The Orange lost Saturday 56-0 in Atlanta to Georgia Tech. Nothing looked pretty about the game from Syracuse’s perspective. The offense looked lost at times, and the defense was gashed. The Yellow Jackets ran for over 400 yards, and completed just three passes in the win.
1. Syracuse was not ready for the triple option offense. Everyone knows what the offense will be when playing a Paul Johnson-coached team. He used the option at Navy and brought it to Georgia Tech when he was hired in 2006. Although Scott Shafer said the team had been preparing a little each week for this offense, it looked like the Orange had never seen the triple option before. Vad Lee, John Laskey and David Sims were the main ball-carriers for Georgia Tech in the first half, and as the QB, Lee ran the option to perfection. Syracuse’s strength on defense all year had been its run defense, but the front seven was unable to stop the run like it did against NC State and Clemson. It is very possible that the team missed Dyshawn Davis much more than anticipated; but even so, that is no excuse to perform so poorly. The Syracuse defense has been hurt by injuries, but having Dyshawn Davis and Keon Lyn most likely would not have changed the outcome of a game so lopsided.
2. Terrel Hunt and the passing game still need to improve. The Orange still have a shot at a bowl game, but the passing game needs to improve. It was flat-out awful for the third consecutive week. Terrel Hunt completed just half his passes for only 68 yards and an interception. As documented, Hunt played great against Wagner and Tulane. But has struggled against better competition in Clemson, NC State, and now Georgia Tech. Hunt continues to show that there is a really strong connection between him and Ashton Broyld, who led the Orange with three catches for 32 yards. A very good takeaway from the passing game was the reemergence of Jarrod West. West caught two passes after not having a catch against Clemson or NC State.
3. The running game did not show up this week. Unlike against Clemson and NC State, the running game did not come up strong when the Orange could not move the ball through the air. Two factors contributed to this: first, Georgia Tech most likely saw the how Syracuse played against Clemson and NC State and made a point to make Terrel Hunt beat them by throwing the ball. Georgia Tech played the run, and tried to make Hunt win the game through the air, which he couldn’t do. Second, the Orange fell behind. It is harder to pick up huge chunks of yardage on the ground than through the air, so the run game becomes tougher when a team falls behind. Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley could not find holes to run through and as a result, the longest run for the Orange was 10 yards. The team totaled just 75 yards on the ground.
4. Something might need to change with the coaching staff. It is extremely unfair to base a decision off of seven games of an almost completely new staff. But that being said, something needs to change—and not necessarily a coaching change so much as a change to the game approach. The offense lacks creativity. It seems like a drive typically consists of a couple runs up the middle, then trying a pass, maybe a screen. Coming into the season, some felt Jeremiah Kobena could be a deep threat, and he has shown the speed to beat defensive backs many times. So why doesn’t the team try it some more? On the other side of the ball, the secondary was exposed in the second half on the very first passing attempt of the game, a 46-yard touchdown pass. The rest of the defense looked unprepared. Maybe it is time for Shafer to get his hand back into the defense.
5. Good news: Syracuse has a bye. The Orange has a bye week and has time to prepare for Wake Forest. This is a big game for Syracuse’s bowl hopes. Right now, sitting at 3-4, the Orange need three wins to become bowl eligible. Syracuse plays Wake, Pitt and BC at home, three games that they should win. The Orange now can turn its attention to the Demon Deacons, which plays a conventional offense. The Orange will need to come out strong against Wake because a relatively big crowd is likely to show up, between Donovan McNabb’s jersey retirement at halftime and the University’s Parent’s Weekend. If the Orange cannot come out strong, the crowd could turn, and the team’s bowl aspirations could be in serious jeopardy.
Posted by: Seth Goldberg