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Fizz 5: Allen, Ashton, the Pistol & Other Important Pieces of Syracuse’s Loss

Syracuse fans waited months in anticipation for the season opener against Penn State, and to see who the starting QB would be. Drew Allen and the rest of the Orange offense knew, but that still didn’t help. SU fell 23-17 in a game that featured bruising defenses, and tepid offenses. Syracuse could only muster 260 total yards. How did Syracuse look in the opener? Here’s The Fizz Five takeaways from the Meadowlands.

  • The Communication Needs to be Cleaned Up

Even though the first quarter was scoreless, the SU offense moved efficiently at times and Allen looked comfortable under center. He started the game 6/7 for 67 yards. The problem was the rest of the way he completed just ten of 30 passes. He admitted his chemistry with his WR’s was shaky down the stretch.

“I felt like there were times when we showed a lot of great things, and then there were times when things weren’t so great. And I felt during those times it was when our communication broke apart.”

We know Drew Allen has a ton of fight in him, and is a gamer. He is a born and bred Texas football player, and never takes a play off. He has a non-stop motor. But does that intensity turn to frustration? It certainly looked like it judging from his demeanor on the field. And that’s to be expected. There were definitely times though, especially in the fourth quarter, when it seemed like he and his receivers were on different pages. It’s the first game, with a new QB and coach, and there is going to be an adjustment period. What Allen needs to do is sit down with his WR’s and find out how they can work together more effectively. This team had two opportunities in the final five minutes needing only one score to win it, and could barely pick up a first down.

  • Allen is Still Your Starting QB

Despite the numbers, Allen is the guy next week. And the following weeks as well. This is not the time to yank him and swap in Terrel Hunt. Hunt most likely knows the playbook a little better, but the former Oklahoma gunslinger can make the adjustments necessary for Northwestern. You need to give him more than one game to prove himself. According to Shafer, Drew isn’t going anywhere.

“He’s a winner, I like the way he competes. I liked his moxxy, I liked his energy, I liked his fight. I liked the way he listened to details on the sideline.

There should be no blanket analysis about Allen after one game. He displayed a lot of good things: he’s very comfortable with the quick three step drop back, and found a lot of open receivers in the flats early in the game. He needs to do a better job progressing through his reads and options. Many times he would lock onto one side of the field, and it burned him, particularly when he threw his first interception late in the 3rd quarter. Shafer expects these mistakes.

“We had a kid start at QB that hadn’t played since high school. Now, I thought the kid did a good job for the most part… He hasn’t played much football over the last few years, it’s not easy.”

  • Leave Ashton Be!

Broyld belongs at wide receiver. He is most dangerous when he can work in the slot, and sometimes even on the sidelines. He needs to stick with one position, though. Shafer and the coaching staff seem to be doing just that. Stop bouncing Broyld around at different positions. There is no precedent. See what happens when you give him legitimate playing time: 4 catches for 46 yards. He reeled in a 27 yard catch down the middle of the field in the 2nd quarter and broke a few tackles later in the third for a 14 yard pick-up. Give him the opportunity. Doug Marrone dangled playing time in front of the Rochester native, but now finally he has his chance to shine.

  • What Happened to the Pistol?

Many imagined SU was going to feature a pistol formation look. George MacDonald had talked about it for months, and during the first half of Saturday’s game, it looked pretty sharp. Allen seemed very comfortable under center, and Jerome Smith benefitted the most of all the running backs. Then it almost disappeared in the second half. Syracuse couldn’t get much of an intermediate passing game going, and it would have been preferable for MacDonald to try the pistol more often later in the game. The offense really only created one touchdown (Allen’s 55 yard bomb to Jeremiah Kobena followed by Smith’s TD run). The other score came after DE Robert Welsh intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter and returned it to the PSU goal line. At the end of the game, the play calls became too conservative.

  • The Orange has its Return Men

In his first year, there is one thing that Shafer has nailed right on the head: special teams. Ritchy Desir is the best punt returner for this squad because he takes care of the ball. He’s a natural. Another special teams stud was George Morris II. The kid has great talent and speed, and Shafer knew he needed to get him reps. Morris had two 35 yard kick returns, and he and Kobena make a nice duo at the goal line.

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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