MORGANTOWN - The second play Syracuse linebacker Dyshawn Davis saw against Rutgers was the one he was preparing for most.
It was a simple second-and-10 play early in the first quarter in the Oct. 1 game inside Syracuse's Carrier Dome. The Rutgers tight end moved from the right side of the line of scrimmage to the left. The wide receiver on the left side motioned toward the tight end.
"We ran through that play so many times during the week of practice," Davis said. "We kind of knew the call and we had the play locked down."
Davis saw everything happening in front of him as he'd expected. As soon as that receiver made his move, Davis countered with his. On that play, Davis was blitzing through the middle. His timing was perfect. All that was left was the hit.
"Watching so much film, I knew the angle I had to take to hit the hole without anyone touching me," he said.
"Once the guard pulled, I knew I was going to have a chance to make a play. I knew it was coming and then I was in the backfield one-on-one with the running back."
Davis was slicing through the line of scrimmage as the ball was snapped and the right guard moved left. He nearly took the handoff from the Rutgers quarterback and ran into the running back before he could get the ball. Cornerback Ri'Shard Anderson scooped it up and ran 65 yards for a touchdown.
"They say how you play is all about how you practice," Davis said. "Everything fell into place, but I was shocked at the fumble. That didn't happen in practice. I didn't even know we had the ball until I saw everyone running."
Davis (his first name is pronounced DIE-shawn) has 10 tackles, 4 1/2 tackles for a loss, two sacks and the forced fumble in the past two games. The Orange (4-2, 0-1 Big East) hope for more when they host No. 11 West Virginia (5-1, 1-0) at 8 p.m. Friday on ESPN.
Syracuse has been getting more from Davis by actually asking less. Starting as a true freshman, Davis was taken out of the team's nickel pass defense package after four games. The Orange were crushed by injuries in the preseason and Davis had been asked to play in all of the defensive packages.
"We try to get our best players on the field, but it becomes difficult," Coach Doug Marrone said.
"I guess I can't talk about every freshman, but in my position, all the freshmen I've coached, it puts pressure and all those things on that player. What we wanted to do is cut back the nickel package so he could focus on our base defense.