Syracuse’s secondary weathers injuries in 52-33 win over Western Michigan

first_img Published on September 21, 2019 at 6:00 pm Contact Andrew: [email protected] | @A_E_Graham Facebook Twitter Google+ Eric Coley started breaking on the ball before it left Western Michigan quarterback Jon Wassink’s hand. Late in the fourth quarter of Syracuse’s win against WMU on Saturday, Coley, playing in the place of injured defensive backs Andre Cisco and Antwan Cordy, read the middle curl route perfectly and stepped in front of Wassink’s throw. ”It was really cool to see Eric get an interception,” Dino Babers said post game. “He’s going to take a ribbing for falling down like he did right there. I think he’d have had a touchdown if he’d have went to the left. Oh well, he’s going to have to live with that one.”Coley’s interception, the first of his career, extended SU’s streak of games with an interception — one that began with Cisco’s pick against WMU to open the 2018 season — to 17-straight games.On a day where the Orange’s (2-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) normally loaded secondary was down two starters and then lost one of the replacements midway through the third quarter, SU’s defense managed to hold Western Michigan’s (2-2) passing offense mostly in check in a 52-33 win. SU held Wassink to a 50% completion rate, only two touchdowns and Coley’s late pick. And despite allowing 356 passing yards, SU’s secondary always felt that it had the upper hand. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWhile it wasn’t always perfect on Saturday, the Orange played one of their best games of the season down two starters in the secondary. “It’s always fun when the other guys get an opportunity to play. And that was not mop-up time,” Babers said. “The game was still at hand when those guys were out there. And I thought they did a nice job”On Saturday morning, both cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu and Cisco, a safety, were ruled out for SU’s game against Western Michigan with lower-body injuries. They both left the game with injuries against Clemson; Cisco returned, Melifonwu did not. Both players, Babers and players said on Saturday, looked at times throughout the week like they might play, and that no decision was made until late in the process. Babers hopes to have the two back by next Saturday when SU’s hosts Holy Cross, but the two could sit that game and use SU’s ensuing idle week ahead of a Thursday game at North Carolina State. Cordy, a sixth-year senior who started in place of Cisco, was injured during the third quarter of Saturday’s game. WMU ran running back LeVante Bellamy on a wheel route to the left side. Bellamy beat his defender and with the ball in the air, Cordy came over from the middle of the field to make a hit, apparently making helmet-to-helmet contact with Bellamy. Both players required help on the field and neither returned to the game. Babers said he thinks Cordy looked “OK” after the game. “Now I’m not a doctor,” Babers said, “nor will I claim to be one — I didn’t sleep at a Holiday Inn last night. But based on a couple things, how he’s moving, I think he’s OK.” In the two-plus quarters he played, Cordy looked like a vintage version of himself — he was a top tackler for loss in the ACC before losing 2016 and 2017 to injury — getting into the backfield to stop run plays, breaking up a pass in the endzone and forcing a fumble on Bellamy in the first quarter. As the WMU tailback hurtled to the endzone, he extended the ball to break the plane, but Cordy jarred it loose before the touchdown and SU recovered the fumble, scoring on the drive and riding the 14-point swing. Even on a forgettable 2nd and 9 middle handoff to Bellamy, Cordy worked his way into the hole to pick up and drop the bigger back after a one-yard gain. Two plays later, WMU punted. “He reminded me of my redshirt year,” Christopher Fredrick, SU’s No. 1 cornerback said. “He was like leading the conference in TFLs or something like that. Kind of like seeing that old Cordy out there.”Scoop Bradshaw, who started in place of Melifonwu also had a nice return to form, looking more like the cover corner he was at the beginning of 2018 and less like his struggling self at the end of 2019. He broke up an early third-down pass, diving around a receiver to paw away a slant while avoiding the defensive pass interference call for wrapping his backside hand on the receiver’s hip. He drove back ball carriers when tackling in space and even had a pass break up. But, he expectedly struggled at times. He was flagged for pass interference while SU was trying to pull away in the fourth quarter. On a third down, Bradshaw was targeted in one-on-one coverage against WMU receiver DaShon Bussell. On a go route down the left sideline, Bradshaw dove and extended his left arm, coming just short of deflecting the pass. Bussell made the catch for a first down. Landing directly in front of Babers, Bradshaw got an immediate lesson in technique. Babers could be seen mimicking punching the ball away with his right arm, appearing to show Bradshaw how he’d prefer it be done. Even against the run game, SU’s defensive backs — starters and replacements alike — looked better than the previous two weeks. Cordy looked comfortable in the box, safety Evan Foster said the whole unit played its keys and assignments much better than it had in weeks past. Trill Williams even registered a quarterback hit from the nickel back position. There were still glitches, like Bellamy’s long touchdown in the first half or a freak play where a pass intended for one receiver went through his hands to another, only for him to sprint behind the defense for a touchdown. All in all, Foster said, the Orange limited big plays better than they have this season and in general, looked the best they have against the run. That, coupled with a solid showing defending the pass — nine breakups, one interception and few breakdowns — is a good omen for a banged up Syracuse secondary. “Overall I think we did a solid job,” Fredrick said. “We stopped big plays for the most part and that’s our main objective.” Cisco and Melifonwu watched Saturday’s game from the sideline, their jersey’s fitting oddly without pads. Babers expects them back “really soon,” once they’ve had enough rest. The hope is Cordy is back soon with them. But even if they aren’t, SU proved Saturday its secondary is deep enough, and good enough, to make do.  Commentslast_img

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