What’s Happened to the Syracuse Ground Game? Here’s the Main Culprits

The running game was supposed to be the strength of the Syracuse offense. Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley were both coming off good seasons and even better performances in the Pinstripe Bowl. Naturally, fans expected this to be a sign of things to come. But the ground game hasn’t really gotten started yet. You could say both Penn State and Northwestern have strong defenses, but the Orange has just not executed well enough.

Against Penn State, the Orange averaged a paltry 1.9 yards per carry. PTG was only able to gain 24 yards on 12 carries; he clearly struggled behind an offensive line that looked disjointed at times. Against Northwestern he was slightly more successful, but the Orange had to move away from the rushing attack after falling behind early. Smith was more productive against Penn State; he was even able to rip off a 22-yard run. But in both contests the running game was not close to where it needs to be for the team to be successful. Like with any other unit, the running backs cannot be totally to blame. Here’s the other culprits:

-The Offensive Line: Behind any successful ground attack is a good line. The Orange lost Justin Pugh and Zack Chibane, who started all 13 games last season. The line simply has not owned the trenches like it needs to for SU to have a chance. It needs to open up holes for Smith, PTG, George Morris II, Devante McFarlene that has not been done yet this year.

-The Passing Game: Often, the running game is thought to set up the passing game, but it can also work the other way around. By consistently having balls thrown off the mark and having receivers drop passes, defenses can devote another man to the run without worrying about the receivers beating them. If Drew Allen showed he could consistently hook up with Aston Broyld, Jarrod West and Beckett Wales, the defense may need to leave the extra safety back just in case Allen pulls the ball back and throws.

-Play calling: The play calling under George McDonald has been questionable. GMcD takes over a position that saw the quarterback, offensive coordinator and (offensive minded) head coach leave for the NFL. So far, the offense just doesn’t look to fit the personnel of the Orange. The running backs had trouble getting into space against Penn State and Northwestern, and the play-calling is partly to blame.

-The Running Backs: Smith hasn’t shown the power yet he displayed last year, and PTG hasn’t been able to break off a big run like we’ve seen in the past, especially in the Pinstripe Bowl.

This week against Wagner should provide a kick-start that the running game, and the offense as a whole, really need. The offensive line made improvements after the Penn State game and looked better against Northwestern. The passing game may not be better, but with news that Allen and Terrel Hunt will get playing time Saturday, maybe a resolution to the air attack struggles aren’t too far off. The play calling shouldn’t be much of a factor against an FCS team like Wagner. The Orange should be able to roll over them due to talent level alone. Smith and PTG could show flashes of their play in the Pinstripe Bowl and back to last year.  This week against Wagner should be the turn around for the Orange offense, and if not, maybe then it is time to really panic.

Posted: Seth Goldberg


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  1. chris says:

    Everything past the O-line is pretty much superfluous That unit haas underperformed thus far. Perles hasn’t impressed me with coaching up any of the players thus far. I’ll give you Pugh and Chibane as reasons for the drop off but Hickey Trudo and Mackey should be able toopen up some running lanes for our backs.

  2. Terry says:

    Chris is right!! Passing and Run game starts at the OL and they are miserable so far. I’ve been hard on Smith, but I was wrong on him(except for his ball security). Never been a huge PTG fan even after the Snow Bowl. He just jukes too much(Ashton does the same thing, just get it and go)!! Morris surprisingly has shown very little on kickoffs(fumbled a few to=no good)!!! SU really doesn’t have that pitch right or left solid run game yet. I always thought their game “before” this year and this year to was up the middle. But again no quality QB’s proves the other teams will stack the line so there goes that!! What’s the answer?? I don’t know?? You can find it against Wagner, but Tulane will be no push-over either!! Its scary!! Again it smells of the GROB stink! Or what smell do you smell??

  3. @Carlton,don’t know if your interested or not but I’m getting the sense Mike Gesicky from Southern HS in NJ is leaning to FSU and likes exMinn coach from NJ Mike Brewster!?!He’s a 6’5″ and a half inch,235 Lb WR/TE hybrid with 4.7 speed!PSU,OSU and RU were/are his other options but PSU only has 1 scholly left and I think there holding it for Holley?When Noah Brown chose OSU that put them out of it!I’m not seeing him at RU but they still love him!Lots of talent in NJ this year.Im hoping we can get Juwan Winfree but I’m not seeing/feeling any buzz?Are we “‘actively” recruiting him?

  4. edit;Tim Brewster AC FSU from Sparta,NJ!

  5. JB says:

    Cuse should play Rutgers in the final game every year in Yankee Stadium on Thanksgtveng weekend. That would build up Eastern Football .B1G vs. ACC , a real rivalry for Gotham.

  6. Ron says:

    Russell Stugots;

    According to the websies that I read,Syracuse is still after Juwann Winfree Russell.

  7. Ron says:

    @Russell Stugots;

    Russ the schools that are pursuing Juwann Winfree are;

    Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina State, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Boston College, Cincinnati, Clemson, Connecticut, Kansas, Miami (Fl), Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ohio State, Old Dominion, Penn State, Rutgers, South Carolina, Syracuse, UCF, Virginia, Washington State, Wisconsin.

    I believe that a lot of those schools have already maxed out with commits for their class of 2014.

    Lets hope the 4* reciever see’s the light and commits to Syracuse.

  8. Smitty Section 129 says:

    Plain and simple its the play calling. Jerome Smith 11 touches come on. He’s our best offensive weapon. Just like Marrone adjusted last year so must this staff. I love Coach Schafer but he must hold is buddies aka asst. coaches, accountable.

  9. Ron says:

    I hope that our new Chancellor Kent Syverud has the wisdonm/knowledge and insight that is needed to lead Syracuse to the top of the ACC.

