A lot has been made this season of Syracuse’s inability to run the football. While the numbers might not reflect it, yesterday’s 27-24 win over Pittsburgh could go a long way towards changing that narrative. Dontae Strickland ran for 81 yards on 25 carries. An average of 3.24 yards per carry might not impress you, but the physicality of most of Strickland’s runs will.
On Saturday, Strickland ran the ball with a purpose. With just over seven minutes to go in the game, SU got the ball back with just a three-point lead. On that drive, Strickland had eight carries for 28 yards. No other Syracuse running back got a touch on that drive. The biggest takeaway is Strickland actually seemed comfortable in this game. He had 21 more carries than the next closest tailback, Chris Elmore. Not to mention, sophomore Moe Neal didn’t get a single carry in the game.
If Syracuse wants to continue to win games and possibly make a bowl appearance, keeping Strickland in rhythm is a must. We all know SU’s offense is going to pass more than it runs, but an effective ground game keeps opponents honest. The Panthers knew the Orange was going to try and milk the clock, but they couldn’t stop it anyway. Also, give credit to the offensive line. The front five actually did its job at times on Saturday and created a new line of scrimmage.
Sure, this is a step in the right direction, but the competition gets much tougher over the next several weeks. On Friday, Syracuse takes on Clemson before traveling to Miami and Florida State the following two weekends. This is the stretch of the schedule where we really find out what Strickland and the offensive line are made of.