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Code Red: Syracuse’s Red Zone Inefficiency is Killing the Orange

Once the Orange is inside the 20, it’s a struggle.

Man, do the Orange miss Jerome Smith. SU’s leading rusher last season scored 12 touchdowns in 13 games for Syracuse. This year, the only Orange player who has had any success at finding the end zone is Terrel Hunt. SU’s quarterback has rushed for 6 touchdowns so far, but three of those came in the Orange’s 40-3 rout of Central Michigan. This has become a major problem for SU: over the team’s last three games the offense has scored a measly three touchdowns and the Orange is winless.

Syracuse inside the red zone has been a nightmare. Against Louisville, at the beginning of the third quarter SU was on the Cardinals’ 1-yard line. Prince-Tyson Gulley lost yards running the ball, the Orange was flagged for an illegal man downfield penalty, followed by a holding penalty, and Cole Murphy ended up kicking a field goal. A similar play sequence ensued against Maryland two weeks ago.

Syracuse clearly has flaws but the team’s yardage totals proves the last three games have not been as lopsided as they have appeared on the scoreboard. SU has lost three straight, but has actually out gained its opponents 1,263 to 1,244 yards. Syracuse has been able to move the ball down the field fairly well, but has lacked in the point-scoring department.

Offensive coordinator George McDonald knows SU has no go-to guy in the red zone, and he tried to get creative against Louisville. Twice the Orange tried a trick play in the red zone, and both times it failed. The Omari Palmer illegal man down field penalty negated the first play (that would have been a touchdown) and receiver Ben Lewis dropped a touchdown pass from wide out Jarrod West on the second. McDonald cannot be faulted for the lack of execution; he tried something new and his players let him down.

With #1 Florida State coming to town next week, McDonald and the Orange offense must figure out new ways to break the goal line, because what they have been trying isn’t cutting it, and Syracuse’s season is hanging on by a thread.

Posted: Connor Morrissette

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