Die-hard Syracuse fans left the Dome for the second straight week asking “what just happened?!” It took a miraculous comeback to beat Wake Forest and a fourth-quarter stop to survive pesky Rhode Island. Orange Nation is left baffled by how SU didn’t run URI out of the building. Let’s unbaffle. Here’s the Fizz 5 things we’ve learned about the Orange:
- Syracuse can’t cover.
The Orange simply could not get off the field. The defense gave up 20 first downs, including four on penalty and nine through the air. Scott Schafer loves to dial up the blitzes out of the “Okie” package on 3rd down, but in order to do so he leaves his corners in man-to-man outside. They’ll typically have safety help over the top in a Cover 1 or Cover 2 look. But for a curl/dig/other route designed to get a first down, that’s on the corners. So far this year Kevin Scott, Keon Lyn and Rishard Anderson haven’t answered the call.
Rhode Island only went 5-14 on 3rd down, but the Rams held the ball for 32:00 compared to SU’s 27:00. If the Orange wants to avoid getting demolished by USC, its defense must get off the field. Also, SU needs to stay on the field offensively in order to give the D some rest.
- Marrone and co. have no faith in Brandon Reddish and Ritchy Desir at CB.
With Rishard Anderson out, Reddish should have been on the field a ton as the nickel corner. Instead, the coaches had Shamarko Thomas move down from safety and Jeremi Wilkes come in on the back end. The limited times we’ve seen Reddish, he’s been good. But the coaches haven’t allowed him to get many reps. As for the theory they’d be red-shirted? Both Reddish and Desir play on special teams. There goes that thought.
- The linebacking unit could be really exciting to watch.
As a collective media, we nailed SU’s linebacker situation. Everyone knew they’d be faster, but the lack of experience would show up in things like tackling and losing contain. That’s exactly what has happened. Look at Dyshawn Davis. When the former wideout learns to tackle, he’s going to be an absolute monster. Davis is everywhere. He had a sack and two tackles for loss, on top of blowing up multiple plays with his ability to go sideline to sideline. Add in Marquis Spruill, whose two sacks sealed the game late, and Cam Lynch down the road, and this unit is going to be disgustingly good. In the meantime, patience with missed tackles and assignments might be necessary. But damn, they’re fun to watch. Any play could become a big play.
Antwon Bailey and Prince Tyson Gulley averaged roughly 3 yards per carry and could never break open the big play vs. URI. Marrone/Hackett also chose to throw the ball 37 times. Ryan Nassib was again impressive completing 29 of those 37 attempts for 318 yards and 3 TD’s, but SU is going to need more balance. Running the ball will help the aforementioned time of possession problem moving forward.
- SU needs to learn the concept of “contain.”
SU has had trouble rushing the passer and losing Chan Jones has made it even worse. If the Orange can’t contain the pocket, it’ll lose to WVU and USF (mobile QB’s) by a billion points. Yes, SU racked up sacks Saturday, especially late. But there was no pressure through much of the day, putting the crosshairs on the secondary. When Syracuse did get after Probst, he was able to escape the pocket and run for over 50 yards (his official tally was 46, but that is minus sack yardage). Geno Smith or B.J. Daniels could have a field day if that happens again. Pass rushers need to stay in their lanes and linebackers have to be ready.
Ultimately, a win is a win. As Doug Marrone said post-game, Syracuse isn’t at a point yet where it can hang its head over a win. No one feels great being tied with Rhode Island in the 4th quarter. But if the Orange plays to the level of its opponent, let’s hope as the opponents get better (USC next), Syracuse gets better too.
Posted: Craig Hoffman