Syracuse Football: Breaking Down Offensive Play-Calling vs. Georgia Tech

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

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Last week we dug a bit deeper into the offensive play-calling, just to get a look at the flow of the game and if we could spot any consistencies/inconsistencies with George McDonald's strategy. Obviously, this is a lot more fun when you win a road game 24-10. When you lose a game by a score of 56-0, well... the only only recap you need is as follows:

tire fire

But we Syracuse fans aren't content with just losing games and walking away. We've got to break down just how poorly things went -- in this contest, they went very poorly. Ready to be frustrated? Venture below and stare at the wonders that are our offensive ineptitude:

First Quarter

DRIVE 1
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
15:00 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Hunt Dive 9 Yard Gain
14:30 2nd and 6 SYR 29 Run Smith Dive 2 Yard Gain
13:53 3rd and 4 SYR 31 Pass Hunt Sideline R Incomplete
DRIVE 2
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
11:58 1st and 10 SYR 6 Run Smith Off-Tackle L 8 Yard Gain
11:29 2nd and 2 SYR 14 Run Gulley Off-Tackle R 8 Yard Gain
11:12 1st and 10 SYR 22 Pass Broyld Screen L 7 Yard Gain
10:43 2nd and 3 SYR 29 Run Smith Dive 5 Yard Gain
10:24 1st and 10 SYR 34 Pass Broyld Mid-Range R 16 Yard Gain
10:10 1st and 10 50 Yard Line Run Smith Off-Tackle R 2 Yard Loss
9:50 2nd and 12 SYR 48 Run (fumble) Hunt Dive 2 Yard Loss
9:12 3rd and 14 SYR 46 Pass Gulley Sideline R Incomplete
DRIVE 3
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:07 1st and 10 SYR 49 Pass Kobena Mid-Range M 14 Yard Gain
6:50 1st and 10 GT 37 Run Smith Dive 5 Yard Gain
6:17 2nd and 5 GT 32 Pass Clark Screen L 10 Yard Gain
5:55 1st and 15 GT 27 Run Hunt Off-Tackle L 3 Yard Loss
4:54 2nd and 28 GT 40 Pass Hunt Mid-Range M Interception
DRIVE 4
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:46 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Gulley Off-Tackle L 1 Yard Gain
0:20 2nd and 9 SYR 26 Pass Kobena Mid-Range M Incomplete
0:15 3rd and 9 SYR 26 Pass Broyld Screen R 9 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 10 runs, 9 passes

To start the game, we were actually looking good, especially moving the ball on first down. Of course, penalties shot us in the foot several times, negating ball movement inside Georgia Tech territory. Smith and Gulley were running reasonably well, and (holy crap!) Hunt was spending time targeting receivers. The interception was depressing, but beyond that, this quarter gave us something(s) to build on.

***

Second Quarter

Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
15:00 1st and 10 SYR 35 Run Gulley End R 0 Yard Gain
14:36 2nd and 10 SYR 35 Pocket Breakdown; Run Hunt Dive 4 Yard Gain
14:03 3rd and 6 SYR 39 Pass Clark Deep R Incomplete
DRIVE 5
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
6:29 1st and 10 SYR 21 Run Smith Off-Tackle L 3 Yard Gain
6:04 2nd and 7 SYR 24 Pass Kobena Deep M Incomplete
5:57 3rd and 7 SYR 24 Pocket Breakdown; Run Hunt End R 1 Yard Gain
DRIVE 6
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
3:38 1st and 10 SYR 13 Pass Wales Mid-Range R Incomplete
3:35 2nd and 10 SYR 13 Pass Wales Mid-Range R 5 Yard Gain
3:06 3rd and 5 SYR 18 Pass Wales Mid-Range R 7 Yard Gain
2:55 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Gulley Dive 4 Yard Gain
2:32 2nd and 6 SYR 29 Sack; Fumble Hunt N/A Turnover
DRIVE 7
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:54 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Smith End L 1 Yard Loss
0:25 2nd and 11 SYR 24 Run Smith Counter L 10 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 8 passes, 5 runs

The turnover on the sixth drive was a back-breaker that ultimately decided the game right then and there. But before that, Hunt was seemingly getting into a rhythm with Beckett Wales (finally!) running the same play three times in a row (hallmark of McDonald's offense so far). At least while we were still in the game, this team was calling pass plays and rushing to the line. But that's what Tech forces you to do with this offense. Once they're up, they can just grind you down and force you into mistakes by rushing passing plays to try and get back in it, which is what happened to us starting around halfway through the first quarter.

