Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And boy did it apply to Syracuse’s poor offensive effort against Notre Dame on a national stage Saturday night.
While the Orange usually has some positive takeaways from every loss, the team proved time and time again that it is not as good as fans hoped it would be. Don’t let the final score fool you, because last night, simply nothing went right on the offensive side of the ball.
First, on the defensive side of the ball, Syracuse allowed 25 straight completions to opposing quarterback Everett Golson, one short of the FBS record. Notre Dame consistently exploited the SU defense on bubble screens. George McDonald probably should have taken notes, as Notre Dame actually demonstrated some successful wide receiver screens with players blocking downfield. The unit did force two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown by Durrell Eskridge) and recovered three fumbles.
Offensively, the Orange effort was pathetic. The defense kept the team in the game throughout the first quarter, but Hunt and the unit could only muster up 70 yards (not counting penalty yards) in the opening frame. Thirty-eight of them came from a drive-opening pass to Brisley Estime. Hunt missed receivers left, right, long, and short all night and never got the offense in rhythm until the game was out of reach. The first quarter ended 0-0, only because the SU defense forced two turnovers.
While blaming the officials is never an excuse, a blatant early whistle at the end of the first half hurt the Orange. With the Irish driving downfield, Golson attempted to spike the ball and, instead, fumbled it because he never had possession of the ball. Julian Whigham recovered the ball and ran it back to the end zone untouched, but a premature whistle blew the play dead. It would have been a huge momentum swing, trailing by only four at the half and getting the ball, but instead Hunt was forced to take a knee with 13 seconds on the clock. The team also committed ten penalties for 85 yards. Whatever could have gone wrong certainly did.
Punter Riley Dixon had a huge 42-yard run on a fake punt, but the offense went four-and-out following the huge gain. With that lone run, Dixon led the team in rushing yards. Missed opportunities were a theme all night long. The offensive line couldn’t keep the pressure out of Hunt’s face, and he took a big hit to the leg/hip on a scramble, which clearly bothered the quarterback all game long. The team was a discouraging 3-15 on third down.
Despite having success through the air, McDonald consistently called runs and screens, leaving fans scratching their heads. PTG was hit in the backfield on nearly every run. When Erv Phillips is the bright spot with only 22 yards, things must have gone badly. Jarrod West broke out with 103 yards on eight catches, but it clearly wasn’t enough.
Shafer and McDonald need to sit down during the week and figure out how to fix the offense before the team’s Friday night matchup with Louisville at the Dome. My advice? It starts with letting Hunt air the ball out downfield and ends with better protection in the pocket. And let’s leave those platinum uniforms in New Jersey — I don’t need to know where each player is sweating on every down.
Posted: Jason Weingold