    Nancy Cantor will be gone in January. There is a God,Hallelujah,HALLELUJAH!!!!!

  10. zetabeta5 says:

    I saw tapes this summer of Perles having linemen block lower and lower under a veritable, actual low bridge…
    actually blocking at the shins of defenders….This was supposed to prepare them for blocking 6’5″ defensive linemen..What? Pass blocking is done at the chest.The result? Defensive linemen back off the initial contact and clog the line…Pass rushers hold back and jump up to tip the passes…Right now we have perhaps the worst offensive line we have ever had ….with many of the same players as last year when Nassib rarely had a ball tipped by a defensive lineman and the running game scooted through big holes…It is obvious that coaching has changed Mackey from a nationally prominent center into an ineffective lineman from a bottom of the barrel team…..No NFL for one of the greatest kids we’ve ever had based on this coaching decision by Shafer….Shafer..Why not admit this mistake instead of burying yourself in the quarterback controversy?

  11. Terry says:

    JB hit the nail on the head. Great game for the Big Apple Throphy!! Like It. Rather play easier teams for the first couple of games. But SU’s big boys just don’t see it that way!!

    Holley is History. If he was coming here he’d commit by now to SU!!

    See SU signed on with the Hoyes for a 10 year agreement. So what!! Its a big rival yes, but not what it use to be. Not at all like the Thompson, Ewing and Iverson years of ago of blood/guts and squashed oranges against backboards!!!! Those were the days. Now its just Gerorgetown nothing more!! The point is SUBB get the pub again. That’s what sucess does for you. Yet at the same time I used to travel hours during dangerous snowstorms to see the mighty BE BB teams play SU. I hardly do that any more, unless the grandkids feel a need to see them. The SUBB product is a winner, but to some its still not worth that very cold ride to see them. But many SUBB fans risk the icy roads to get to the Dome for a BB game!! Yet hardly anyone rides in warm fall weather to see SUFB at the dome! This weekend against Wagner will show that. I guess about 23,000 will show for Wagner, but we’ll be there!! Oh Well!!! That’s what happens when you loose!! Homers stick up for SU, but hardly show up unless SU is a winner. It still blows my mind that before the PSU game fans thought 9/10 wins was realistic. Its more like 9/10 loses(only kidding folks) I hope!!

    You all talk about possible talent coming SU’s way. If this year SU smells up the joint SU WILL LOOSE SOME OF ITS BEST from this class(2014) and I’ll bet on that!!

  12. @Terry,people can say what they want but you’ve won my respect with your honesty and persistance with your viewpoints whether anyone likes them or not!I’m sure Ron feels the same and your right more than a lot of will admit”to hard for us to hear sometimes”!Thats the reason I enjoy this board more than all the others that try to shoot down dissenting opinions!!I like your “I don’t give a crap w/o’s think” attitude when I no I’m right!And you thought no one respected your views?

  13. BTW,JB and Terry hit the nail on the head about SU/RU in a yearly Big Apple game B1G/ACC showdown otherwise NJ is gonna get harder to recruit!?!Kids would love it and fans could get to home/away games and exposure would be great!Does it make to much sense to happen?

  14. Ron says:

    @Russell Stugots,Terry;

    We all know the old saying “Old is New”. I would definately like to see Syracuse play all of the NE Schools again and bring back the glory days.

    We use to play Maryland,Boston College,Penn St annualy. Well we’ve signed a contract with Maryland for a home and away series after this year,we have Penn St for a home and away game over the next 2-3 years. Now that we’re in the ACC Boston College is again a fixture on our schedule I’m in agreement with the both of you,if we’re looking for OC games Rutgers would be a great game on any Thankgiving weekend. I know that people will think I’m a little crazy,but I think it would be great to get Penn St,Maryland and Rutgers to sign long term contracts for home and home games.

    If we could accomplish that goal,it would reestablish Eastern Football to what it once was,while the teams involved maintained their rightful conferences.

    I’m all for the game against Rutgers being played on a Thanksgiving weekend.

  15. Ron says:

    @@Russell Stugots,Terry;

    If we accomplished reestablishing Eastern Football,we wouldn’t be concerned about trying to find DI teams to fill the schedule and would only have to schedule a Tulane or Wagner once a year. Probably making the Syracuse Football Schedule the toughest in all of the ACC. No more “creampuffs”.

  16. Ron says:

    @Russell Stugots,Terry;

    Wouldn’t it be great if the ACC raided the BIG and brought Penn St in to the fold?

  17. Ron,what I like best is PRIDE in Northeastern football and the way people think of us as the center of the nation like they used to!!Anyone remember the term Eastern Bias?Twenty years and back even our Ivy’s and Army/Navy ND etc etc were on TV every week and got respect but outside the B1G/SEC and to a lesser degree on the west coast the PAC10 gets most of the press?Outside the SEC which are mostly teams in empty states I could care less about unless their playing us or another NE team!!I don’t care how good they are and I wonder how many of there players are legit students?

  18. Ron,have you seen Tulane?I think their alright but vulnerable to a viscious passrush?We can’t give Montana time to set up but I think we win by around 16/20?What say you?But Im worried we’ll take them too lightly!?!They have the guns to steal one from us if we do!

  19. Ron,I never heard of the “B1G” being raided?Nice thought tho.Ha Ha,I think we “ACC” have a better shot with Texas or Oklahoma!

  20. Ron says:

    @Russell Stugots;

    I never give Texas or Oklahoma a thought Russell. That would surely put the iceing on the cake!!!!!!!!

    I’ve only seen highlights of Tulane. I haven’t seen them play a full game yet. If they play like they did against us the last time we played them,then your right,it could be a very long afternoon.

  21. Mademan says:

    Hey lots of rumors of Gameday at Arky and RU next weekend…..do you guys play next weekend?

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