With just one game to play before the big tilt with powerhouse LSU, it’s safe to say the Orange has a bit to work on if it wants to stand a chance against the purple and gold. The team handled Rhode Island like it was supposed to during week one, but couldn’t control the game against a better Wake Forest team that figures to be a cellar-dweller in the ACC. During Saturday morning’s contest against the Chippewas, look for improvement in these areas:
Production from the ‘Y’
Erv Phillips made the minor transition from running back to hybrid back during the offseason and looked well-integrated into the offense before going down with an injury. He has already been ruled out for the upcoming game after undergoing knee surgery and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. Junior Ben Lewis filled in for him on Saturday and was nearly invisible on offense, although nobody really expected him to match Phillips’ production. Look for Tim Lester to try and get Lewis more involved this week if the Orange has trouble moving the ball downfield.
The ability to stop the passing game
On defense, the Orange has succeeded in stopping the run and forcing turnovers. But, the secondary could end up being the thing that keeps this defense from being elite for the rest of the year. Against Wake Forest, the corners and safeties struggled mightily in the first half but showed significant improvement after halftime. Yet, the Orange will be facing much more talented quarterbacks than John Wolford in the near future, who was 18-of-22 for 234 yards in the first half. Cooper Rush, the CMU quarterback, has found a nice connection with wide receiver Mark Chapman. Outside of this duo, the secondary shouldn’t have much to worry about. Look (and hope!) for improvement in one-on-one coverage on the outside.
Red zone conversion
It’s been a theme for two years now: scoring from inside the 20-yard-line. Last season, the Orange were abysmal in this crucial area, settling for just as many field goals as touchdowns (14). Through two games this year, the Orange has scored just two touchdowns while in the red zone, while having to settle for four field goals. If SU wants to qualify for any kind of bowl game, it’s going to need to capitalize in short yardage situations. Last week, the Orange didn’t score a touchdown in the red zone and instead settled for three field goals. Simply put, this has to change.