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Week 8 Fizz Five: The Good & Bad from Syracuse’s Dramatic Win at USF

Jason Benhken/Tampa Trib

Ryan Nassib dug his team’s season out of the gutter with his 83-second game winning drive in Tampa Saturday. The Orange is back to .500 after its 37-36 victory, and now has a ton of momentum heading into its critical four-game November stretch. Whatever Doug Marrone said in that locker room at halftime, he better say it before every game the rest of this season.

There’s a ton to go over after the win. Here is the Fizz Five, the top take-away’s from this weekend.

  • This is Ryan Nassib’s Team.

It’s clear. Less than a minute and a half was plenty of time for Nassib to lead his team down the field for the game winner. It was a total transformation for Ryan. In the first, he didn’t seem comfortable throwing. He was short arming too many passes and not recognizing open receivers. But a light switch clicked at half, as he connected on 18/24 for 238 yards and all four of his TD’s in the second half. You’ll see that poised swagger from here on out from the fifth year senior. ESPN Draft analyst Todd McShay actually ranked Nassib as the fifth best QB prospect on his big board before the weekend. Maybe Ryan was a little offended because he moved himself up a few notches on that list after Tampa.

“Finish” needs to be the motto heading into these final four games. Ryan keeps his guys cool, calm and collected in the huddle. The momentum from that second half should help vault the Orange into the final month.

  • Redzone Efficiency Defines SU.

Syracuse’s performance in the redzone was the difference maker in this game. In the first half, SU’s two trips ended in three points. Once again it was self-inflicted wounds that caused the problems. Syracuse got all the way down to the five-yard line on its first possession, and had to settle for a field goal. Jerome Smith dropped a wide open, easy touchdown right at the goal. The Orange was inside USF’s five again midway through the second quarter, and couldn’t punch it in. Smith may actually be allergic to the endzone. Three straight runs were met by a wall of green jerseys. To top it all off, Ross Krautman missed the ensuing 22-yard FG, and moments later Lindsay Lamar ran in an 80-yard TD for the Bulls.

SU pulled a total 180 in the second half, scoring a touchdown on all four of trips to the redzone. The Orange has to do a better job converting when it gets close. SU looked too tight near the goal line in first half. You can’t plan for furious 20-point comebacks every week, and SU won’t get away with those mental mistakes in the redzone too many more times this season.

  • Work the TE’s into the Gameplan.

Nassib has been hooking up more frequently with Beckett Wales and David Stevens over the last couple weeks. Nate Hackett had a simple gameplan on Saturday. It was a lot of grounding and pounding, but the play-action game opened up the middle of the field for the tight end’s. Orange fans might see more of Stevens and Wales from here on out. They’re starting to take some pressure off of Marcus Sales and Jarrod West, who were non-factors until the second half (13 of their combined 16 grabs came after halftime). And the TE duo is picking up big chunks of yardage, something that was wasn’t evident a year ago. Over the last 3 games alone, Wales and Stevens have combined for eight catches for ten yards or more.  Hackett is trying to stretch the field with the big bodies.

  • There’s A Lot of Work To Be Done This Week.

Marrone said he was physically and emotionally drained after SU’s largest comeback victory since at least 1942. Yes, it was a fantastic Saturday night filled with a lot of celebration, but you have to put Syracuse’s 20-point comeback into perspective. USF has lost 6 straight, is still winless in the Big East, and had a dominating lead at the half. SU played far from the perfect game. The Fizz already mentioned the redzone troubles, and missed FG, and penalties continue to be killers. Ten in total for 89 yards, none more hair-splitting than Alec Lemon’s false start in the final seconds of the fourth quarter (luckily Nassib gave his buddy a pardon moments later). SU was nailed for two penalties in that final game winning drive. If the adrenaline level wasn’t sky high in that huddle, who knows how severally it could have altered the game. The tackling was also poor throughout this one, and the defense allowed a ton of big runs.

  • Can’t Afford Breakdowns Against Mobile QB’s.

SU must do a better job containing the run. After allowed just 106 total rushing yards over its last three games combined, the Orange gave up 279 rushing yards to QB BJ Daniels and tailback Lindsay Lamar alone. The Bulls piled 369 total, and were finding huge holes through the SU front line. There’s no question USF won the battle on the line of scrimmage. But where did all that SU pressure go on Saturday? The D did not contain BJ, and Scott Shafer never consistently kept a linebacker spying on Daniels. It didn’t make sense. Syracuse could blitz all it wanted to up the middle – which it did – but Daniels was free to scramble to the outside. SU should’ve changed up the blitz patterns, maybe coming with more corner or safety pressure.

Tracking running quarterbacks will be key in this final stretch for SU. Cincy QB Munchie Legaux is mobile, and Louisville signal caller Teddy Bridgewater is hard to bring down as well. Temple runs the option offense with QB Chris Coyer (who is also second on the team in rushing with 354 yards). There needs to be a serious gameplan change to stop the rushing QB’s the final four weeks of the season.

Posted: Kevin Fitzgerald

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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