It would really be a shame if Syracuse wasted what is a championship level defense. If the Orange were dinking, dunking, and scoring like they were earlier in Babers’ tenure then Saturday’s game against Rutgers would have easily resulted in a win and not a loss. Tony White’s bunch held an explosive RU offense, which scored 61 points in its first game of the season, to just 17 points and even held it scoreless for two and a half quarters.
The problem was that Greg Schiano’s defensive unit was dominating at the same level against the ‘Cuse offense. Don’t get it twisted, there were opportunities and several points left on Ernie Davis Legends Field. An early red zone fumble and a missed field goal are the two instances that come to mind.
On top of the missed opportunities, the miscues pad a sheet that’s as long as a CVS receipt. Including that red zone fumble, SU turned the ball over three times and it could’ve been even worse than that. Additionally, Syracuse was tagged with eight penalties totaling 55 yards. Yes, it’s early in the season and mistakes happen, but let’s remember this is a veteran led team with seniors and super seniors scattered all over the starting 22. It’s also Dino Babers’ sixth season on the Hill, discipline and organization should be expected at this point.
So that’s at least a rough outline of where the problems lie with the offense after two games. Many expected the Orange to be sitting at 1-1 at this juncture anyways but you hate to lose a game that was certainly winnable. How can this situation be avoided in the future? Well, let’s dive into that.
Avoid Self-Inflicted Wounds
As we just covered ad nauseum, Syracuse has done itself no favors. If ‘Cuse were to shoot itself in the foot, there wouldn’t be a foot at this point that’s how much it has already been done. The penalties, the turnovers, and the miscues need to be minimized if not abolished. You can’t pick up repetitive illegal motion infractions when punting the ball, especially when it’s to one of the most dangerous return men in the nation.
The turnovers just simply can’t happen. Ball security is paramount, especially in the red zone. For the most part, interceptions haven’t been a problem for Tommy DeVito, he’s been fairly efficient when throwing.
Finally, Andre Szmyt needs to return to his old self. Forty-three yard field goals should be routine at this point. Let’s not forget the former walk-on was the best kicker in college football in 2018. Special teams has arguably been Syracuse’s best position group under Babers, that needs to continue.
Pick A Quarterback
Two quarterback systems are no quarterback systems. Babers and Gilbert need to decide on a guy and go with him. Even if it’s planned to play both DeVito and Garrett Shrader doesn’t mean it’s plausible. DeVito was actually getting into a rhythm when Shrader was inserted into the contest. The Mississippi State transfer showed flashes but did nothing noteworthy enough to warrant discussion as the starter. PICK A GUY AND GO WITH HIM.
Find a Reliable Number Two Receiver
So far the aerial attack has been less than stellar. It’s been Tommy DeVito and Taj Harris, that’s about it. How bad is the situation? Well Sean Tucker was SU’s second biggest receiving threat against Rutgers with four catches totaling 27 yards. That’s just not going to cut it, no offense to Tucker.
Anthony Queeley, Sharod Johnson, Courtney Jackson. One of those names needs to emerge as the number two. Last year it was Queeley but he’s done little to nothing this year with just three catches for 39 yards all coming against Ohio. Johnson earned a starting spot on the outside over some talented youngsters and has done nothing notable with it yet. Just four catches for 42 yards for the Florida native two games in.
With Harris lining up in the slot, Jackson has less potential to break out but he’s been used in the ground game. The Pennsylvania native still gets in for the four-wide sets and was an overthrown pass away from a walk-in touchdown against RU. Find someone to complement Harris’ big play ability and you’ll be cooking with peanut oil.
Hit the Big Play
Speaking of big play ability when the chances are there they need to be taken advantage of. In both of SU’s opening contests’ there were missed opportunities. Whether it be overthrown deep balls or drops, there were some home runs left at the plate. Babers’ offense has been and probably always will be predicated on hitting the big play.
Now that Syracuse has a potential generational back in Tucker, that isn’t paramount but it definitely helps. Look at the Rutgers’ game for example. The Orange were struggling to take a slice at the Scarlet Knight’s secondary until the middle of the third quarter.
In response to an RU touchdown, DeVito connected with Harris for a 51 yard pitch and catch. On the ensuing play, Tucker weaved his way through the Rutgers defense en route to a touchdown. ‘Cuse needs to hit more explosive plays to run up the scoreboard.
Syracuse can begin to tackle each of these objectives in its next outing against UAlbany. A win over the Great Danes doesn’t tell us much of anything. However, if improvement and for that matter evidence is shown then there’s certainly something for SU fans to hang their proverbial hats on going forward.