Fizz 5: Syracuse’s QB Decision, Ground Game Invisible, Shafer Gets Testy

The Orange head coach has a tough decision to make, and lost his cool briefly in the post game loss.

After getting manhandled by Northwestern, Scott Shafer might as well toss Syracuse’s game footage right out the window. The Orange was pummeled by the #19 Wildcats 48-27 and SU doesn’t quite look like one with a “hardnosed” mindset like the head coach preached in the preseason. These last two weeks were tough to watch. There’s been no signs of a ground-and-pound offense, mix-ups between a 5th year QB with young receivers, and inconsistency from a very talented defense in most areas. Syracuse now sits at 0-2 with back to back losses against respectable Big 10 opponents, but what’s troubling is how the Orange is going down. Time for this week’s Fizz Five, the biggest takeaways from SU’s dreadful loss to the ‘Cats over the weekend.

  • Drew Allen has to get it together

Starting at quarterback  is still a work in progress for the Oklahoma transfer, but Allen must flip the script, fast. He has thrown just one touchdown pass to 6 interceptions. At times it looks as if he’s just heaving the ball up there hoping the athleticism of his receivers bails him out. He’s been careless with the football and his deep-ball tries are inconsistent. He’s an upbeat teammate on the sidelines, pumping up his offensive crew to cheer on the defense. But clearly Allen’s having difficulty translating his practice-play to game speed:

“There were some big dudes out there on the d-line. They did a great job of reading me and knowing when it’s going to be a quick pass and getting their hands up and batting the balls down.”

Some of his problems lie on Shafer. Allen is taking “full responsibility.” But he shouldn’t have almost 80 passing attempts through two games. The running game should fuel this offense, which was the plan heading into the season, especially against a pair of tough teams in a tested conference. So are Shafer and George McDonald putting Allen in the best position to lead this offense? Fans can’t be quick to just assume this all lies on Allen and Terrel Hunt should be the new starter. Give Allen a shot to thrive against Wagner and Tulane. If that goes downhill, this could be the end of his short-lived career.

  • When’s the running game going to start clicking?

Jerome Smith and Prince Tyson-Gulley were just short of the 100-yard mark combined against Penn State, but couldn’t get much going Saturday. Both scored a touchdown, as Rome racked up his third of the season and PTG got his first. The outstanding performance this duo put on last year at Yankee Stadium in the Pinstripe Bowl has raised its expectations for this season. Last season, Rome started to get hot towards the season’s end. The good sign is he’s been in the end-zone three times already, as he correctly predicted he’d score the team’s first of ’13. Give Tyson-Gulley some time to get going to. They can’t get the ball rolling, however, if they’re only rushing 20 times combined. That goes back to McDonald’s play-calling. The veteran backs, your most “sure-thing” on offense without out a doubt, need more touches. Good to see McDonald mixing in George Morris II and Devante McFarlene to add another dynamic, but establish your offense’s identity by centering the blueprint on Rome and PTG. Things should turn around.

  • SU’s defense unexpectedly crumbled to pieces

Credit Northwestern and Pat Fitzgerald for mastering the 2-QB system, as Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian each completed 15 passes and lit up the Syracuse defense. Both players offer that dual threat presence so they make a scary duo for any opposing team. The problem is the Orange D didn’t look like the strong, battle-tested bunch it was against the Nittany Lions. The Cats didn’t even need starting running back Venric Mark (lower body injury) to balance the offensive load. Instead Colter and Siemian alternated masterfully and toyed with the secondary. The defensive line came out strong on the Penn State O-Line and applied some pressure, but this week was a complete 180. It looked tired and out of sync. In the long run, SU’s exposure to two good offenses should help against some of the ACC’s powerhouses such as Clemson and Florida State. Hopefully there aren’t many issues with Wagner and Tulane heading to the Dome over the next couple of weeks.

  • Hunt’s late-game spark makes a juicy storyline

Allen was awful and the game out of reach when Shafer decided to insert the back-up, sophomore. And what do you know, he impressed immediately. Hunt ran in for a 15-yard score during garbage time to put SU on the board late. He finished with 22 yards on two of four passing, with 30 yards on three carries on the ground. Although it wasn’t much of a sample size, Hunt’s late-game surge makes Shafer’s decision at the quarterback interesting the next couple of weeks. If Allen starts this week and the Orange blow out Wagner, could we see Hunt get even more playing time? If things go south for Drew, Terrel could be in there even faster. What’s certain is he was ready to play and didn’t hesitate to be aggressive right away. Yes it’s up against back-up Northwestern defenders, but Hunt could’ve rolled over and packed it in. He didn’t.  

