Through just two weeks, Orange nation finds itself in panic mode after a disappointing loss to Middle Tennessee State. The game played out like an offensive struggle for the majority, despite the fact that 53 points were put up on the scoreboard, many expected upwards of 80 combined points. While the result wasn’t what Syracuse was looking for, this was certainly a winnable game, but SU’s lack of execution doomed it down the stretch. While Dino Babers took the blame for the loss, there were plenty of other takeaways from the game.
Goal Line Offense
In the first half, the Orange had three drives stall out inside the Middle Tennessee State 10 yard line. That left 15 potential points off the scoreboard for SU. Syracuse proved once again that it couldn’t get anything going with its running game in close quarters. When the Orange needed minimal yardage inside the 5 yard line, Dontae Strickland failed to deliver on consecutive plays and then Babers opted to try other options. However, there were two guys who did not get enough looks around the goal line. Freshman running back Markenzy Pierre did not see the field after by far and away being the Orange’s most effective running back in week one. Pierre is a big body whose specialty should be around the goal line. Along with Pierre, tight end Ravian Pierce did not receive much attention in the red zone. The 6-foot-3 JuCo transfer was supposed to thrive in these types of situations (and did score against CCSU at the goal line), but Steve Ishmael saw the bulk of the goal line targets. Pierce needs to get his fair share of red zone looks to elevate this Orange offense.
Defensive Line Struggles Continue
After an abysmal performance in Week One against an FCS opponent, Syracuse’s front four couldn’t get pressure against the Blue Raiders. Syracuse put up an identical output in terms of quarterback pressure this week: one sack and three quarterback hurries. For a team that is depleted in the secondary with the absence of Antwan Cordy likely until the Clemson game, it is imperative that Syracuse gets more pressure from the defensive line.
Special Teams Makes Costly Blunders
Special teams can win and lose you games. In this case, the Orange’s special teams unit lost them the game. An inexcusable long snap over the head of punter Sterling Hofrichter ended in a safety. Later, Cole Murphy missed a crucial 40-yard field goal. That’s a five point swing in a game that was decided by a touchdown. If those points swung in Syracuse’s favor, it could have played for a field goal in the final drive as opposed to a touchdown.
The Secondary Steps Up
Despite the fact that there was a lot of bad in this game, you have to be impressed with how the secondary stepped up with Cordy’s absence. Although it may seem like MTSU wideout Richie James filled up the stat sheet, the Orange actually held him in check for most of the game for James’ standards. The junior is one of the most talented receivers in the game and averages more than 100 yards per game over his entire career. SU kept James under the century mark and got some great play from reserves like Devin Butler as well as Jordan Martin, who replaced Cordy. If there’s one major bright spot from this game, it’s the fact that the secondary contained a pretty good offense.
How can you not love this guy. When SU fans saw dreadlocks hanging out of the back of Elmore’s helmet in the backfield, they probably had no idea who he was. Turns out, the freshman made an impact as a fullback by picking up first downs and being the Orange’s leading rusher out of the backfield. At 6-foot and 280 pounds, the Chicago native may remind fans of a former player from Elmore’s hometown: William “The Fridge” Perry. The first time Elmore finds the end zone will certainly get the Carrier Dome rocking.