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August 31, 2007

Syracuse falls flat in opener

Carrier Dome-Syracuse burst onto the field to a loud Carrier Dome ovation Friday night and carried that momentum into the first quarter, but it could not be sustained as Washington thumped the Orange 42-12 in the season opener.

Andrew Robinson completed seven of his first eight pass attempts for 44 yards and looked like he was ready to lead the Orange to a good showing.

In a game between two storied but struggling programs, it was the Orange that struck first. Robinson looked poised as he orchestrated a nine-play, 31-yard scoring drive that was capped with a 42-yard Patrick Shadle field goal to give the Orange a 3-0 lead.

Robinson's counterpart, Huskies' redshirt freshman quarterback Jake Locker, looked lost early.

Dropping back in the pocket for the first time, Locker was hit hard by Orange defensive tackle Tony Jenkins and nearly sacked.

The Orange defense looked strong early, forcing two three-and-outs on the first two Washington drives of the game.

"I like the way we started the game," Head Coach Greg Robinson said after the game. "We went down there and got the field goal and the defense played well."

But after a strong start, the Orange fizzled and Locker found his rhythm.

The Orange's second offensive drive began with Robinson taking a sack. Syracuse was whistled offsides on the next play and then punted on third down.

"Then we started to go backwards," Greg Robinson said. "For a period of time we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot on both sides of the ball. It's the little things that create some issues and set you back and you lose momentum."

Locker saw the opportunity to steal the Orange's early thunder and hit the ground running.

The 6-3, 210 pound signal caller started shredding the Orange defense with his feet, scrambling time and again for big yardage, racking up 67 yards on the ground in the first half alone.

With 13:32 left in the second quarter, Washington tailback Louis Rankin gave the Huskies the lead when he capped a 10 play, 80-yard drive with a 13 yard touchdown run to put Washington up 7-3.

It didn't take the Huskies long to get back to the end zone and when they did, it was Locker who plunged into paydirt from one yard out to score his team's second touchdown.

"The speed of the quarterback, I felt it," Coach Robinson said. "He was able to turn the corner on our defense. His movement was the thing I really noticed, he's a good athlete and I was very impressed with him."

Robinson attributed the defensive lapses that allowed Locker to rack up so many yards on the ground to his defense being out of position.

"We just have to be more fundamentally sound," linebacker Vincenzo Giruzzi said. "We knew what a good athlete [Locker] was. We have to play better without question."

The Orange managed to put three more points on the board before half time on another Shadle 42-yard field goal, narrowing the Huskies' lead to 14-6.

Whatever Greg Robinson said to his players in the locker room to fire them up at halftime, it fell on deaf ears.

It only took the Huskies 1:19 to score again after the half, this time with Rankin doing the running.

The tailback broke loose from the Orange defense and went 47 yards into the end zone to give the Huskies a 21-6 lead.

The Huskies' offense picked apart the Orange defense again and found the end zone with 10:38 left in the third quarter when Locker scored his second touchdown from 11 yards out to put the Huskies up 28-6.

Locker would finish the game with 83 yards rushing, 142 yards passing, and two rushing touchdowns in his first collegiate contest.

His stats were compiled in only three quarters as he was replaced by backup Carl Bonnell when the Huskies pulled out of reach.

"As the game wore on they began to apply more and more pressure to us," Coach Robinson said of the Orange's late tailspin. "They played a whole lot better than we did."

The Orange's hopes disintegrated as the Huskies' lead mounted.

Washington would score again before the third quarter ended, on a 20-yard touchdown run by Rankin, his third of the game.

Rankin finished with 152 yards rushing on 17 carries and three touchdowns.

With Syracuse trailing 35-6, the Carrier Dome began to cool down as the revolving doors let out frustrated fans, so only a few Orange faithful remained when Syracuse finally regained some offensive rhythm.

Andrew Robinson threw a 10-yard strike to Mike Williams with seven minutes left in the game to make the score a more respectable 35-12.

The joy was short-lived though. When backup Cameron Dantley replaced Robinson, he fumbled the first snap, handing the Huskies the football on the Orange seven yard line.

Running back Brandon Johnson crossed the goal line to put the nail in the Syracuse's coffin, solidifying the final score of 42-12.

The loss is an ominous start for the Orange, who were hoping to improve on a 4-8 record from last season in Head Coach Greg Robinson's third year.

It won't take too many more Orange losses before Robinson detractors start clamoring for his replacement.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment for the Orange was the inability to demonstrate any type of running game in the absence of Delone Carter.

The ground game, which is a critical part of the Syracuse's west coast offense, was virtually non-existent Friday night.

Although the Huskies did return all four of their starting defensive linemen from last season, they cannot take all the credit for Syracuse's woes on the ground.

The offensive line broke down early on several plays, leaving Robinson unprotected.

They were unable to create running lanes for Curtis Brinkley and the Huskies' secondary was able to focus on stopping the Orange passing game.

Brinkley totaled only four yards rushing on six carries.

The Orange totaled an anemic eight total rushing yards on the night. Derrell Smith lead the Orange in rushing yards, but even his 19 yards are misleading as they came after the game was out of reach.

It will be back to the drawing board for Syracuse if it wants to find a way to compete with Iowa on the road next week.

But the Orange are eager to put the loss behind them.

"One game doesn't define the season," captain and defensive end Jameel McClain said. "I can't wait to get to Iowa."


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