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Fresh Fizz: Syracuse Offense Finally Clicks with Lester At Helm

What worked well against Wake Forest? Fresh Fizz has you covered.

Yes, it was a lowly opponent in Wake Forest, but newly appointed offensive coordinator Tim Lester has opened some creative floodgates for the Syracuse offense.
 
We saw a variety of creativity and mixture of personnel from the OC when the Orange possessed the football in its 30 – 7 win over Wake Forest, Saturday. Lester integrated plenty of balance at BB&T Field as SU accumulated 370 total yards of offense – 199 passing and 171 rushing. This stability speaks to the admirable work Lester has done on short notice, never mind using schemes he may not be the biggest fan of.
 
On the scoring end (the part that actually matters,) SU’s offense struggled yet again the red zone, scoring just one touchdown inside the 20-yard line. Lester appropriately did not overblow the production on offense. Sure, he was happy with a win, but he did not overreact. What can be said is it’s an improvement after missing touchdown opportunities four times against Florida State.
 
Lester has diversified the offense the last two weeks, unlike George McDonald had done. It was increasingly apparent against Wake. The Fizz explains why.
 
AJ Long is comfortable:
 
It’s no surprise to this point his confidence is through the roof, but Long, strictly from a football perspective, is poised in the pocket. He scrambled out of trouble in the 2nd quarter to reach the front corner of the end zone to give SU the lead. You can’t teach those types of instincts. He’s aware, but more importantly informed. Long’s connections with 2014 classmate Steve Ishmael and cousin Jarrod West help a great deal. Plus, his relationship and communication with Lester speaks volumes. Long hasn’t fallen flat on his face when plays break down.
 
All five running backs are significantly involved:    
 
Lester strategically involved the entire rushing attack Saturday, and it was great to see. The RB’s were all over the place. The game plan asked for a full effort: short yardage runs, screen plays and protecting with hard blocks. Ervin Philips actually got the nod to start the game, not Prince-Tyson Gulley. There was a George Morris sighting, and how about Devante McFarlane? SU’s only offensive touchdown drive does not happen if Gulley hadn’t applied a walloping block to allow Long to slither into Wake Forest territory. Later in the 3rd quarter McFarlane broke free for an 86-yard sprint to tie for the third-longest run in team history. Shafer was pleased with the ground game and stressed their importance:
 
“I wish Devante could have got that touchdown,” Shafer said. “I was trying to tell him, “Weave! Weave!” There are not enough footballs to go around to get them all the touches they want. They really help us a ton in the kicking game. All of those kids are helping in so many different ways.”
 
The jumbo package is unveiled:
 
Back to Long’s 4-yard scamper once more:  did you see the formation Lester threw out on the field?  There was a vertical, straight line, similar to a stack in basketball, behind Long for consecutive snaps. Defensive guys Ron Thompson, who’s had plenty of position conversions, Micah Robinson and Rob Welsh, both eventual scorers in this game, all lined up on Lester’s play calls. Pretty gutsy move, but these guys are vets and perhaps it was a good time to see some shifts when red zone production has been down.
Posted: Brendan Glasheen
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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