It’s a battle of two BIG EAST teams looking to get back on the right track when Syracuse hosts USF on Friday, Nov. 11 at the Carrier Dome (8:00 p.m., ESPN2). The Orange has lost twice on the road the last two weeks, including a 28-21 defeat in its most recent outing at Connecticut. USF brings a four-game losing streak into Friday’s affair and is searching for its first conference win. The Bulls lost in overtime at Rutgers last week. The Orange is looking for its second straight series victory after beating USF, 13-9, on the road in 2010.
Between the first and second quarters, leaders of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) and Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities (EBV) program graduates will participate in a check presentation of $11 million on behalf of several corporate sponsors. EBV program offers small business training to post-9/11 veterans. EBV Foundation president and founder Ted Lachowicz is a Syracuse University graduate and three-year football letterwinner.
Syracuse will also pay tribute to the late Al Davis at halftime against the Bulls. The legendary Raiders patriarch was a 1950 Syracuse University graduate. He passed away on Oct. 8 after 48 years with the team as head coach, general manager and owner.
Inching Closer To Bowl Eligibility
Syracuse can become bowl eligible for the second year in row with a win Friday against USF. The Orange is 5-4 and needs one victory in its last three games to secure a spot in the postseason. Last year, the Orange earned a berth in the inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium and defeated Kansas State, 36-34. The last time the Orange reached bowl games in consecutive years was 1998 (Orange Bowl vs. Florida) and 1999 (Music City Bowl vs. Kentucky).
Syracuse-South Florida Series
The two teams have played every season since 2005 when the Bulls joined the BIG EAST Conference, with USF leading the all-time series, 5-1. The Bulls have also won the previous three meetings held in the Carrier Dome.
The Orange posted its first victory in the series in 2010, defeating USF on the road, 13-9. Syracuse’s defense limited the Bulls to 219 yards of total offense, intercepted two passes, recorded four sacks and blocked an extra point. Quarterback Ryan Nassib led SU on a game-winning, 98-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.
Provo Sets Orange Tight Ends Record
Senior tight end Nick Provo set the Syracuse single-season record for receptions by a tight end with his performance at Connecticut. He has 39 catches this season. The record was 34, set by Chris Gedney in 1992. Provo has 80 career receptions, which is 11 behind Gedney’s Syracuse record of 91.
Provo has caught at least one pass in 22 consecutive games (as has receiver Van Chew). They are the fifth-longest catch streaks in Syracuse history.
Ground Game Gets Going
Syracuse stepped up its rushing output in the last six games. In its first three outings, the Orange averaged 76.7 rushing yards per game and averaged 3.0 yards a carry with two rushing touchdowns. In the last six games, those numbers have jumped to 145.5 yards rushing per game, 4.1 yards per carry and six touchdowns. The Orange rushed for a season-best 194 yards in its win against West Virginia on Oct. 21.
Orange Tied For 25th Nationally Against The Run
Syracuse is 25th in the country in run defense. The Orange is allowing 115.4 yards rushing per game this season and leads all BIG EAST teams in rushing defense in conference games (104.5 ypg). Against Rutgers on Oct. 1 at the Carrier Dome, SU surrendered a season-low five rushing yards. During defensive coordinator Scott Shafer’s three-year tenure, the defense has posted two of SU’s top five run defenses since 1982 (101.9 ypg in 2009 and 105.1 ypg in 2011).
Orange Second In Total Defense During Conference Play
The Syracuse defense has stepped up its performance in its four BIG EAST games this season. The Orange ranks second in total defense in conference play, allowing 341 yards a game. The catalyst has been SU’s run defense, which is tops in the conference against league foes (104.5 ypg).
The Orange has also gotten after the quarterback much more effectively in conference play. Syracuse is tied for the league lead with 16 sacks (4.0 per game) in its four league contests. That’s twice the number of sacks SU generated in its five non-conference games (8).
SU Third In The BIG EAST On Kickoff Returns
The Orange is third in the BIG EAST and 28th nationally in kickoff return average (24.0). Freshman Jeremiah Kobena is sixth in the BIG EAST in yards per return (23.2). Kobena has run back 36 kicks for 836 yards, including a career-best 79-yard return at Tulane on Oct. 8 that set up Syracuse’s first touchdown. His 836 yards is fourth on the SU single-season record list and is second-highest total by a freshman in school history.
Against Tulane, Kobena ran back four kicks for 176 yards (44.0 avg.). His 176 return yards rank fifth on the SU single-game record list and are the second-most by any BIG EAST player in one game this season. Pittsburgh’s Buddy Jackson had 178 yards against Utah.
Dorian Graham has served as a nice complement to Kobena. Graham has seven returns for 204 yards (29.1 ypr), including a 98-yard return for a touchdown against West Virginia, SU’s first kickoff return for a touchdown since 2008.
Stay tuned to MyABC50.com's 'Orange Corner' for coverage after the game.