We all know that Syracuse struggled in a game that they should have won Saturday against Middle Tennessee State. However, the concern may be beyond the fact the Orange lost a very winnable game and face an even steeper climb to the coveted .500 mark. The supposed high-powered offense looked much closer to lackluster than blockbuster. Let’s break it down.
Passing Yards: 182, 3rd Lowest Under Dino Babers
Babers is known as great coach of quarterbacks. One has to look no further than his time as the Quarterbacks coach at Baylor. He had a man named Robert Griffin III under center and, as everyone knows, went on to put up ridiculous numbers in college and was the 2nd overall pick in the NFL Draft. He now has Eric Dungey, who has proven that he is a very capable college quarterback, but things just did not click against the Blue Raiders. The team total of 182 passing yards was the third lowest in the last 14 games, since Dino Babers took over. The two games that were worse were last season at Wake Forest (162) and at Clemson (168). The Wake game was played in a near-hurricane and Eric Dungey left the Clemson game in the first quarter after only attempting nine throws, (he completed six of them, by the way).
Sacks Against: 6, 2nd Highest Under Babers
You can have the best quarterback and best receiving core in the world, but if the offensive line does not give plays anytime to develop, an offense is going to struggle. It can be seen in the NFL with the New York Giants and New Orleans Saints and it may just be the case with the Orange. The Blue Raiders sacked Dungey six times, the second most sacks that Syracuse has given up in the past two seasons (Florida State, 8). The Orange were able to rack up 126 yards on the ground, but their yards per play was down significantly from the average. Last season, Syracuse averaged 3.2 yards per rushing attempt and that number was only 2.6 on Saturday. Simply put, the offensive line has to be better for Syracuse to have any hope of recovering from this loss and getting back on track this season.
Complete Percentage: 61.9%, 3rd Lowest Under Babers
Dungey was 26-42 through the air Saturday, which was his third worst completion percentage since Babers took over before the 2016 season. Dungey threw sub-60 against Louisville and Notre Dame last season, both of which were games where the Orange fell behind on the first play of the game and were playing catchup for all sixty minutes. His poor completion percentage saw him finish with a rating of 93.1, his second lowest in the past two seasons. During Babers’ final season at Bowling Green, his quarterbacks had an average rating of over 160 and a completion percentage around 67%.
It is certainly possible that Saturday was just a one-off game and that the Orange offense will come out flying against Central Michigan on Saturday. However, it is a bit worrying that the offensive stats from Saturday line up more with games against the likes of Clemson, Florida State and Louisville, rather than a non-conference opponent from Conference USA.