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The Fizz 5: Inconsistency, DBs & Nassib All Syracuse Concerns Right Now

A win is a win, right? Except when it’s over a bad Tulane team by a last-second field goal and your team played like crap in the 2nd half. Orange fans are incredibly frustrated heading into the bye week despite a 4-2 record. This season keeps getting weirder and harder to figure out. Here’s an honest attempt at a Fizz 5 that’s only guaranteed to still be valid in a week because the Orange don’t play this Saturday.

  • The only constant is SU’s inconsistency.

Last week The Fizz raved about the Orange defense having its best game of the season in the loss to Rutgers. The “D” was put in terrible spots and consistently held RU to field goal attempts. Saturday was it reverted back to the first half against Wake Forest. There was little to no pressure on the quarterback. The linebackers were spotty and the corners forgot how to play man coverage. Offensively, the Orange surged and stagnated within the same game. After 31 points in the first half, it was the Rutgers game again in the second. Five straight punts, four 3-and-outs. Good thing punter Jonathan Fisher was solid.

  • As we stated last week: Ryan Nassib hasn’t progressed.

While Nassib hasn’t taken a step back from last season, he hasn’t progressed enough either. The quarterback has come back to Earth after a hot start. I attended Saturday’s game with my dad, who is a casual football fan and hadn’t seen SU play yet this year. What did a fresh pair of eyes see? That Nassib is ultra-conservative and has no command. The first part we all knew. The second part brushed me back a bit.

We all think of Nassib as a quiet leader. His teammates believe in him. He steps into the huddle confidently. Pre-snap he’s in control. But after the snap, he’s looks less comfortable than Nancy Grace with a wardrobe malfunction on “Dancing With The Stars.” Nassib doesn’t stand in the pocket. He moves around like he’s on hot coals. The signal-caller showed some ability to scramble against Tulane which was nice, but we’d much rather see him go through a progression without checking it down. Sir-Dinks-A-Lot (the awesome nickname sent by @MeTommyJames to us @OrangeFizz on Twitter) needs to start looking downfield further. To be fair, he also needs more help from his line and his receivers.

  • Dorian Graham is a focus at Van Chew’s expense.

Chew started Saturday but getting the ball to Graham was clearly part of the gameplan for Nathaniel Hackett. The result was four catches, 2 TD’s and 2 carries on reverses for the speedy wideout. Meanwhile, Chew had only one catch and lost a fight for another deep ball late in the 4th quarter. He allowed a ball that hit him in the hands be wrestled away as it fell to the turf. Chew is a good route runner but if he’s not open, he’s not going to win any jump balls. Van is fast but doesn’t have the quickness of guys like Eric Page and Robert Woods to get open whenever he pleases. Graham is much closer to being that guy, which is why he and Jarrod West were featured as Chew and Alec Lemon were subbed out.

  • Adonis Ameen-Moore is big, and his impact could be bigger.

In last week’s Fizz 5, we discussed SU’s hope to redshirt Ameen-Moore, but that is was smart to wait another week. Four carries later, it was the right move to play him. The enormous freshman did exactly what he was expected to do – spell Antwon Bailey (who was solid for the Orange), and help wear down the defense. He was able to move the pile forward every, meaning Jerome Smith might as well leave his helmet at home the rest of the year. He may not see another snap if Adonis is healthy.

  • The secondary isn’t fixed and the Okie needs to be shelved.

After a superior performance against Rutgers, it looked like the defensive backfield was finally coming together. Not only that, but Shamarko Thomas and Orlando Fisher were set to return and life was going to be rainbows, butterflies, interceptions and huge hits. And then it wasn’t. Shamarko was solid but a step late on a few plays in his first game back (understandable). We were told Fisher was only going to play “if needed,” yet didn’t see the field in a close game where the secondary struggled.

The play of the corners was rough as well. On the two long touchdowns, it looked like the cornerbacks were on islands by design. On the first bomb, Kevyn Scott had perfect coverage. But he never turned his head and found the ball. On the second deep score, Keon Lyn was beat cleanly and then fell down. If Scott Schafer’s defense is going to work, the corners are going to have to step up. The line isn’t helping without getting pressure on the quarterback. Ryan Griffin was able to go 24-30 for 320 yds and 2 TD’s. He was only went 10-19 for 74 yards against Army and 14-29 for 188 the week before against Duke.

On a related note: the Okie package doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked all year. Last year it clicked with Chan Jones in the middle and blitzes coming from a million different directions. With Jones out, the pressure hasn’t gotten there and the guys on the outside haven’t been able to recover. Next game will be a huge test when Jones and Fisher come back and the defense finally has its full arsenal. If the Okie is not effective against WVU, it’s time to abandon ship on the package for this year.

A 4-2 start is probably where many projected the Orange and there’s something to be said for that. However, the image of SU hitting the game-winning field goal as time expired and no one celebrating spoke volumes. The team knows Saturday night was closer than it should have been and a performance like that against the Mountaineers will result in something uglier than Oliver Luck opening his mouth.

Posted: Craig Hoffman

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