Syracuse fans are sick of watching their team succeed in many areas, yet still find a way to lose. SU out gained Rutgers by nearly 200 yards and totaled 11 more 1st downs. Saturday’s 23-15 loss to the #20 Scarlet Knights saw the Orange turn the ball over four times and commit miscue after miscue en route to its worst start (2-4) since Doug Marrone’s first year as head coach.
Watching from the press box, Marrone was as frustrated as he’s ever been pacing the sidelines yesterday. Here’s this week’s Fizz Five, the most critical elements of yesterday’s crushing loss.
- Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers haunt SU… again.
It’s really simple. There is one reason why Syracuse lost yesterday, and it’s by not taking care of the football. You cannot commit four turnovers, and have a field goal blocked and taken back for a touchdown, and turn the ball over on downs, and expect to win. SU still had a chance to tie this one up in the final few minutes – twice – but that is Rutgers football. The Knights don’t need to score a lot of points because they play smashmouth defense and force their opponents to make mistakes. Kyle Flood could’ve unleashed Gary Nova at any point in this game, but he plays conservative. All four of the turnovers were in the second half, and Ryan Nassib was responsible for three.
You cannot “outplay” an opponent by committing four TO’s, having a field goal blocked, not scoring in the redzone, etc. Throw the stats out the window, if SU outplayed Rutgers then we’re in for a rocky second half of the season. It was a raucous atmosphere at HP Solutions Stadium, but this many mistakes in a single game at this point in the season is unacceptable.
- This is Not Solely on Nassib.
Everyone was pointing the finger at the fifth year senior after his three turnovers, but this game does not fall only on his shoulders. That was a game changing blocked field goal in the third quarter that Duron Harmon took back for six. Nassib is not responsible for Steven Rene’s fumble (that apparently wasn’t) which Rutgers eventually converted for a score. Nassib looked more uncomfortable than he’s been all season, but this is the league’s top defense and one of the nation’s best. RU is third in the country with 12 interceptions. This Knights squad was going to force turnovers. The play calling didn’t help the quarterback, and there’s not better option than Ryan right now. Where are all the Nassib-lovers from the Northwestern game a few weeks ago? There were plenty of game-defining mistakes in this ballgame that are not all on the QB.
- Marrone Has Hit His Boiling Point.
And rightfully so. It seems like the Marrone “snap-o-meter” is getting pushed closer to the brink after each game. The Dougie was fuming on the sideline throughout, and after the blocked field goal, ripped off his headset and visor and slammed it to the ground. After the game, HCDM was just as frustrated by the turnovers and mistakes.
“I get surprised at every mistake. If I’m going to stand here and say I’m not surprised by a mistake, then I’m a shitty coach.”
You can see the sheer irritation on his face. He knows this team is capable of a lot more. He did not do his patented “it’s on me” routine after this loss, but if Marrone puts the blame on himself, and his players don’t take accountability, he cold be undermining his own future. This team is 2-4. There have not been many things to hang your hat on. The players have to perform, and the turnovers are no exception. We need to see more discipline out there, and that starts with the head coach.
- The Second Half is Where The Game Was Won.
Whatever was said in that SU locker room at halftime didn’t work. The second half was supposedly SU’s “golden half” this year, and immediately the Orange came up empty. It started with a blocked field goal by Jamal Merrill (yes, that same Jamal Merrill from a year ago), and ended with a few Nassib interceptions. As ugly as the first half was, as difficult as it was for Syracuse to move the football in the first half, the Orange was in a 7-7 game. With a defense sticking it to the Knights on the road, there needed to be more energy and intensity coming out of that locker room. The Orange had seven possessions in the second half. This is how they ended:
1) Krautman’s blocked field goal returned for an RU touchdown
2) Nassib fumble
3) Punt after a penalty forces SU 3 and out
4) Nassib interception
5) Turnover on downs at the RU 3 after 8 straight goal to go plays
6) Chris Clark Touchdown
7) Another Nassib interception
And don’t forget Steven Rene’s fumble to begin the third quarter. Just let that sink in for a moment. Coming out and playing that lackluster in the second half is not going to get it done against anyone. Syracuse needed big plays to jolt its drives against one of the nation’s best defenses. In both of the touchdown drives, there were plays of 20 yards or more.
- Finish Drives!
And this is where the play-calling comes in. How could we forget ‘ol Nate Hackett? Syracuse was inside the Rutgers 25 yard line 5 times yesterday afternoon and came up with just one score. Penalties and vicious sacks killed SU drives in the first half. But there were a ton of strange play calls. Down early to start the second quarter, Nassib had his helmet knocked off after a big sack. Due to NCAA regulations he was forced out for a play, and in came Charley Loeb for a long 3rd down barely in field goal range. He ran a conservative draw up the middle. Why not let him throw it deep? Or at least bring in Ashton Broyld for a snap and put his athleticism to the test.
There were many frustrating series, but none worse than the eight straight goal-to-go plays midway through the fourth quarter where SU came up with absolutely nothing. Wasn’t that Tank package created for a reason? Instead, Hackett called for two nearly identical pass patterns from the two yard line. Nada. It’s like Hackett is outthinking himself. For a second straight week, this defense played well holding RB Juwan Jamison to just 64 yards on 28 carries. This time they weren’t bailed out.