Syracuse looks for a bounce-back win over Central Michigan in the dome Saturday. Here are three areas where the Orange needs to improve in order to get redemption.
While Dungey and some Orange receivers made too many mental mistakes last Saturday, the root of SU’s offensive problem stemmed from its young offensive line. MTSU sacked Dungey six times and put constant pressure on him for most of the afternoon. Now it’s time for the inexperienced unit to put that performance in the rear-view mirror and rebound against Central Michigan’s front seven. The key will be stopping Chippewas edge rusher Joe Ostman. The fifth-year senior earned All-MAC honors last year with a team-high 8 sacks on the year. Outside of Ostman’s heavy lifting, though, CMU’s pass-rush is nothing more than a below-average MAC unit. The magnify glass will be on the offensive line Saturday and SU really should handle Central Michigan’s pass rush with ease.
Coming into the year many expected Erv Philips to be the guy for the Syracuse offense. He caught 90 passes in his junior season and was pegged as a Biletnikoff finalist before the year started. However, through two games, SU’s speedy slot target has only managed pedestrian numbers. Just last week against Middle Tennessee, Phillips was mostly double-teamed and only tallied 36 receiving yards for the game. When Philips plays well, Syracuse typically follows suit. He needs to be someone the Orange can lean on to pick up the slack when they have poor offensive performances like last week. Look for Philips to be a priority on Saturday and break out for his first big game of the year.
Red Zone Offense
I think we all can agree that the Orange offense is dangerous when it’s clicking. However, sometimes it seems like SU’s up-tempo approach is too reliant on tiring out the opposing defense and getting in a groove. Syracuse has to learn how to win when the offense doesn’t have its best stuff. Capitalizing in the Red Zone is one way that could help the Orange do just that. Last week, Syracuse was inefficient when they got inside the 20. In four total trips to the Red Zone, SU only accumulated 13 points (one touchdown, two short FG’s and a turnover on downs). The Orange simply needs to do better than that going forward. Perhaps, utilizing talented transfer Ravian Pierce a little more could help matters. Regardless, the teeth of the schedule is looming and Syracuse can’t afford to have missed opportunities near the goal line if they want to beat teams more talented than themselves.