Well Syracuse is 0-2 in "blowing the doors off of an unworthy opponent and getting Charley Loeb & company playing time" situations this season. Luckily, in the Win/Loss column that still translates to 2-0. It seemed like we were heading towards the type of blowout win that could afford us to get some of the young guys some playing time, but in true 2011 Syracusan fashion, that was not how things would turn out. A 31-14 lead was chiseled away at with just awful defensive backfield play, and a stretch of pure impotence from the offense, where we went three-and-out on five straight drives. We were lucky to be playing Tulane, because we may not have survived playing a legitimate team that way.
I loved the way our offense started, we got down the field with ease through the first quarter and a half or so, and I thought that we had a nice mix of run and pass. Bailey ran the ball quite well all day. Unfortunately, Ryan Nassib had another off-game. He was overthrowing receivers all night. Had Ryan had the game we know he is capable of from earlier in the season, he could have had a career day, because players were definitely open.
I didn't take too much issue with Hackett's play calling this week, aside from the brutal run-run-run-punt series when we were backed up into our own endzone. Unfortunately, our punters can't exactly "flip the field" like Rob Long could, they're both really struggling to get anything longer than 40 yards. Aside from that drive, I thought the playcalling was decent, we just couldn't execute at all.
More after the jump...
I liked that we gave Steve Rene some run at halfback. I don't think he'll ever be a guy that we're going to give many rushes to, but he could be a dangerous guy in space. I'm not sure why we ran him up the middle a few times, that's definitely not his strength as a back.
Now that we've burned Adonis Ameen-Moore's redshirt, I hope we see him early and often. Last week, I said I had hoped that we would save him this year because he'd be more effective in 2015 than 2011, but since that ship has sailed, I hope he gets thrown into the fire. He should be the guy on any short-yardage, "three yards and a cloud of dirt" situations that we have this year. I thought he looked decent running the ball in the few chances he got on Saturday, but it was definitely too small of a sample size to accurately judge his ability.
Defenses continue to do a good job of bottling up Alec Lemon and Van Chew. It was really nice to see Dorian Graham to break out. We all know about his catching issues of the past, and he still may not be a natural pass-catcher like Lemon, but he's worked tremendously hard over the last year or so to become a reliable receiver, and we saw it pay off yesterday. It was great to see the coaches work him into the gameplan, because no team we play this season, even West Virginia, can match his speed.
The search for Adrian Flemming continues...
Michael Hay's issues were absolutely perplexing to me. As an offensive tackle, you know the difference between a hold and no hold. Holds aren't called on every play, so they generally have to be pretty blatant. Holds are called more often when a tackle has a habit of doing it. Therefore, if you get called for a hold once, the refs are going to keep paying attention to you. There is no excuse for getting called for three holds in a game.
Our line as a whole had a bad game, especially considering that they've played much better since the Rhode Island debacle. The only guy who didn't have major noticeable issues was Justin Pugh. Unfortunately, our depth behind the starting five is pretty mangled with injuries, so we're going to dance with the linemen that brought us this season, whether we like it or not.
I liked how aggressive and opportunistic we came out on defense, it was great to see our guys turning the other team over and making plays in the backfield. And then they imploded. Kevyn Scott's awful misplay of the deep ball opened things up. The ball was just asking to be intercepted, it was hung up there for anyone to grab it, but Scott was just unbelievably far out of position. This was followed up by Keon Lyn's misplay of a deep ball later on, although he tripped which left the receiver open. It wasn't good, but it's a little more excusable than how Scott played the previous ball. The last deep touchdown for Tulane was clearly a result of our miscommunication, as Phil Thomas was attempting to cover two receivers running fly routes. That was a no-win situation, and I have no idea where the corners were on that play.
Chandler Jones' return for West Virginia (knock on wood) is huge. We've struggled to generate any semblance of a pass rush with our front four, and we can't afford to just bum-rush quarterbacks like Geno Smith and Zach Collaros down the stretch. We're going to need some consistent pressure from the line.
I was at home in Connecticut for the game, and my wily southern uncle from Atlanta by way of Memphis was up visiting. He said that when he worked in Louisiana back in the day, Tulane used to have an 80,000 seat on campus stadium that would sell-out months in advance for the annual end-of-the-year rivalry game against LSU back when Tulane was in the SEC. I'm sure a large portion of that was LSU fans, but you don't have an 80,000 seat campus stadium without a decent fanbase. What happened, you guys? There couldn't have been more than 1,500 people in the Superdome, if I'm being generous, and at least 80% were Syracuse fans. Last year, I roadtripped to Akron, who everyone expected to be among the worst FBS teams in the country, and they had a decent little turnout of a few thousand. Tulane went 12-0 back in 1998 and they can't get more than 300 fans to a game? I know our attendance is nothing to write home about, but we've gotten more people in Tennity for Women's Ice Hockey than Tulane brought to their own stadium for a game against a BCS opponent. I shudder to think what their game against SE Louisiana looked like.
The major positive of this game was definitely the fact that I've cured my insomnia by having Deuce McAllister color-commentate me to sleep. He was probably the worst I've ever heard, um, you know.
I'm happy that we have the bye this week. This team has been pretty draining to watch. I think the weekend off is coming at the perfect time for everyone involved.