Under the Hood: Here’s How Syracuse Can Fix the Problems from Saturday

The Orange is working to fix some of the kinks that led to the loss on Saturday.

Syracuse is preparing for Northwestern this week by looking at what went wrong against the Nittany Lions in a close loss for SU. While some rookie head coaches would overreact in this situation, Scott Shafer seems calm and collected. The Orange will try to sort these issues out before heading into Evanston this Saturday against #22 Northwestern.

The glaring issue Saturday was the lack of offensive production. SU will need to figure out how to find playmakers downfield against a solid Wildcats defense. One major break the passing attack catches is Wildcats’ starting CB Daniel Jones now out for the season after injuring himself again Cal. Northwestern will split time between redshirt freshman Dwight White and junior C.J. Bryant. Drew Allen must exploit this situation to gain an advantage early on.

How will the passing and running games coexist in George McDonald’s play calling? Shafer said he needs to give his offensive coordinator more freedom.

“We played it close to the vest, and I need to take those handcuffs off George and just let him go.”

Whether he actually restricted the play calling much or is just taking heat off McDonald, Shafer knows moving the sticks more is key. He specifically underlined the Orange first down consistency not being good enough Saturday, and said winning the “6-inch wars” like plays at the line of scrimmage and the mishandled low snap to punter Riley Dixon need to be fixed. It is these kind of plays that can determine close games for the Orange.

If Allen struggles again on Saturday, would Shafer think about putting in Terrel Hunt? Many expected Hunt to take at least a few snaps during the PSU game. However, Shafer opted to keep Allen in for a chance to win in the 4th quarter. Hunt seems to have great chemistry with Jarrod West, who only grabbed three catches for 22 yards with Allen under center. Shafer might want to give Hunt snaps to jump start the attack and avoid an 0-2 start.

As The Fizz mentioned a few weeks ago, the secondary will be a topic of discussion as the season progresses. Keon Lyn and Ri’Shard Anderson are both the starting CBs, but Brandon Reddish has made a great case to start over Anderson. Reddish finished with a major fumble recovery and five tackles. Slowly but surely, Reddish has been receiving a lot more playing time and shown he can make the big play. Dethroning a senior starter one game into the season might seem unrealistic, but Anderson has struggled dating back to last season. Anderson’s struggles were highlighted this weekend when he got beat badly by Allen Robinson for a touchdown. If starting Reddish over Anderson gives the Orange the best chance to win, does Shafer throw seniority out the window and give Reddish the start at NU?

A loss to an old Syracuse football rival in Penn State is not a great way to start off the season. However, stealing a game on the road from a ranked team like the Wildcats would be huge. It would set up a terrific matchup a few weeks later against Clemson. Saturday tells us if the Orange can come back from this opening defeat stronger and as hard-nosed as advertised.

Posted: Zephan Mayell

9 Comments on this Post

  1. 4orty4our

    While I agree that Ri’Shard Anderson has been mediocre at best in coverage, that touchdown to Robinson was on Jeremi Wilkes. They were in a zone defense and Jeremi Wilkes was caught out of position. He cheated up which caused him to have a terrible angle once Robinson made the catch. Plus, you have to expect that Robinson at some point is going to make a play, regardless of who is covering him. He was BIG Ten WR of the year last season in a conference littered with talent. He will get his every game.

  2. OrangeCrush27

    Def tough to watch our Offense play against PSU, especially after being spoiled with last years team. Issues I saw were on both the Offense/Defense lines, which lead to no running lanes, or pressure on their QB.

    McDonald def needs to open up the playbook, to conservative and i think everyone knew what play was being called.

    Please give Hunt a shot.

  3. Put this loss squarely at the feet of Daryl Gross for putting this game in NJ rather than the Dome and for scheduling two top teams at the start of the season. Both games are away games. Neutral field adjacent to PA playing the state university of PA ridiculously naive for the head of the athletic department.

  4. Chris, this is a short sighted comment and not correct either. This was a scheduled neutral site game, part of a 3 game series. We played at PSU, they played in the Dome, and this was the 3rd game, a neutral site game. That game is not a national game if not in MetLife, and if I am not mistaken, we are NY’s College Team, yes, a neighboring state. Beyond that, we got a lot of recruiting targets and recruits in the seats due to the game being in NJ. Mavety, Holley, Phillips, getting directly recruited by Cabinda, or Rodney Williams among others are not there if that game is in the Dome. They would wait for an official, if they choose to use one of their 5 on us. Now there is a better possibility they will take an official. As bad as we may have looked, especially on O, we showed we are close to that corner being turned. PSU has talent, some of which is 4 and 5 star level. The 65 schollies doesn’t take effect until this recruiting class, and even at that, it will not affect the caliber of their starters, anywhere near the quality of their depth. Their QB won the Elite 11 last year. We thought Zach Allen was great and he was #25 in that competition, not #1.

    A lot of work needs to be done and I put that on the staff, but this is not a “blow it up and rebuild it” situation.

  5. I agree with Malone (above). hit the nail on the head. SU played a decent game, was one or two good plays away from stealing a game from a team that went 8-4 last season and will prob contend for the B10 title this season. If we can squeak out a win vs Northwestern – we have 2 soft games following (like the rest of the top 25 teams are playing now) and we would go into the Clemson game 3-1. Not a bad spot

  6. Good points Malone!We have to meet the kids halfway for now or risk losing them!Plus the neutral game has PSU guests there too and with sanctions we might grab some they can’t find room for!The difference between Cuse now and our heyday is NJ…its imperative we get our share of the talent there soon and mend fences with old friends!

  7. PSU was very beatable and SU just didn’t get the job done. PSU WILL NOT contend for the B10 title(Hedgehog) they are not a good football team. Down the road yes now no way. PSU FR QB does have talent!! SU blew it Saturday!!

    There is not enough time to improve for NW. The injuries to NW might help keep the score lower, but NW will contend for a B10 title this year!! The spread might be close to 20 points!!

  8. They do seem to be an upper echelon B1G school under Fitzgerald Terry and it could get ugly but a W there would be sweet!

  9. BigDipster

    ..”great chemistry..”.. would and should have led to Hunt gettting snaps! I would accept any Greg Paulus game over Drew Allen anything.. I threw up in my mouth @his performance. OCMcD is outta touch.. Jerome needs 20 + carries and Gulley 15+ touches for SU success. I pray the Football Gods give Hunt the start at top25 Northwestern!!!!!!!!

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