Saturday's game against Stony Brook was the first football game at the Carrier Dome that I wasn't able to attend since I enrolled at Syracuse. Being graduated is weird, you guys. I've rewatched games on TV plenty of times, but seeing a game live at the Dome and not being there is a weird feeling. I must say, knowing that programs struggle with trying to put a product in place that supercedes what a fan can get at home with his HD TV and lazy boy and beer in the fridge, Dr. Gross should probably have Coach Mac walk around the high-level donor areas and give some game commentary for those guys. Time Warner's broadcast left a ton to be desired, but Coach Mac was definitely a highlight.
The game itself was similarly nonsensical at times.
It's a bit unnerving that SU continues to come out flat against FCS opponents. While the Colgate game from 2010 was a bit of a blow out, in my five years of following Syracuse football, we haven't just blown the doors off of anyone yet. Even that Colgate game was closer than the score indicated. I think it's natural for a team to struggle to get up for a team like Stony Brook based on name and reputation alone, but unfortunately Syracuse isn't quite at a place where they can just show up and walk over any team it should beat handily. We're not the only program that this is true for, see: Michigan or Virginia Tech, or this week's opponent, Minnesota, who has made it a tradition to lose to North Dakota State.
To be fair to SU, this game wasn't as close as the score would indicate for a change. Stony Brook absolutely dominated the first half, but Syracuse would have probably had the lead anyway had Ross Krautman hit his two field goals. SU only won by eleven in the end, but they out-gained the Seawolves by nearly 300 yards in the second half alone. With the two drives that stalled near the endzone, combined with Krautman's misses, Syracuse left 20 points on the board. In reality, this game was more Colgate than Rhode Island, even if the score wasn't too convincing.
Let's get into it further after the jump...
-Our slow starts this season are well documented, and this game featured the most disconcerting of the three, based on the competition. I think that it's very important to come out throwing in every game going forward. Our running game is what it is - we have a few backs who all do different things and we've been riding the hot hand a bit. However, I don't see any of the three carrying the team. This needs to be Ryan Nassib's offense, and he really thrives when he gets into a rhythm. I would love to see Hackett draw up a few short, easy pass plays (not screens, necessarily) to get Ryan rolling early on in each game, and then use the intermediate passing game to open things up for Broyld and Gulley to potentially break big runs.
-We may not have a feature back, but I'm okay with that. I really like the three-headed backfield of Jerome Smith, Prince-Tyson Gulley, and Ashton Broyld, and really, we only need one or two of them running well per game to establish a solid identity on the ground. This was by far Smith's best game so far - the bruising back gained 96 yards on 18 carries. Broyld had his breakout performance with 61 yards on 10 carries and 20 yards through the air on two receptions. While Stony Brook probably has a lot to do with it, Broyld is actually coming along a bit quicker than I expected. By the end of the year he's going to be one of our featured playmakers week in and week out, if he isn't already. Gulley had a poor game on the ground, with 28 yards on 11 carries and a fumble, but he did break the big 61 yard touchdown on the early screen from Nassib. Gulley's been great up to this point, so I'm not worried about him.
-There's not much to say about Marcus Sales that hasn't been said after the Northwestern and USC games. The guy just knows how to get open and has a knack for the big play. He's been huge.
-This was probably the offensive line's worst game so far, and most of that blame rests with right tackle Lou Alexander. Lou has been mostly serviceable this year, but he was just getting beaten play after play on Saturday, and was a major reason why Syracuse failed to punch it in on Stony Brook's second goal line stand (to be fair, I'm not sure why we weren't running behind Hickey instead). Phillips didn't look great either when he subbed in for Lou, but he is definitely more consistent, and I hope we see him get the start against Minnesota. The other four linemen have been rock solid, but all it takes is one missed assignment for a play to get blown up.
-On the two goal line debacles: I didn't have an issue with going for it either time, though I may have taken the short field goal on the first drive just to get the lead over seven. The playcalling definitely left something to be desired. On the first drive, if they're planning on going for it on fourth, why not try a run on third? On the second drive, why the continued runs behind Lou, who was getting beaten consistently? Sean Hickey and Zach Chibane played very good games, let them lead Jerome Smith in for a score.
-I think his absence during these short yardage runs means that we can probably pencil Adonis Ameen-Moore in for a redshirt this season. I'm fine with it, he should've been redshirted last year and our running attack seems solid with the three backs in the rotation right now.
-The first half was really ugly for the whole defense, between the front seven being gashed for yardage on the ground, and the big 63 yard touchdown through the air. To be fair, Miguel Maysonet is the real deal and we all know about Iowa transfer Marcus Coker. I was actually surprised by how good Maysonet was, he could play for us, and probably a lot of other high major programs. The offensive line was impressive as well. Stony Brook's playbook isn't too deep, but they run everything very effectively. We were lucky their passing game was fairly atrocious. Aside from the bomb touchdown, the Seawolves specialized in overthrows and comical drops. This week's film sessions could not have been kind to the SBU tight end.
-After the long touchdown pass, I was very concerned that we were going to shift our defense to try and account for more long passes, which would have opened things up for Stony Brook's backs even further. Instead, Shafer schemed even heavier against the run, and took his chances with the quarterback, and to his credit it worked like a charm, as Kyle Essington (If there's a God...he's laughing at us...and our football team. It's Ben Folds week at TNIAAM everyone!) , the Seawolves quarterback, finished 4-19 with 94 yards and two interceptions.
-Ri'Shard Anderson...man. I hate singling out players, but he is just having a rough year so far. While Brandon Reddish has been fairly close to a lock-down guy on the other side of the field, Anderson got burned once again by a long touchdown. I'm not sure if Keon Lyn is in the doghouse for something or other, but I have to believe he's going to start to take a lot of playing time from Anderson, if not the starting job outright.
-I'm not going to get worked up over lousy attendance at a game against an FCS opponent, especially for a game I wasn't there for, but yikes. If the team can pull out a win in Minnesota, I'll be very interested to see how full the stands are for Pittsburgh. If not...well...SU's problems are probably going to be more far reaching than just the attendance issue. I think that Minnesota is a team that Syracuse should beat at this point. Based on Alec Lemon's comments about the attendance, heading on the road might not be the worst thing for the team right now.