  • Shafer puts the blame on himself, and gets testy postgame

Scott used the old, Doug Marrone card and said the 0-2 start begins with him. Shafer was asked if the NU loss was “a nightmare.”

“A nightmare? No. A nightmare? Hell no. It was a bad football game and a bad job of coaching by Coach Shafer. I can’t wait to bounce back and try and get this thing better next week. But not a nightmare. Nightmares are for children. A childish question.”

Easy there, Scott. Syracuse fans have enjoyed and bought into the heart and soul of Shafer. But ripping a student reporter clearly out of frustration for the game’s outcome? When you combine the new coaching staff and a first-time starting quarterback, you’d be thrilled (and maybe shocked) if the Orange started off 2-0. There are going to be some problems early on. But fans would sleep better after these two losses if SU stuck to its principles and gave it all it has. Shafer shouldn’t go away from his style. He’s got to stay the course and be consistent, or else this whole “hardnosed” identity will be perceived as empty promises.

Posted: Brendan Glasheen

24 Comments on this Post

  1. Ed Brooks

    Matt Park said that the reporter who asked the question was not a student reporter. I assume he’s telling the truth, but the reporter was right: the game was a nightmare. This is probably a 4-8 team, but I agree, it hasn’t played up to its talent. However, there’s been turnover on the offensive line, and mass turnover on the coaching staff. I think that all the transition within the program is one of the current problems. I also question if either MacDonald or Bullough is up to handling a coordinator’s job, particularly from an Xs and Os standpoint. I had to get the word standpoint into this comment, as the difference with the Bills from last season to this one was hard to miss. We can only hope the Orange make a similar leap. We won’t know for at least 2 weeks as the next two games should be easy wins. If they aren’t, then changes need to be made, starting with the QB.

  2. Whoa – everyone needs to pump the brakes a bit. Su just played 2 ‘road games’ vs teams that went 8-4 and 10-3 last year. NW finished #16 AP last season and brought back their entire team. Penn St hasn’t lost much from the sanctions, if fact they picked up the #1 QB recruit in the nation. Sure SU didn’t look great, but they face Wagner & Tulane and should get to 2-2 heading into a home game with Clemson. Aside from the Tigers and Noles – they have a chance in all remaining games. With some luck, they get to 6-6 (maybe even 7-4) and a bowl game. The sky is not falling any time soon 😉

  3. Ron,with all the football on from CFB to proFB and my fantasy league I didn’t get to thank you for your evaluation of Bergen Catholics game!!I was so depressed by SU’s game I was a little afraid to comment while still hot!Even tho John Curtis HS pulled out the win(there #1 HS nationally)DBP,SPP and Paramus Catholic all dominated their top 50 out of state competition!St.Joes,Pa lost to SPP I think and one of the others”PC I think” beat DeMatha,DC and DBP beat another MD team 42-0 but Im sure Malone could verify cause after the Cuse AND the Giants lost I’ve been DOWN!!Ha Ha..sorry it took so long to respond buddy!

  4. @Russell Stugots;

    Like I said earlier Russell,Bergen Catholic HS has nothing to be ashamed of. I was impressed with their team,very impressed. How many games are they going to play this year? Do have a playoff system in place for these national teams to play? Does the media rank the teams at the end of the year?

    Bergen Catholic will end the year with a respectful overall record Russell. They’re that good.

    Thanks again for letting me know about the game and I would appreciate you letting me know in the future when Don Bosco or Bergen Catholic play again.

    One other thing that I noticed. I paid attention to what you and malone were talking about a couple of weeks ago explaining the head coaches at these schools. The coach for Bergern was full of brimstone and fire man. Always on the go and always talking to his players.

  5. Ron/Russ I see your guy Ollison went Pitt!! Please Hunt went in on mop up. So whatever he did was not actual top of the line play, against NW’s best.

    I was watching the ND/Mich replay and listening on and off. I never heard Williams name. Did anyone hear or see him play!!

