It may have taken three weeks, but Syracuse finally put together a respectable performance on national television. The Orange lost the game 38-20, but gave fans hope for the future with an inspiring fight against the defending national champions.
Chunks of Yardage
The Syracuse offense still had trouble completing drives in the red zone, but the other 80 yards of the field looked great. The Orange gained 412 yards of total offense, just 70 less than Florida State had. The team managed 20 first downs between two quarterbacks and converted half of the third downs (7-for-14). The Seminoles only allowed 354 yards per game on the season before today, and the Orange easily surpassed the average. AJ Long impressed in his debut and Prince-Tyson Gulley fought hard for yards. Inside of the Carrier Dome, there was a different feel. Homecoming week brought a huge crowd for the early start time, and fans had a sense that the team could actually pull off the upset. That was a much different vibe than last week’s debacle against Louisville.
Tim Lester Can Call Plays
After the off-field drama from the week prior, Quarterbacks Coach Tim Lester proved he could call plays. Unlike former Offensive Coordinator George McDonald, Lester mixed up his play calls and allowed his quarterbacks to throw the ball downfield. While screen passes were still called, they were used effectively (when PTG wasn’t dropping the ball). Long and Wilson combined for 21 completions on 36 attempts for 6.9 yards per throw. In addition, Lester also called a variety of plays that allowed the Syracuse receivers to separate themselves from the secondary. Steve Ishmael caught two touchdowns from Long, the team’s first receiving touchdown since the Orange’s win at Central Michigan. Lester helped spread the ball on the field. Eight different players had at least one reception. Sure, Lester has to work on the red zone offense this week, but in his first game as offensive coordinator, he impressed.
The Quarterback Debate Has Ended
As described in the Fizz’s post-game recap, AJ Long won today’s battle with Austin Wilson. In his first game this season, Long created plays with his feet and threw for two touchdowns. While he needs to work on his decision making (two interceptions) and arm strength, the raw freshman made plays with his arms and legs all day long. His versatility makes him a much more well-rounded quarterback than Austin Wilson. While Wilson completed balls downfield with arm strength, Long’s legs compensated for his small stature (only six feet tall). In addition to his 167 yards through the air, he ran for another 20 and avoided the rush in his 2+ quarters of work. With either Wilson or Long under center, Syracuse has two competent quarterbacks who can run the offense just as well as Terrel Hunt did, if not better.
Posted: Jason Weingold