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Week 3 Fizz Five: 3-Headed Running Back Monster, Broyld Breaks Out

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It’s time to deliver the Fizz 5 of Syracuse’s win over Stony Brook, 28-17. SU won a game for the first time in almost 11 months. It was way too close for comfort the entire afternoon, but parts of Marrone’s new up-tempo offense clicked beautifully and Syracuse held on to secure the victory.

The whole afternoon felt like we were watching The Dougie in his football laboratory, trying to secure gains on offense while avoiding mental mistakes and calling plays via process of elimination. Sometimes experiments blow up in your face, and for much of the game, SU seemed to be beating itself. (Fizz alum Steve Neikam summed up the situation well, tweeting: “The gun SU uses to shoot itself in the foot definitely has the unlimited ammo cheat from Goldeneye”)

SU made inexcusable mental errors and fielded a defense that broke down in the open field to allow over 200 rushing yards from an inferior team, but with the negatives come the positives. Ashton Broyld scored his first touchdown and showed flashes of greatness, and Marcus Sales continued to be SU’s most dangerous vertical weapon.

Here’s the Fizz 5:

  • Jerome Smith, Prince-Tyson Gulley, and Ashton Broyld are now a 3-headed monster in the backfield

At least, that’s how Smith described the running game when I spoke to him postgame. He wouldn’t take any credit for his breakout day, running 18 times for 96 yards (5.3 yards/carry). Outside of the red zone, he had no trouble identifying spaces that he could take advantage of, and when the way wasn’t clear, he used his fullback-like size to power through tackles and extend the play. The one blemish? SU was held up inside the 10-yard line by the Stony Brook defense with Smith as the ball carrier.

“It’s not on me, it’s not on anybody else. It’s a team thing. Even if I’m frustrated, I know somebody else is frustrated, and we got over it. We came back next drive and we scored. We forgot about it.”

The Orange offense was lucky enough to face a team that was completely inept at passing the ball, so the fact that it didn’t capitalize on opportunities to put the game away didn’t cost the game. The same won’t be true for any of the remaining foes on the schedule.

  • SU’s O-Line is missing Justin Pugh badly

Ryan Nassib’s first completion of the game didn’t come until his second drive. It was a screen to PTG who took it 61 yards to the house. But the entire first drive was a complete failure for Nassib having enough time to make good reads and move the chains. Translation: SU needs it’s primary O-line monster, Pugh, to get healthy.

We know Nassib has the ability to go nuts when he is given relative control of the offense, which is a major reason SU entered the game ranked No. 4 in overall passing offense nationally.

We also know Nassib can break down under pressure. He showed great composure in pressure situations during the Northwestern game, but let’s not forget about last year. How many times did we see the blitz coming and Nassib getting hot feet, only to throw the ball right at the other team’s DBs? Too many.

Nassib manages to walk away with another handsome stat line (22-35, 335 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT) but SU can’t struggle to get him time and space in the pocket going forward. The Orange has to protect him from strong FBS blitz packages.

  • Ashton Broyld is showing glimpses of that play-making we were drooling over

Everyone was anxious to see how #1 would get the ball this year and if he would live up to all the hype after a great year at Milford. Broyld came out gunning, and scored his first TD on a 22-yard push through the red zone.  His instincts are there, and Marrone spoke after the game about how it’s been tough to find the right role for the do-everything back.

“It’s a very difficult process. The further you are away from the ball – if we had Ashton, and we said to him ‘you’re going to play a Z receiver, or an X receiver’, it would be a lot easier for him. But when you start running routes in the slot, when you put him in the backfield, you put him at QB in the wildcat, you’re doing some different stuff.”

That explains why Broyld has needed a learning curve through the spring and into training camp. Marrone says Broyld is as excited to make plays as fans are to watch him tear it up. DM just wants to be sure Broyld is totally comfortable with his responsibilities before increasing his playing time.

“We had a great conversation. He was upset after the first game—you know, ‘hey, coach, I want to play more and get in there, and I feel like I should play more.’ I said, ‘Hey, I feel the same way. I want you to play more.’ He’s a great athlete. But if you want to play more, you have to know the ins and outs of everything that you’re doing. And it’s not just Syracuse University football where it’s like that, there are a lot of football programs where it’s like that. We have been getting him more carries, and that’s the direction we want to go in.”

  • SU took Jeremiah Kobena’s speed on kickoff returns for granted

We wondered how big of a hole Kobena was leaving as he went under the knife earlier this week. His return game was sorely missed. Steve Rene didn’t come close as a stand-in, getting completely stuffed on one kickoff and getting hit so hard on the second one that he was slow to get up. Rene might be a good option as a third down RB, but he clearly does not have the same burst of speed Kobena does as a return man. It’s just added pressure on Nassib and the offense when they have to start a drive at their own 9-yard line.

  • Ladies and gentlemen, Brandon Reddish

If Broyld is the most exciting young player on this team, Reddish is a close second. Now a sophomore, Reddish is clearly picking up a bigger role in the secondary, and Def. Coordinator Scott Shafer rewarded him with plenty of playing time. The highlight play was his first interception in a Syracuse uniform, coming late in the 4th quarter. Reddish also came up big on special teams, helping cut a Stony Brook return short and pin the Seawolves offense deep in their own territory. Look for more from Reddish as the year goes on. He’s a heads-up member of the secondary who plays and hits with a lot of energy.

Odds & Ends:

-Alec Lemon is now alone in 3rd on SU’s career receptions list with 136.

-The new video SU plays as the team takes the field at home games is downright amazing. Even if the team only wins 3 games, that’s still a phenomenal video. SU Athletics needs to release a version to YouTube, because out of state fans have to see this.

Posted: Jake Moskowitz

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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