If Saturday was a boxing match, Syracuse took a shot to the chin and dropped, failing to deliver its own knockout blow. But there was reason for optimism. The Fizz brings you the Fizz Five biggest things to take from the opener after SU’s gut-wrenching 42-41 loss to the Wildcats. As we look at Saturday’s incredibly tough test at Metlife, here’s what SU should remember.
- Keon Lyn’s Personal Foul Cost SU Victory… Or Did It?
The late hit penalty on Lyn during Northwestern’s final TD drive might be the worst call we see in the waning minutes of an SU game this year. Clear acting job by back-up QB Trevor Siemian as Lyn gave him a tiny tap near the sideline. It was third down, would have been fourth and endzone for the Cats. The Orange was set to stop NW on that final drive. But 15 yards moved the Wildcats up to the 9 yard line, and the next play Siemian hit Demetrius Fields in the back corner of the endzone for the game winner.
If that call isn’t made, SU likely stops Northwestern and holds on to win. But looking back, that single play isn’t the only reason why Syracuse lost. Northwestern scores a ton, but 14 of its 42 didn’t even come on offense (punt return and a defensive TD). It was a lot of tiny mistakes throughout the ballgame that cost SU. Jerome Smith not going after Nassib’s lateral pass at the line of scrimmage. Marcus Sales couldn’t reel in a low throw that was taken back for a pick six. These added up, and although SU was dominant for that 20-minute stretch in the second half it put itself in a 22 point hole. There’s no way Syracuse can make that many mistakes against USC.
- Ryan Nassib Just Told Everyone, “Chill Out. I Got It This Season.”
He just balled out. It’s that simple. Nassib looks the most comfortable and most confident he’s ever been. He showed his cojones passing for single game SU records of 44 completions, 65 attempts, 470 passing yards, and 500 total yards. This new quick-paced SU offense allowed Nassib more freedom. He took deeper shots down field, his tosses were accurate and he made the most out of a day where SU had to play catch-up. Nassib hit nine different receivers. We don’t know if this will be a sign to come, though. Doug Marrone admitted the 65 pass plays was just how it played out today; it won’t be indicative of game plans to come
“Well I can’t comment on what we’re doing heading forward. We want to make plays, and we’ll do whatever we have to do to score touchdowns. If it’s throwing the ball 70-80 times a game, then we’ll throw it 70-80 times a game. If it’s running the ball 70-80 times a game, then we’ll do that.”
Are we going to see Nassib throw for nearly 500 a game from here on out? Probably not. But as long as Syracuse continues with this new creative playbook and faster paced offense on the field, the sky is the limit. Look at Syracuse’s last two touchdowns that both ended in TD passes to Jeremiah Kobena and Chris Clark. One covered 86 yards in less than 4 minutes, and the other was 72 yards in less than 3. Nassib’s marked improvement from a year ago is incredible. He was clearly less jumpy in the pocket and stayed composed under duress. This should be an explosive season for Nassib who finally has an effective group of weapons surrounding him. Maybe SU is capable of a shoot out against USC Saturday? Nassib vs. Barkley aerial duel would give Orange Nation reason to get excited even if the Trojans win.
- The Special Teams Need Major Work
Oy, where to begin? Northwestern slasher Venric Mark single-handedly destroyed SU. Not only did he take a punt return to the house, but he racked up 134 return yards. That’s unacceptable, despite how electric he is. Compare that to Ritchy Desir who had one punt return for 0 yards. SU’s gunners did not contain Mark and gave up returns of 52 and 82 yards to the junior. These are the little elements of games that will add up and come back to bite you. Ross Krautman also missed a 44-yard FG attempt. The only bright spot was Jonathon Fisher who was booming punts downfield all afternoon. Need to tie up the loss ends on special teams to be successful down the road. SU absolutely has to shore this up before getting to MetLife Stadium.
- Jeremiah Kobena Will Be an X-Factor this year
Alec Lemon out. Enter Kobena. The sophomore impressed with his shiftiness and quickness. Whenever SU needed a big pick up, it seemed like Kobena was there. Like Lemon, he can get open over the middle of the field. His two TD grabs were clutch during SU’s comeback. The first was a 50-yarder down the sideline. He used his break-away speed to separate himself from the DB who eventually fell on the play. He adds so much extra versatility to a complete WR corps. The Trojans bring multiple playmakers on every down. If SU hangs tough in this one, Kobena will have to make a few plays.
- The Front Seven Is Better Than You Think
One word: Pursuit. Whatever drills Scott Shafer or D-Line Coach Tim Doast has been running in practice worked. The front seven was hungry and ball hawking throughout. Do not look at the 42 points and get discouraged. Northwestern scored 14 points on special teams and defense, and one of its offensive touchdowns was scored after starting a drive from Syracuse’s 21 yard line. It seemed like SU was coming with 5+ rushers every down, and that certainly limited Kain Colter’s mobility. There wasn’t a time all of last season where the D put that much pressure on a QB. Every down it seemed like someone was going to make a big play. SU piled up 5 sacks, and also forced a fumble in the first half. The team has been preaching the speed all throughout training camp, and it was evident on Saturday. Guess what? You want to slow down USC? You better get to Barkley and collapse the pocket. If the Orange stand any chance, the front 7 will have to bring the heat consistently.