It’s been a tough last 16 hours or so for Syracuse fans. The Orange dropped an unexpectedly winnable game against No. 19 Wake Forest last night, and there’s plenty to talk about. Let’s dive into some of the game’s more important numbers.
Syracuse put up a staggering 354 rushing yards against Wake Forest. Quarterback Garrett Shrader led the team with 178 yards (more on him later), while Sean Tucker continued his stellar play with 153 yards of his own. Those two have led an unexpected offensive renaissance for the Orange. In the three games Shrader has started, SU has put up 30.3 points per game and 273.6 rushing yards per game.
Unfortunately, the yardage didn’t translate to a win. The 354 yards marked the sixth-highest game total for the program since 2000. 370 yards is the top mark since the start of the millennium. The Orange tallied that total in 2004 against Rutgers and against Maryland in 2014. Last night’s matchup was just the fourth loss for Syracuse in 19 300+ rushing yard games since 2000.
If you felt like Garrett Shrader was carrying the rock with unusual frequency, you’re not alone. Shrader’s 29 carries in yesterday’s game marked just the tenth time since 2000 that an individual Syracuse player carried at least that many times in a game. Of all the players on the list, Shrader is the only quarterback among nine running backs.
Names on the short list include James Mungro, Sean Tucker (against Liberty just two weeks ago), and Walter Reyes. Shrader came awfully close to the top mark as well: Curtis Brinkley still holds the program high since 2000 with 33 carries against Louisville in 2008.
Finally, a key number in this game is 10.4. Specifically, it’s a percentage – it’s the amount of win expectancy that a certain decision and play-call cost Syracuse in this game.
In the second quarter, Wake Forest faced a 3rd and 13 from the Syracuse 34. Quarterback Sam Hartman threw incomplete, setting up a potential 51-yard field goal with Wake already down 21-10. However, Dino Babers chose to accept an offensive holding penalty to make the Deacs re-do third down. On 3rd and 23, Hartman completed a 25-yard pass to Jaquarii Roberson to keep the drive alive. Five plays later, Wake scored and the game’s momentum shifted for good.
Prior to the 25-yard completion, Syracuse held a 73.2% chance to win, according to ESPN’s win probability metrics. Once Hartman completed the pass, the odds of an SU win dropped to 62.8%. One decision helped lower Syracuse’s chances of winning by over 10%. Those aren’t the types of mistakes you can make against a Top 20 team.
For the record, Babers explained postgame that he was reluctant to let talented Wake Forest kicker Nick Sciba – who is 89% on field goals for his career – attempt a 51-yarder. Sciba’s career-long at Wake in three seasons is 49 yards. Instead of three, Wake ended up getting seven. In hindsight, the acceptance of the holding penalty was perhaps the most questionable decision in a rough afternoon for Dino Babers and his staff, and it should be noted as one of the biggest moments of the game.