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Bye Week Midterm: Grading Syracuse Football

Syracuse football is now two thirds of the way through the season, and so far, it has been quite the show.

SU stayed on top of Clemson to pull a massive upset over the Tigers, was within two points of LSU in the final minutes of the game, rode alongside NC State for most of the game, finally came out on top of Pitt by three points instead of it being the other way around and could have also stopped the Hurricanes’ winning tear if only the offense started their engine sooner.

So with a 4-4 record that doesn’t tell it all, how is Syracuse really doing?

Here are Syracuse’s midterm grades:

Passing Game: A-

Eric Dungey Ranks 13th among FBS quarterbacks with 2,217 yards. He has accomplished this despite being tied as the sixth most sacked quarterback in FBS football due to both a shaky Syracuse offensive line and his own tendency to scramble out of the pocket.

Both Steve Ishmael (843 yards, ranked 3rd) and Ervin Philips (626 yards, ranked 23rd) are top-25 wideouts so far this season, truly stepping up as a duo to fill the big hole left by Amba Etta-Tawo’s departure to the NFL after last season—a home many originally thought would not be able to be repaired. The two are also rank in the top five for receptions—Ishmael ranks second with 66 and Philips ranks fourth with 61.

Both Ishmael and Philips have worked together to strengthen the SU receiving core this season. Each has made big plays of his own while also opening up holes for other receivers to secure the ball down the field and toward the sidelines. Both have consumed much of the opposing defenses’ attention, giving Devin C. Butler, Ravian Pierce and Moe Neal significant targets.

We even got to see a Devin C. Butler touchdown pass on a trick play.

The passing game has been effective this season, averaging nearly 300 yards per game. There is still room for improvement, but any Syracuse fan can be reasonably impressed.

Running Game: D

The rushing game is simply not where it needs to be.

Syracuse is averaging less than 160 yards per game on the ground. That’s less than 4 yards per carry. The Orange has also totaled 246 yards lost by rushing.

SU has scored 12 rushing touchdowns, but eight of those are credited to Eric Dungey. Players actually on the roster as running backs account for only four—Dontae Strickland has three, and Moe Neal has one.

Dungey is also the team’s leading rusher, averaging over 60 yards a game, while Strickland is in second with about 50 per game, and Neal is in third with under 25.

Syracuse has resorted to heavily favoring its passing game rather than pounding the turf. It’s safe to say the Orange running game has been basically non-existent.

Front Seven: A-

The front seven has been a wall this season, and it has served Syracuse well.

Parris Bennett has been stellar with 75 total tackles and 42 solo. He has led the way with 7.5 tackles for loss and even has a safety.

Zaire Franklin has 50 tackles himself, and Jonathan Thomas, Alton Robinson and Brandon Berry have held the fort as well.

The front seven has done a stellar job of holding opponents’ rush games to an average of less than 130 yards per game. It’s also stopped opponents for losses on rushes for a total of 183 yards.

The SU front seven has challenged the other team’s offensive line this year to hold the pocket. Syracuse has done a great job of forcing opponents’ offense into making mistakes and forcing plays they otherwise would complete if given more time by a more lax defense.

The front seven have been able to keep opponents in check. It is a large part of why Syracuse has been able to keep pace with the teams like Clemson and LSU that many people considered to be a longshot for the Orange before kickoff.

The front seven has been a nice surprise for Orange fans this season. Paired with a good offense, games are seemingly becoming more interesting and down to the wire.

Secondary: B

The Syracuse secondary has made progress this season, but it has not been great.

Teams have been able to exploit the Syracuse secondary down the sidelines and down midfield. It has allowed opposing offenses to spread the field vertically and horizontally.

We see the big plays down the field where opposing receivers seem to breakaway from the Orange to catch a ball that split the SU defense, but we have also seen the plays that SU stops by getting a hand in the way.

Evan Foster, Christopher Fredrick and Jordan Martin have done a solid job of getting guys down, combining for 87 tackles.

There hasn’t been a time where the Syracuse secondary has been absolutely run over. Yet, SU can make some changes with four games left in order to finish out the season on a stronger note.

Published: David Edelstein

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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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