It's a shame that a huge portion of Syracuse fanbase sits so firmly upon the bandwagon, unwilling to come out to anything short of a "big game", because SU went out and beat a team that could definitely finish fourth or fifth in the Big East. We heard about how good Toledo was for weeks, especially following their close loss at Ohio State, and that was accurate. The Rockets can play.
Credit Toledo's coaches, they went out and really targeted our weaknesses. Our cornerbacks haven't been 100% since the beginning of the season. Ri'Shard Anderson and Keon Lyn have left every game this season with some sort of physical issue. The loss of Shamarko was a big one as well; he's probably the best tackler on the team, and would have definitely helped with the screens Toledo threw at us all game. Our d-backs have struggled with tackling in the open field all year, and that's what Toledo made us do. While we gave up a lot of easy yards, I thought overall we did a decent job of not allowing them to break it for a big play most of the time.
I'm cautiously optimistic that Chandler and Shamarko will both be back this week. Begin practicing that fetal position now Chas.
Ryan Nassib probably had his 'worst' game of the season, and was 16-24 for 213 Yards and 2 TD, with no interceptions. I don't know if he can keep up this performance through the Big East season, but the way he's played against quality opponents is a good sign. Ryan's season statline: 90-126 (71.4%), 939 Yards, 9 TDs, 1 Int. Here's what the rest of the Big East is working with:
BJ Daniels (USF): 82-124 (66.1%), 1071 Yds, 8 TDs, 1 Int
Zach Collaros (Cincy): 68-103 (66%), 784 Yds, 9 TDs, 1 Int
Geno Smith (WVU): 120-183 (65.3%), 1471 Yds, 9 TDs, 3 Int
Will Stein ('Ville): 49-79 (62%), 615 Yds, 5 TDs, 1 Int
Chas Dodd (Rutgers): 55-96 (57.3%), 588 Yds, 6 TDs, 2 Int
Tino Sunseri (Pitt): 82-126 (65.1%), 823 Yds, 4 TDs, 4 Int
??? (UConn): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKwtNahCmF8
The Big East is actually getting some really solid QB play this year, especially from Nassib, Daniels, Collaros and Smith, and I think Nassib could conceivably be the First Team All-Big East selection.
Nassib's game against Toledo wasn't without flaws. I really wish he would've hit Van Chew on that play where he was wide open down the sideline, and he made a few other errant throws, but he's really been incredible all season. Completing passes to nine different receivers is especially impressive.
It was nice to see us establish the run better than we have all season. Antwon Bailey broke 100 yards again, and ran hard all game, and Prince-Tyson Gulley was a revelation when he got the ball. He looks absolutely explosive, and made some really key plays. I really like how the two compliment each other, it's not as night and day as Delone and Antwon were, but they do have different approaches, and I hope we continue to mix it up down the stretch.
I agree with those who say that Coach Hackett probably tried to force the run a little too often, but they really worked on establishing the rushing game this week which is something that they really need going forward, especially if we want Nassib to have success going forward.
I think it's fair to assume at this point, that Adonis Ameen-Moore is going to redshirt. That's fine with me, he'll be more effective in 2015 than 2011 anyway.
Toledo did a really nice job of containing both Chew and Alec Lemon. Both receivers saw double teams at times. It was nice to see some secondary options like Nick Provo and Jarrod West have nice games. The one Provo catch, where he dragged the guy for 10+ yards, looked quite John Mackey-esque.
The offensive line had its best game by far. Nassib was only sacked once, and he didn't seem to be under too much pressure, and we finally had some holes opened for our backs. Macky, in particular, had one awesome block on Bailey's touchdown run.
The defensive line continues to miss Chandler Jones. We've been very good against the run, but the front four really struggle to get any pressure on their own. I think that the fact that Chandler was suited up this week means that next week is looking good. Hats off to Torrey Ball though. He's been our best defensive end this year, and has quietly made some huge plays for this team.
For someone who was not supposed to get too much action due to injury, Marquis Spruill was really impressive. Siriki Diabate played hard while he was out there, but he doesn't have that instinctual reaction time that Spruill's developed, and he got abused a few times. Our linebackers were put in a tough spot because with the lack of depth in the defensive backfield, we had guys like Dyshawn Davis, Cam Lynch and Dom Anene covering the fast Toledo receivers in the slot, and that just didn't work out too well for us. If Shamarko was playing, and our corners were 100%, I don't think this game probably wouldn't have been as close, but that's part of football.
Phil Thomas had his best game of the season, and he picked up a lot of the slack left behind by Shamarko. He's been putting up big tackle numbers all year, including 10 on Saturdays, but this week he was making plays in the backfield and at the line of scrimmage. The one stop on fourth down was absolutely huge.
I'm not going to talk about the extra point debacle here, that's going to get its own post. I'm not ignoring it.
I'm very confident about next week's game. Marrone has Schiano's number, and Rutgers literally can't do anything on offense that doesn't involve Mohamed Sanu. I'm not sure if it's Shafer's style, but I'd like to just see us double him all game and make Dodd and their running game try to beat us. I don't think they can do it if we blanket Sanu all game.
Doug Marrone is now 7-2 in games decided by 7 points or less. If I remember correctly off the top of my head, the two losses were against Minnesota in his first game, and that slop-fest against Louisville later that season. We may think he plays things too conservatively sometimes, or that he thinks he's coaching in the NFL, but the guy knows how to play the averages and win football games.