Syracuse football got its bye week right when it needed two. The Orange just finished the hardest part of its schedule, with blowout losses to Clemson, #10 North Carolina, and #4 Florida State.
Going forward, SU faces the easiest schedule of any Power Five team. However, that doesn’t mean Dino Babers’ squad can get complacent. That would result in a collapse similar to last year’s five-game losing skid. Here are the top three things Syracuse should change during the bye week to get the team back on track.
The further into the season, the less there is for the Orange to lose. SU isn’t going to stop its losing streak by making passive choices.
This has been an issue week after week for Syracuse. Against FSU, Babers chose to kick a field goal on 4th-and-6 while down by 21 points, and this was after picking up an avoidable delay of game. While trailing UNC by 20 points, the Orange punted in Tar Heels’ territory rather than try to pick up a first down. Versus Clemson, Babers went for a 57-yard field goal instead of going for it on offense.
Week after week, Syracuse seems to play not to lose rather than play to win. To energize the offense, Babers should play looser going forward.
Use LeQuint Allen in the Passing Game
There is simply no excuse for running back LeQuint Allen to be as quiet as he has been in the passing game. He’s caught just three passes in each of the past two weeks, combining for just 24 yards. Those numbers are well under where they should be.
SU has lost several offensive lineman to injuries, leading to less time in the backfield for quarterback Garrett Shrader. The signal caller Garrett Shrader has struggled to make accurate downfield throws. Last year’s leading receiver Oronde Gadsden is out for the season. The remaining wideouts have disappointed in big spots, with Damien Alford going full games without a catch and Umari Hatcher dropping passes.
All of those issues should point towards Shrader finding Allen on screen passes as much as he can. But as his stats indicate, that hasn’t happened. Allen succeeds when he has room to flash his agility in the open field, and that will happen the most when he catches the ball. With Syracuse’s offense struggling to move the ball recently, passing to its top running back would change things dramatically.
Start Games Hotter
This is easier said than done, but it’s important. SU has been trailing at halftime in each of the last four games. That puts pressure on the offense to make long passing plays to catch up, which hasn’t turned out well. Anytime Syracuse football wins the toss after the bye, it should get possession to start the game. Then, the Orange should push for as long of an opening drive as possible. This allows the defense to stay rested early and gives the offense time to warm up.