All season, one of the most consistent units on the Syracuse offense has been the offensive line. On Saturday, in perhaps their most critical game to date, they dominated a talented Louisville team.
The Orange offense racked up 278 yards on the ground. A big reason why was the play of the interior of the offensive line. Zack Chibane, Macky MacPherson, and Rob Trudo were physical, and pushed around the Louisville defensive line all day.
One perfect example is on Prince Tyson-Gulley's 55-yard touchdown run. It was a 3rd and 2 situation, and the play directed Gulley up the middle. Upon the ball being snapped, Trudo and MacPherson double teamed defensive tackle Brandon Dunn.
Dunn was stood up by Trudo and MacPherson, taking him out of the play. As Gulley approached the line of scrimmage, linebacker Preston Brown attempted to fill the hole. But Chibane had already entered the hole, and knocked Brown out of it.
That quick play by Chibane gave Gulley a huge running lane which he exploded through. One broken tackle later, he was in the endzone for Syracuse's longest run of the season.
Later in the game, on Jerome Smith's long touchdown run, the offensive line was just as dominant. Macky MacPherson drove his man back two yards after the snap, and Justin Pugh drove the defensive end nearly five yards downfield. Lou Alexander also sealed the edge occupying linebacker Keith Brown who tried to fill the hole.
That left a big running lane for Smith, who take care of the rest as he went nearly untouched for a 35-yard touchdown.
Those two plays are examples of the dominance the Orange had up-front. The Louisville defensive tackles were dominated by the interior of the Syracuse line, frequently being pushed back several yards.
They opened huge holes for Jerome Smith, who rumbled for 144 yards and the one touchdown. Gulley took advantage of the holes as well running for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
"The offensive line has been doing its job all season," Smith said after the win.
Justin Pugh also deflected praise when asked about the success in the run game.
"Jerome's a great running back," Pugh said. "He's going to run hard. Our whole goal, as the offensive line, is to get on our guys and he'll make us look good."
The offensive line was also great in pass protection, allowing only one sack which came late in the game. The Louisville edge rushers were no patch for Justin Pugh or Sean Hickey.
The Syracuse tackles did a great job keeping the Louisville defensive ends away from Ryan Nassib, giving him a big pocket to dissect the defense.
On Nassib's second touchdown pass to Alec Lemon, Pugh destroyed Louisville defensive end Marcus Smith. Smith tried a speed rush on Pugh, but Pugh used excellent foot work and hand technique to keep Smith in front of him.
Pugh pushed Smith past Nassib. Smith then tried to turn and come back to Nassib, but Pugh used his strength to push him to the ground.
That extra time gave Nassib the ability to look downfield and hit an open Lemon in the seam for a touchdown.
Coming into the season, the offensive line was a big question mark. Game after game, however, they have proven to be one of the most consistent units on the Orange squad. If they continue that high level of play, Syracuse could be going bowling in 2012.