Saturday was strange for a lot of reasons, none bigger than a divorce from a thirty-year marriage to the Big East. Orange fans spent the day excited for the showdown in the L.A. Coliseum, celebrating SU’s first basketball commit and then wondering how things would change with the move to the ACC.
Fans came out of Saturday’s game against USC feeling just as weird. Unlike the frustration felt after the win against Rhode Island, there was a light satisfaction after the Trojans loss. Despite losing by 21, the Orange had played up to expectations, stayed competitive throughout and not embarrassed itself. If SU plays to its capabilities, it should be in every game and have a shot at the Big East title. Without further ado, this week’s Fizz 5:
- Syracuse’s play-calling is still out of whack.
SU is throwing the ball way too much and thus the passing game isn’t as effective as it should be. Ryan Nassib threw the ball 37 times for the 2nd week in a row but for only a six-yard average and one TD. By comparison, Matt Barkley threw it 39 times for an eight-yard average, 5 TD’s and (like Nassib) no picks. Clearly Barkley was throwing to better talent and against a worse defense. But an underrated part of the disparity is the Trojans ran the ball 33 times, keeping the SU defense on its toes. The Orange ran the ball only 21. This needs to change for balance purposes and so Antwon Bailey and Prince-Tyson Gulley have more chances to make plays. Speaking of…
- SU needs to find its playmakers.
One thing SU did very well in the first two weeks despite inconsistent performances was find its playmakers. Alec Lemon and Van Chew put up great numbers and Bailey had 25 carries against Wake. While Nathaniel Hackett was able to get Bailey in space as a receiver, something The Fizz has been begging for, Chew only had three catches. Surely some credit has to go to USC’s talented DB’s, but for a guy with that much speed, Nassib has to force feed him the ball. Same goes for getting Dorian Graham a few extra touches and upping Bailey’s carries.
- SU needs to get better coming through in the clutch.
This game changed late in the first half when SU decided to go for it on 4th down. Good play call, good throw, Chew missed the ball. Turnover on downs. USC then marched the other way and missed a field goal. The score didn’t change but the momentum SU could have had was clearly gone. The game felt different. The defense also failed in a few key spots. USC was an absurd 10-14 on 3rd down. A defense that can’t get off the field has no shot of winning.
- Believe it or not, the secondary is improving.
“Hey you idiot, they gave up 5 TD passes!” But the coverage was there for most of them. As opposed to completely blown coverages, SU was often just a step late against superior competition. The Orange was facing an absurdly accurate, nearly NFL-ready quarterback in Matt Barkley who was dropping dime after dime over the outstretched hands of SU defenders. The Orange was also covering elite athletes who may play on Sundays soon. Unfortunately, Brandon Reddish did not have a good day. I called for more Reddish. He played. He got burned for a TD. Maybe if he had played more against the lesser opponents he would have been more prepared? But the coaches see him in practice every day and I don’t. Perhaps he’s not ready just yet.
- SU isn’t out of “the Woods” just yet.
SU really struggled keeping up with the dynamic USC wideout. There is little shame in this since Woods leads the nations in receptions. But the inability to stop one playmaker is something that could cause problems again. Eric Page is a dynamite WR for Toledo, who has the ability to take it the distance. Woods was able to get chunks against the Orange. It’s critical Page isn’t allowed to do the same, along with other weapons SU will face this year like Tavon Austin at WVU and Devin Street at Pitt.
There’s still a lot of questions about how good this team is. Toledo should teach us a lot. Getting Chan Jones back would help immensely and a win gets the Orange halfway back to a bowl before conference play starts. Back to the Dome we go.
Posted: Craig Hoffman