Syracuse loses 17-16 to Pitt. Here’s my knee-jerk reaction:
-Let’s not mince words here: The Syracuse passing attack – and by extension the offense in general – is one of the worst in the nation. There is so much pressure on the running backs to produce that anything less than 150-200 yards on the ground means SU will likely lose. Another game, another dismal performance through the air by Terrel Hunt. The Orange is now 106th in the nation in passing yards, 102nd in points scored. Since October 19th, here’s the point totals for SU: 0, 13, 20, 3, 16. Hard to win games like that, and thus the finger has to point at George McDonald.
-He is obviously hamstrung by the quarterback. Drew Allen proved early there was a reason he never played at Oklahoma, and Hunt’s arm is scattershot and inconsistent. His TD to Alvin Cornelius was very nice, but those throws happen too infrequently. Shafer also was very short in his compliments about Hunt. He’s clearly frustrated with the limitations of his quarterback. But GMcD also is doing a poor job running this offense. We know he’s elevated to the offensive coordinator because of his recruiting prowess. How do you nab an assistant from Arkansas or Miami? You give him a promotion. Believe me, he’s not the only coach in the nation who’s moved up the rungs on the ladder because of his recruiting. But you also have to be able to hold your own at the position you’ve ascended to, and the offense has not grown much the entire year.
-Shafer likes to use a lot of heavy, aggressive language. After the loss to Pitt he said SU is not a soft team, that he wanted to punch a hole in the wall, and that football is a series of 6-inch wars. He looked like he wanted to slam his head against the podium. And that attitude is fine, there’s a clear desire there to win. But it’s hard to keep up that intensity forever as a coach or for the personality of the team. Shafer may need to learn the nuances of when you bring that passion and intensity, and then you need to avoid making every moment a pressure cooker. Kids can get burnt out if you don’t know when to let them enjoy playing.
-SU has put itself in a very unenviable position of having to win the final game against BC just to become bowl eligible. The good news is it’s at the Dome. The bad news is, after another dreary game there might be that many people to come watch. SU announced it at 35,000, but the Axeman said a source called it closer to 21,000. On a holiday weekend where some are out of town or traveling and the students are all home? Could we have a game where less than 20,000 fans are in attendance? Sounds unimaginable, but possible. And the Eagles are a much improved team, with a beast at running back in Andre Williams. He has rushed for over 2,000 yards and is one the best in the nation. The Eagles are also on a roll, having won 4 straight and averaging more than 35 points per game over the last month. It’s a one-game season for SU, but this is not the pushover we thought coming into the season. Steve Addazio is also a guy who got some support to have replaced Groobers instead of Marrone. If he ends SU’s season prematurely Saturday, there may be fans who wish he was on the other sideline.