No. 16 Syracuse, coming off loss, faces resurgent Notre Dame

No. 16 Syracuse suffered its first loss last weekend, but the Orange don’t have much time to dwell on that defeat, as Notre Dame will visit the city Saturday for the first time since 2003.

In their most recent game, the Orange (6-1) led No. 5 Clemson by 14 points in the first half before a fourth-quarter collapse resulted in a 27-21 setback. The Orange were doomed by 10 penalties and a late interception, plus their 3-of-11 third-down conversion rate didn’t help.

“I think this team is focused,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said earlier this week. “These guys are different. The culture of this team after seven games is different than the culture that has been on any other team. They are showing it in their record, and they’re showing it on how they play, and they’re showing it on how they go about their work.”

The Orange will need to be ready for a Fighting Irish team that has won four of its past five games, most recently a 44-21 rout of UNLV last week. Tight end Michael Mayer had six catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, while Isaiah Foskey blocked two punts for Notre Dame (4-3).

“Listen, it wasn’t perfect,” Irish coach Marcus Freeman said. “We know that. That’s the reality of football. It’s never perfect. There’s a lot of things that you’re going to look and want to correct, but overall they played a really good game.”

Drew Pyne threw for 205 yards and two touchdowns, while Logan Diggs chipped in 130 rushing yards as the Irish notched their second-highest point total of the season and their largest margin of victory.

“We needed this. We needed this for our confidence,” Freeman said. “We are a good team that doesn’t always play that way. It’s our job as coaches to get our team to perform this way.”

Notre Dame lost its most recent road meeting with Syracuse, 38-12, in December 2003. The past six meetings have taken place either in South Bend, Ind., or at neutral sites in New York or New Jersey. The Irish are 5-1 in those past six meetings with the Orange.

That said, this version of Syracuse appears to be different than in recent years. Babers’ squad has knocked off Louisville, Purdue and North Carolina State and had a great opportunity to defeat Clemson.

One of the issues for the Orange in their defeat to the Tigers was a shortage of carries — five — for star running back Sean Tucker.

“That’s something that should not happen,” Babers acknowledged. “I agree with everyone else. He should have more carries than that in a football game. That has been addressed.”

Tucker and quarterback Garrett Shrader each have six rushing TDs this season, while Oronde Gadsden II is Shrader’s favorite target with 37 catches for 593 yards and five scores.

Mayer is the top receiving threat for the Irish with 44 catches for 526 yards and six TDs. The Irish have three running backs with between 70 and 80 carries, led by Audric Estime (79 carries, 435 yards, six TDs).

“We’re not going to be a one-running-back team,” Freeman said. “You can’t. Not against the teams we play, the physicality, how many times we run the ball.”

–Field Level Media