Christopher on a slant for the touchdown. Temple took a 10-0 lead, Marrone stood on the sidelines with his arms crossed and the Owls fans showed some life behind their team’s sideline.
Syracuse stormed back with two touchdowns to take a four-point lead, but the mobile quarterback led the Owls on another scoring drive.
Granger accounted for 56 total yards on an 11-play, 71-yard drive that ended in a field goal to cut SU’s lead to 14-13. The Orange tacked on a field goal of its own to expand its lead again, but the defense went into the half unhappy with its effort.
“We knew that we could play better defense than we did,” SU defensive tackle Jay Bromley said. “We knew we had to tackle better. We knew we had to play stout up front.”
But Granger gave the Owls new hope with his score with 8:53 remaining in the third quarter.
Temple led 20-17. The Syracuse defense still needed to pick up its intensity. Shafer delivered his message, and the players rallied around a similar one of their own.
“Keep it up. Let’s keep going,” SU linebacker Marquis Spruill said of the defense’s mentality after falling behind. “Pitch a shutout — just second half, keep playing the way we playing.”
The Orange defense did just that as it contained Granger and the Owls attack while Ryan Nassib and Syracuse took control.
Syracuse retook the lead by the end of the third quarter and put the game out of reach with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
By then, Shafer could let loose, calling for blitz packages to harass Granger in the backfield. SU safety Durell Eskridge burst through the line of scrimmage untouched to force a punt with less than nine minutes to play.
Five minutes later, it was SU linebacker Dyshawn Davis taking down Granger, with defensive linemen Deon Goggins and Brandon Sharpe surrounding the quarterback as well.
Sharpe stood over the quarterback and waved his arms, signaling that Syracuse had clinched its seventh victory.
“You always want to finish on a high note, especially execution-wise,” Shafer said. “And they did.”
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