Syracuse is preparing for Northwestern this week by looking at what went wrong against the Nittany Lions in a close loss for SU. While some rookie head coaches would overreact in this situation, Scott Shafer seems calm and collected. The Orange will try to sort these issues out before heading into Evanston this Saturday against #22 Northwestern.
The glaring issue Saturday was the lack of offensive production. SU will need to figure out how to find playmakers downfield against a solid Wildcats defense. One major break the passing attack catches is Wildcats’ starting CB Daniel Jones now out for the season after injuring himself again Cal. Northwestern will split time between redshirt freshman Dwight White and junior C.J. Bryant. Drew Allen must exploit this situation to gain an advantage early on.
How will the passing and running games coexist in George McDonald’s play calling? Shafer said he needs to give his offensive coordinator more freedom.
“We played it close to the vest, and I need to take those handcuffs off George and just let him go.”
Whether he actually restricted the play calling much or is just taking heat off McDonald, Shafer knows moving the sticks more is key. He specifically underlined the Orange first down consistency not being good enough Saturday, and said winning the “6-inch wars” like plays at the line of scrimmage and the mishandled low snap to punter Riley Dixon need to be fixed. It is these kind of plays that can determine close games for the Orange.
If Allen struggles again on Saturday, would Shafer think about putting in Terrel Hunt? Many expected Hunt to take at least a few snaps during the PSU game. However, Shafer opted to keep Allen in for a chance to win in the 4th quarter. Hunt seems to have great chemistry with Jarrod West, who only grabbed three catches for 22 yards with Allen under center. Shafer might want to give Hunt snaps to jump start the attack and avoid an 0-2 start.
As The Fizz mentioned a few weeks ago, the secondary will be a topic of discussion as the season progresses. Keon Lyn and Ri’Shard Anderson are both the starting CBs, but Brandon Reddish has made a great case to start over Anderson. Reddish finished with a major fumble recovery and five tackles. Slowly but surely, Reddish has been receiving a lot more playing time and shown he can make the big play. Dethroning a senior starter one game into the season might seem unrealistic, but Anderson has struggled dating back to last season. Anderson’s struggles were highlighted this weekend when he got beat badly by Allen Robinson for a touchdown. If starting Reddish over Anderson gives the Orange the best chance to win, does Shafer throw seniority out the window and give Reddish the start at NU?
A loss to an old Syracuse football rival in Penn State is not a great way to start off the season. However, stealing a game on the road from a ranked team like the Wildcats would be huge. It would set up a terrific matchup a few weeks later against Clemson. Saturday tells us if the Orange can come back from this opening defeat stronger and as hard-nosed as advertised.
Posted: Zephan Mayell