  6. @Terry;

    I watched the same game on Saturday Terry and for the same reason as you. Ishaq Willams is #11 and plays LB. Wasn’t very productive in the game.I didn’t see him make a tackle at all,not one.

    I just finished reading about Ollison to Pitt. His decision was early playing time. I guess the kid couldn’t figure it out that Smith and Gulley were gone after this year. He would have been a great addition to the George Morris and Devante McFarlane tandem for next year and had a great chance of replacing Morris on special teams returning the ball.

    Oh well,life goes on I guess.

  7. @Terry;

    I’ve watched both Clemson games and I didn’t hear or see Ebenezer Ogundeko name called or see him play either. I guess he just wasn’t good enough to start as a freshman.

    Too bad!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Cuse all Day

    Ishaq now lines up a lot at DE with his hand in the dirt. He played well vs Michigan and had a nice solo sack. He’s not starting but he’s getting more plays this season now that he’s a junior

    he would’ve been entering his 3rd year as a starting DE for us if he came upstate but he’s doing well in So Bend

    You have to give McDonald a break on the RB situation, its not as simple as saying the RB’s need to carry the ball more. The box is stacked and O Line hasn’t been opening any holes. He needs to throw the ball downfield a bit more to open things up. These screens & 5 yard passes aren’t stretching the D at all

  9. donald bright

    I have been a diehard Orange fan for almost sixty years…but feel it is necessary to inject a sense of realism into the discussion….Preseason we were ranked about #96 in the country…but were scheduled to play a good team and a great team as the first two games this year…..The idea that we lost those two games should not be a shock to anyone and should give no reason to doubt coach Shafer, Allen, the running backs, the offense or the defense…We are still rebuilding…..the talent we lost to graduation may have been overrated since many of them who went to the NFL exited so quickly from the NFL..The future is Estime, Broyd and a qb recruit from Tennessee, a great wideout and a 6’6″ receiver..stuff Macdonald needs to have in order to do what he needs to do….We have yet to have recruited a single offensive or defensive lineman for next year and seemingly are up to our chins with D backs…That must be fixed asap…The real hope is in patience and continued fan support…I thought we were done when Bantam Ben Schwartzwalder left..but then Coach Mac came….Is Shafer the next coach to lead us to glory? Let’s give him an honest shot! Will Allen fulfill expectations? Get someone, anyone, to pass block and get rid of this notion that offensive linemen have to get very, very low….that’s why defensive linemen end up standing up and tipping almost every pass….offensive blocking for passes is done at the chest and not at the shins…Teach wide receivers to run tight routes and not break off patterns…Teach D backs that when three of them are deep, it is everyones’ mistake when a single receiver is clear deep…but, most of all…patience by the fans!

  10. Ron,

    Someone already beat me to it but Williams had a solo sack an I believe the only sack of the Mich. Qb. He’s played well this season just like last season. Only problem is he is behind Shembo right not who will be a late 1st early 2nd rd pick. The other kid from Rochester has had some trouble getting on the field. Right now he rotates in as a DE and plays some DT as well. He did block temples extra point in week 1.


    From the earlier article. I never was comparing UF to SU. I simply said that saying Miami played well was a joke. Trying to say UF is elite right now is a joke as well.

  11. Carlton granted Florida is not the head of the SEC class, but would beat PSU badly and gave NW a great game. Even though they are weak as you say they are still a decent team. SU fans would die to have that talent. Not a Gator fan just the facts!! Still talent is there on D not yet on O!! Miami is coming along is not a joke. SU will see that next year!!

    Here’s a though to ponder. When SU was SU(1960-1986) most of their kids(I think) came from that 3 hour area. There was a home feeling about them. PSU has many PA kids. Florida and its team has their kids as well as Texas, Alabama.LSU, MISS, California schools,Gergia, Ohio State, Micigan and even Rutgirls some. The exceptions might be ND, Oregon, South Car. Clemson and SU for example. That is home breed, home fed, home like, is just not there at SU. You have a salad of players from all over the nation at SU. ND and Oregon and the Carolinas have facilities and traditions that help that. SU DOES NOT HAVE THOSE. If you think chemistry of a program and how it effects sucess of a program does not matter look at the home teams all are winning regurally!! SU’s chemistry is lacking really since Coach Mac left. A few years after the 1986 team. What the hell happened????

