Another round of self-inflicted wounds means the margin for error is getting slimmer.
Syracuse’s night at Minnesota was another winnable game against a beatable team, yet another loss. Eight straight of them against FBS opponents. The only win since October of ’11 has been against Stony Brook. With a 1-3 record heading into the bye week, the time to tell Syracuse football “good job, good effort” is over. Here are The Fizz Five take aways from the loss.
- Tough Schedule? Tough Cookies
This game is precisely why so many schools give themselves as many cupcakes as possible during non-conference play. The more coin flip games (Northwestern, Minnesota) and borderline automatic losses (USC) you have, the less margin for error.
If Syracuse had demolished a couple of MAC schools along with Stony Brook before playing the Gophers, a loss wouldn’t have been as devastating. That option isn’t necessarily the better one, but this is what happens when you have a brutal non-conference schedule. A bunch of fluky plays go against the Orange vs. Northwestern, and beating USC was always unlikely. So you head to Minneapolis for a night game against a Big Ten school at a packed stadium, and you better find a way to get the W. Beat an evenly matched opponent or fall to 1-3. And SU couldn’t do it.
- Figure Out How to Use Ashton Broyld
That statement is directed at Doug Marrone. Single plays can make the difference between bowl eligibility and another December/January on the sidelines, It could be the difference between landing Ebenezer Ogundeko and seeing him become a Florida Gator, or between keeping a job and losing a job. Pitching the ball to Jerome Smith on 2nd and goal from the one-yard line qualifies as one of those difference-making plays.
Instead of asking a power back to turn the corner, Offensive Coordinator Nathaniel Hackett could have called for about 50 better alternatives. Specifically, Broyld should have been on the field, and given the football.
Broyld is the most dynamic offensive player on a team that’s getting more athletic, but is still in search of legitimate playmakers. The freshman had only three rushing attempts and caught just one pass against Minnesota.
Yes, he’s raw. Marrone has also spoken about Broyld’s lack of understanding of the SU offense. The coach wants his players to have a complete grasp of the playbook before they see the field. But here, an exception must be made. Broyld is just too good. The players do have to be accountable, but this is on Marrone. Put Ashton in the game, and feed him the football. End of story.
- Penalties and Turnovers are Inexcusable
The players deserve plenty of blame for the loss. Have you ever seen a team gain more “wasted yards” than this one? The Orange should have beaten Northwestern by 30 the way it played. That wasn’t quite the case against Minnesota, but SU let so many quality drives go to waste because of penalties (10 for 79 yards) and turnovers (4). I would venture to guess that Central New York broke some sort of TV-screens-smashed-by-remotes record on Saturday night. Par for the course: Syracuse helps beat itself.
- Alec Lemon is Back to 100%
The newly crowned all-time Syracuse leader in receptions had a huge game with nine catches for 106 yards. He’s now definitely back to full strength after missing training camp and opening day with a leg injury. Marcus Sales is starting to receive more and more attention from defenses, so SU needs Lemon and Jarrod West to be there consistently as viable options for Ryan Nassib.
- Syracuse Desperately Needs Its Injured to Get Healthy
If all goes as planned, the offensive line will play a highly anticipated game of musical chairs prior to the Pittsburgh game. Justin Pugh in at left tackle for Sean Hickey, Hickey over to right tackle for Lou Alexander, Alexander to the bench. That should turn a mediocre to average offensive line into possibly an above average group. The offensive line had its worst game of the season against Minnesota, giving up a season-high three sacks and constant pressure on Nassib. False starts have also been an issue.
So Marrone and his team must do some soul-searching during the bye week. Fairly or unfairly, fans are already beginning to question the team’s heart. And there have even been some murmurs from the fanbase about Marrone’s job security. Is Marrone a couple of losses away from being on the hot seat?
News and notes:
Adrian Flemming had a fantastic camp before he went down at the tail end of it. He’ll serve as another big play and red zone option. He could also return for the Pitt game.
The Orange misses Jeremiah Kobena on kickoff returns and he appeared to turn the corner as a receiver before falling victim to an upper body injury. It might still be several more weeks before he’s back, though.
Steve Rene… well forget it.
Posted: Andrew Kanell