Yesterday, Syracuse football’s 2022 season came to a quiet end against Minnesota in the Pinstripe Bowl. SU fell in postseason play for the first time since 2004 and ends its season at 7-6. As football season wraps up, it’s time for our final ‘22 edition of By The Numbers. Let’s dive into some figures that explain how the Orange dropped their bowl in the Empire State.
Despite a one-possession game that wasn’t quite as close as the final score would indicate, the Orange certainly had their chances to spring big plays. To be exact, SU had 87 chances – the number of plays the Orange offense ran to mark a season-high.
Despite things that went wrong for Syracuse on the afternoon, new offensive coordinator Jason Beck’s unit performed admirably. The Orange outgained Minnesota 477-215, gained 27 first downs to Minnesota’s 15, and got solid games out of Garrett Shrader and freshman running back LeQuint Allen. SU’s 87 plays marked a season high for its new-look Air Raid offense and helped tally its second-highest total yardage figure of the season – the Orange topped 477 only once (630 vs. Wagner). All the more impressive is that Beck and company put up their numbers against a Golden Gophers defense that finished the regular season ranked third-best in the nation in points allowed.
Unfortunately, Syracuse’s offense wasn’t immune to mistakes. The Orange turned the ball over just once, but their one giveaway was a doozy. Trailing 14-10 halfway through the third quarter, Syracuse had the ball with momentum and faced a 2nd and 2 from the Minnesota 32-yard line. Garrett Shrader threw a pass toward Oronde Gadsden II near the sticks, but Minnesota freshman defensive back Coleman Bryson intercepted the pass and returned it 70 yards for a score. The Golden Gophers took an 11-point lead and never looked back, thanks to a -28.6% win expectancy swing (per ESPN) that the turnover cost SU. The game went from a 50-50 coin flip leaning Syracuse’s way to Minnesota-controlled in one brutal instant.
Including his bowl performance, Shrader finished the 2022 season with just eight interceptions. However, three of them were taken back for touchdowns; Notre Dame’s Brandon Joseph trotted back a pick to open the game against Notre Dame back in October, while Wake Forest’s Brendon Harris ran back a Shrader pass for a score in a game SU eventually lost by 10. For Shrader and the Orange, the mistakes weren’t plentiful this season, but were usually costly – and were again on Thursday.
Finally, SU fell despite a valiant effort from its undermanned defense. Down names like Mikel Jones (draft), Ja’Had Carter (transfer), and Duce Chestnut (transfer), the Orange tapped into their depth and held Minnesota’s offense mostly in check. Unproven contributors like Kadin Bailey, Quan Peterson, and Isaiah Johnson patrolled spots on SU’s defense and made plays. Syracuse’s patchwork defense held the Golden Gophers to just 215 yards, 77 on the ground, and a teamwide 2.3 yards-per-carry. That final figure marks ‘Cuse’s second-best mark in that category this season. This year, only Wagner back in October provided less resistance on the ground on a per-tote basis (1.0). The Orange are now 9-3 under Dino Babers when holding opponents to 2.3 or fewer yards per carry.
That figure may not seem noteworthy, but SU’s control of the Minnesota ground game was an unexpected development. Minnesota star back Mohamed Ibrahim played only the first half and put up 71 yards on 16 carries, but never broke the game open or single-handedly controlled the tempo against Syracuse’s beleaguered run defense.
For all the good the Orange did against the run, the defense couldn’t combat several mistakes from the team’s other two units. Shrader’s pick-six, a 64-yard Minnesota kickoff return, and another SU kickoff sent out of bounds routinely gave ‘Cuse short fields to defend. The Orange executed their defensive gameplan well enough to finish 8-5, but couldn’t overcome the mistakes that bumped them down to 7-6.
Thanks for reading By The Numbers over the past two years. Send your feedback to The Fizz if you’d like to see the series continue into 2023.