    Where’s the facilities Dr Gross!!! I just won’t give up!!

  12. @Carlton,Cuse all Day;

    Thanks guy’s for letting me know about Ishaq’s sack. It must have happened before I turned on the game.

    Thanks again for the correction.

  13. The Truth

    Let’s put the blame where it belongs….

    AD Gross continues to put SU football in jeopardy, yes Gross!

    If Gross had not forced Marrone back to the NFL with his penny pinching ways for both Marrone and his staff, SU would have had a proven and stable staff leading the charge this first year in ACC. And let’s not forget all the top recruits who left for other programs, sounds like GRob and Ray Rice all over again.

    Instead, SU has untested coaches in almost every role, not good and it shows against good teams.

    I hope SU’s new Chancellor will be smart enough to judge AD Gross on his terrible football record and send him packing.

  14. weakstraw

    To be fair, that college reporter is on very thin ice with the coaching staff after tweeting information about a QB who had verbalized information about said QB that was false. That reporter is in the sights of the staff and it did not matter what question was asked.

  15. Probably that Cohen clown?

  16. Terry, I hear ground-breaking on the IPF is in 5 days.

  17. @Malone;I’ll keep an eye open for any kind of movement of machienery coming onto the site to start construction.

    When my son and I attended Fan Fest,I tried to visualize the new IPF and how big it was going to be. it’s going to be hugh everyone,really hugh.

  18. @Terry and to all menmbers of the Fizz Family.

    I heard some news today that if true is going to blow your socks off. JUST TO LET EVERYONE KNOW”TERRY THIS ONE IS JUST FOR YOU BUD”.

    Rumor has it that the tickets for the Clemson Game are getting real hard to get. They are expecting the game to be sold out. GOT THAT TERRY? SOLD OUT by game time in 4 weeks.

    Season tickets for basketball are almost sold out. I’ve been told that there will be at least two maybe three games reaching 35,000,with the rest of the ACC games averaging 25,000 people in attendance. Regular single game tickets are going fast,real fast.

    That means I’m going to go and buy some tickets for a few of those games. I would miss this for anything.

    If it does indeed turn out the Clemson Game is a sell out,I just hope that we have a lot of recruits there to watch the game and the enjoy the crowd.

  19. I meant to say,I wouldn’t miss this for anything.


  20. Ron,if were to upset Clemson a huge crowd would be an inspiration to the team!If we even come close (48G) I’ll be very impressed and Im sure it’ll push the team to play there hearts out!They’ll need too to win!

  21. @Russell Stugots;

    If it’s true about the game being a sellout Russ,it will be the first since the opening game against Miami Of Ohio back in 1980. I’m looking forward to seeing that happen”IF IT’S TRUE”.

  22. Ron,

    Might be a double edge sword bring recruits to that game. Great crowd is a plus for sure but what if SU gets pasted by 30+ points? Then how do you sell the program?

  23. Malone-I’ll believe the stoy about faclities when there is dirt on the shovel!! But thanks anyway!!

    Ron Come on here!!! Any SU fan knows the Clemson game is the biggest game of the year. Had my tickets for awhile. Just hope SU does not get beat by 40+!!

    Russ- Sorry but a sell out will not help SU beat Clemson. Especially how they are playing recently!!

    Good point Carlton!!

  24. I’m going to play Terry here for a minute ok.

    I’ve heard all of the negative comments before. We’ve had top ranked teams in here before,we won some and we lost some,and during it all the comments were the same. To many of the fans told us all that we didn’t have a chance against the likes of #1 Nebraska or the the likes of a #5/6 ranked a Micheal Vick led Virginia Tech team or recently the likes of a #10 ranked Louisville team in the dome last year. The last time we played ND in the dome we kicked their ever loving a$$es,Walter Rayes broke off right tackle,ran 65 yards for a touchdown that sealed the victory. Don’t you ever wonder why they don’t come to the dome anymore?

    Oh,now after everyone was saying that we need fans in the seats,we have the possibility of a sell out for the game,I’m still hearoing the comments that a large crowd isn’t going to matter against the Clemson Tigers.

    I’m probably wrong for predicting the upset of the year,but damn,I know stranger things have happened.

    Let the complaining and BS start gentlemen,I’m sticking by my prediction.

    Syracuse 19-14

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