SU Christens Dome Rennovations With Victory
Move over, Joe Morris. You've got some company in Sean Tucker. Tucker rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns Saturday as the Orange (1-2, 1-1 ACC) raced out to a 17-0 lead and thumped Atlantic Coast Conference foe Georgia Tech (1-2, 1-1 ACC) 37-20 to win their first game of the season in the first game at the renovated Carrier Dome. Quarterback Tommy DeVito tossed touchdown passes of 43 and 46 yards, and the Syracuse defense notched four interceptions and one spectacular touchdown as the Orange christened their home stadium that underwent a $118 million renovation that includes a new roof, lighting and sound improvements, a center-hung scoreboard, new turf and improved accessibility. Tucker, a freshman from Owings, Mill, Md., became the first Orange rusher to exceed 100 yards since quarterback Eric Dungey in 2018 and scored on runs of 38 and 4 yards. In the first game under the building's iconic white inflatable roof on Sept. 20, 1980, Morris ushered in a new era of Syracuse athletics by running for 170 yards and three touchdowns as the Syracuse defeated Miami of Ohio, 36-24. Four Orange defenders intercepted Georgia Tech quarterback Jeff Sims: Josh Black, Trill Williams, Rob Hanna and Ja'Had Carter. On the final interception, Carter picked off the ball at the Yellow Jackets' 32 and rumbled over midfield before hitting a wall. He reacted to the pressure and lateraled the ball to Williams, who carried it the final 43 yards for a touchdown that gave the Orange a 37-20 advantage.
DeVito completed 13 of 24 passes for 194 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, and he rushed four times for 30 yards. Wide receiver Nykeim Johnson caught four passes for 87 yards and one touchdown, and wide receiver Taj Harris had three catches for 64 yards and one score.
For Georgia Tech, Sims was 13 for 28 for 174 yards, one touchdown and the four interceptions. Jahmyr Gibbs ran for 109 yards on 18 carries, Dontae Smith had 84 yards on eight rushes, and Malachi Carter caught four passes for 47 yards and one touchdown.
Tucker's running and an opportunistic defense helped the Orange build a 17-0 lead in the first quarter. Tucker, a powerful 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, burst through the middle and raced 38 yards for the first touchdown in the renovated stadium midway through the first quarter.
On Georgia Tech's next possession, defensive end Kingsley Jonathan pressured Sims as he was preparing to throw, the ball fluttered into the air and defensive end Black grabbed the ball for an interception at the Yellow Jackets' 29. That turnover led to Andre Szmyt's 47-yard field goal to make it 10-0.
The Yellow Jackets then drove in the red zone, but on linebacker Mikel Jones, who had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in the Orange's first two games, blitzed and hit Sims as he was throwing and safety Williams intercepted the ball and carried it 47 yards into Georgia Tech territory. Tucker did the rest, carrying five times for 27 yards on the drive, which he capped with a 4-yard touchdown plunge that boosted Syracuse's lead to 17-0.
Johnson's 49-yard kickoff return after Georgia Tech's first touchdown set up the Orange's next score. DeVito tossed his first touchdown pass of the season as he connected with wide receiver Harris on a 46-yard strike that nestled into Harris' outstretched fingertips. He waltzed into the end zone to give the Orange a 23-6 advantage.
The Orange recorded their third interception early in the third quarter to thwart the opening drive of the second half. On third down from the Syracuse 42, defensive back Hanna snared Sims' errant pass over the middle at the 20-yard line.
Syracuse's special teams came through later in the third quarter, when Tyrell Richards got a hand on Austin Kent's 26-yard field goal attempt and the block preserved the Orange's 23-13 lead.
After the Yellow Jackets narrowed the margin to 23-20, the Orange answered with a three-play drive that ended with DeVito's 43-yard touchdown pass to Johnson, who beat two defenders as Syracuse moved ahead 30-20.
Syracuse is now 92-33-4 in home openers (excluding the 1979 season, when Syracuse played all its games on the road while the orginal Dome was constructed). Syracuse has won seven of its last eight home openers including, four of five under head coach Dino Babers.
It was the latest home opener in the building's history and the latest for the Orange since hosting Kansas on Sept. 26, 1970. It's also the second consecutive season Syracuse has faced a conference opponent in its home opener after not starting with a conference foe since 2005 (West Virginia in the Big East Conference).
The Orange is off next week and will resume its three-game homestand against ACC foe Duke Oct. 10 at the newly renovated stadium.