Josh Black never envisioned his redshirt senior year at Syracuse would be like this — only one win and six consecutive losses heading into the final two games of the season.
“Losing is obviously something we don’t want to do. It’s just not us," said Black, a defensive end. "Winning is everything. All your hard work pays off in the end when you win and when you lose, it’s like, man, you’re starting from the ground up. Definitely, we’ve got to end out with some wins.”
The next chance comes Saturday in the Carrier Dome against North Carolina State (6-3, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Syracuse (1-8, 1-7), coming off a 30-0 loss at Louisville, hasn't had a season this bad since it finished 1-10 in 2005 under Greg Robinson.
"We’re going to go out there and try to win the football game and try to get looks on as many people as we can ... to give us a jump-start into being, hopefully, a lot better in 2021,” Syracuse coach Dino Babers said.
N.C. State is coming off a 15-14 win over then-No. 21 Liberty, the difference a strong defensive performance and some big special-teams plays — namely a blocked field goal in the final seconds — to hand the Flames their first loss.
That effort offset a shaky day for the offense under new coordinator Tim Beck. The Wolfpack had scored a combined 79 points in a shootout loss to No. 10 Miami and a win over Florida State before sputtering against Liberty, gaining just 321 yards.
Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren has been encouraged by the way his team has won games in different styles, and he sounded optimistic that the offense would get moving again against Syracuse.
“I said that to the guys, we still haven’t played a game yet where all three phases clicked the same night or day,” Doeren said. “We’ve had games where we’ve outscored people and won. We’ve had games where special teams kind of carried us and helped both sides of the ball. We’ve had games where the defense won it for us.
“I think there’s confidence now in all three phases that they can do those things, and now it’s about putting it all together.”
The Wolfpack are 5-1 at Syracuse.
The Orange started three true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen on defense in the past two games and nearly three-quarters of the roster (71%) is players in their first two years of eligibility. They’re hanging tough despite the losses.
“It’s 0-0 every time I’m going in there. You try not to worry about the scoreboard,” said freshman linebacker Stefon Thompson, whose four tackles for loss against Louisville were the most by an Orange freshman since the statistic has been kept by the school (1994). “I’m getting some experience some freshmen don’t get a chance to get.”
Freshman quarterback JaCobian Morgan was knocked out of the Louisville game by a blindside hit in the third quarter. He's listed as the starter for the third straight game and Dillon Markiewicz could get the nod if Morgan can't play.
N.C. State had managed 410 yards against Miami and 413 against FSU before having to fight to sustain drives against Liberty. Improving quarterback Bailey Hockman threw five touchdown passes in those games but managed just 154 yards against Liberty. The Wolfpack also converted just 4 of 14 third downs (28.6%) after converting 17 of 27 (63%) in the previous two games.
“I think our offense is going to be angry this week, to be honest with you,” Doeren said. “I don’t think they played to their ability."
NO SENIOR WALK
All of Syracuse's home games are being played without fans because of the coronavirus pandemic, so that means no pregame celebration for the seniors on Saturday. The team picture was taken last Sunday.
“It kind of bugs us," redshirt senior offensive lineman Chris Elmore said. “It definitely is different when your family can’t come to your last home game. You’ve got to look at it as another game. It’s another game with no fans.”
The Wolfpack must do a better job of eliminating penalties. They had 14 for 123 yards against Liberty, and they now rank near the bottom of the Bowl Subdivision statistics with 77 total penalties (126th out of 127 teams) and 80.9 penalty yards per game (124th).
“When you’re last in the ACC in penalties, you’re making it hard,” Doeren said. “You’re helping the other team. And so we don’t need to help the other team."
AP Sports Writer Aaron Beard in Raleigh, North Carolina, contributed to this report.
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