- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Syracuse finished last in the Big East in total defense and scoring defense last season, a big reason why the Orange finished with a losing record.
But Syracuse (3-4, 2-1) has made major strides on that side of the field of late, and getting to bowl eligibility is a real possibility. If that happens, you can absolutely bet a big reason will be defensive improvement. Consider:
Against Big East opponents, the Orange lead the league in total defense (291 ypg), rushing defense (35.3 ypg) and third-down conversion defense (35.6 percent).
Syracuse is third in scoring defense during Big East play at 15.3 points per game (46 points in three games). Take away Rutgers' blocked field goal return for a touchdown, and the Syracuse defense is allowing just 13.3 points per game in conference play.
No Big East team has rushed for 100 yards against the Orange, and Syracuse has held three of the best rushers in the league backs -- Ray Graham, Jawan Jamison and Lyle McCombs to under their season average.
Its performance in a 40-10 win over UConn last week was its most dominating to date. The Orange held the Huskies to minus-6 yards rushing on 18 attempts. That was the fewest rushing yards for the Huskies since it joined the FBS in 2002, and tied for the third-fewest rushing yards by an FBS team this college football season.
It was also Syracuse's best run-stopping effort since holding West Virginia to minus-10 yards on 35 attempts in 1996. In the last three games, Syracuse's opponents have 106 TOTAL yards rushing. In the last two games, Syracuse has held its opponents under 300 yards of total offense.
"We just go out there and play and take pride, as a D-line as a whole to stop the run first so we can earn the right to pass and get that action going a little bit more," Deon Goggins said.