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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017 at 2:41 am

Football falls to LSU 35-26 in Baton Rouge

By Christian De Guzman

BATON ROUGE, L.A. — Steve Ishmael pointed to the sky. His teammates rushed him. Eric Dungey slapped his wide receiver’s helmet and yelled something before returning to the Syracuse sideline.

For a moment, Death Valley didn’t see so deadly.

Ishmael recorded his first touchdown of the season on the play, a 22-yard reception. His score couldn’t be more timely. Syracuse only trailed LSU 28-26 with 5:40 left in the fourth quarter. The touchdown put life into the Orange faithful.

The Syracuse comeback came up short, however. DJ Chark ran a 20-yard jet sweep on the next Tigers offensive possession to secure a 35-26 victory for LSU. With the loss, the Orange drop to 2-2 on the season.

“We felt like there were enough plays out there for us to make,” said head coach Dino Babers. “If we made the plays, we’d have an opportunity to win. We’re disappointed we didn’t.”

The game did not start well for Syracuse. On the first play from scrimmage in the game, Dungey threw an interception to Andraez Williams. The ball was returned to SU one-yard line. Derrius Guice punched the ball in on the next play to give LSU an early 7-0 lead.

“It was a bad read on my part,” said Dungey. “I shouldn’t have taken that matchup. Testing those corners on a running back – that’s not smart.”

Syracuse got on the board with a 42-yard field goal from Cole Murphy. The Orange had a strong chance to take the lead in the second quarter. Sean Riley beat Xavier Lewis one-on-one and looked prime for a 55-yard touchdown pass from Dungey. Riley dropped the ball in the end zone that would have given Syracuse a 10-7 lead. Instead, the score remained 7-3 LSU.

The Tigers extended its lead with little time left in the first half. Stephen Sullivan caught a pass from Danny Etling and found open space. He sprinted 43 yards to the end zone to push the LSU lead to 14-3.

The second half started much like the first half did – with an immediate LSU score. Etling fired a ball down the middle and found Drake Davis wide open for an 87-yard touchdown. The Orange would answer right back on a trick play as Devin C. Butler took a handoff from Dungey. He stopped, cut away from pressure, and threw a pass to Ervin Philips who was waiting in the endzone for the 30-yard score. The score turned to 21-10 LSU.

“I just tried to make a play,” said Philips on the touchdown.

LSU extended its lead with a 20-yard rushing touchdown from backup running back Darrel Williams. From that moment, the Orange began to gain momentum. The next three scoring plays were recorded by Syracuse. A safety from Paris Bennett, a Dungey 14-yard rush, and the Ishmael touchdown gave the Orange renewed life.

“I kept telling the guys we’re winning this,” said Dungey. “We all had confidence.”

But after Chark scored, the life was extinguished. Syracuse found itself on the losing end for the tenth time in the Dino Babers era. To Babers and the players, this loss seemed to hurt more than the others, given how close the Orange came to completing a comeback for the ages.

“I wanna win,” said Dungey. “I’m excited for the team and I’m excited for the progress. But I feel I can’t say that anymore. We gotta get it down right now.”

The Orange did show good progress, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. The front seven of the Syracuse defense, especially Paris Bennett and Zaire Franklin, pressured Danny Etling and Myles Brennan all night long. Etling was sacked twice and Bennett hit Brennan during a pass that was intercepted by Juwan Dowels.

“I’m really impressed with what they’ve done the first four games,” said Babers on the defense. “If they continue to play at the same level they’re playing at we’re gonna have an opportunity to be in some games.”

The passing attack of the Orange thrived as well in the bayou. Ishmael recorded his fourth straight 100-yard performance of the season, while Philips just fell seven yards short of the 100-yard mark. The up-tempo offense of Babers seemed to confuse and tire out the LSU secondary.

However, Syracuse believed and knew it should have performed better against the Tigers. There were many moments that could have given the Orange even more momentum that it already had. Now, Coach Babers and his team look to ride the positives from Death Valley into the jaws of ACC play.

The immediate aftermath of the LSU game, however, was not the time to reflect on the positives.

“We shouldn’t be satisfied,” said Coach Babers. “We could’ve won that football game.”