***

Third Quarter

DRIVE 8
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
13:05 1st and 10 SYR 27 Pass Broyld Screen R Incomplete
12:52 2nd and 10 SYR 27 Run Smith Off-Tackle R 4 Yard Gain
12:17 3rd and 6 SYR 31 Pass Allen Mid-Range L Interception
DRIVE 9
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
10:18 1st and 10 SYR 12 Run Gulley End L 6 Yard Gain
9:54 2nd and 4 SYR 18 Pass West Mid-Range R 22 Yard Gain
9:33 1st and 10 SYR 40 Run Gulley Dive 9 Yard Gain
9:01 2nd and 1 SYR 49 Pass Clark Mid-Range L 11 Yard Gain
8:33 1st and 10 GT 40 Pass Broyld Mid-Range M Incomplete
8:27 2nd and 10 GT 40 Pass Clark Screen R 9 Yard Gain
8:00 3rd and 15 GT 45 Pass Gulley Screen R Incomplete
DRIVE 10
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
4:28 1st and 10 SYR 25 Pass Kobena Deep L Incomplete
4:20 2nd and 10 SYR 25 Run Smith End L 8 Yard Gain
3:41 3rd and 2 SYR 33 Run Smith End R 1 Yard Gain
DRIVE 11
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:32 1st and 10 SYR 19 Run Gulley Off-Tackle R 8 Yard Gain
0:03 2nd and 2 SYR 27 Pass Broyld Screen L Incomplete

Play-Call Breakdown: 8 passes, 5 runs

We started moving the ball well, until the inevitable Drew Allen pick. Then we started mixing run and pass well on the second drive of the half, only to stall out once we went to a pass-only attack and started committing more stupid penalties. Despite running the game well and a win being out of reach. we passed a bunch in the third quarter and over the final two drives, never really moved the ball much through the air.

***

Fourth Quarter

15:00 3rd and 2 SYR 27 Pass Parris Sideline R Incomplete
DRIVE 12
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:24 1st and 10 SYR 24 Pass West Screen L 9 Yard Gain
8:57 2nd and 1 SYR 33 Pass Gulley Screen L 1 Yard Loss
8:14 3rd and 2 SYR 32 Pass Moore Mid-Range M 15 Yard Gain
7:48 1st and 10 SYR 47 Run McFarlane Counter R 2 Yard Gain
7:20 2nd and 8 SYR 49 Pass Moore Screen R Incomplete
7:15 3rd and 8 SYR 49 Pass Moore Mid-Range M Incomplete
DRIVE 13
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:35 1st and 10 50 Yard Line Run Ameen-Moore Off-Tackle L 0 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 6 passes, 2 runs

Ameen-Moore's first carry in a month of course means nothing. Also, this quarter is a soul-sucking microcosm of the entire game. Once the passing game gets going, they over-commit. At least we used wide receivers on Saturday? Unsure if that's because of Allen, or the score. But nonetheless, many of these passing plays were carbon copies of each other (specifically the screens to Broyld, Gulley), which remains an issue.

***

Some trends/numbers to note:

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 31 passes v. 22 runs (we only ran 53 plays!!!)
  • First downs: 9 total (7 passing, 2 rushing)
  • First down play selection: 15 called runs, 8 called passes
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 6 called runs, 3 called passes
  • The Orange only ran three plays beyond the 50-yard line in the second half
  • SU only ran six plays beyond the 50-yard line all game, and none beyond Tech's 27
  • Second down play selection: 7 called runs, 13 called passes
  • Third down play selection: 1 called runs, 11 called passes
  • Syracuse went three-and-out five different times (in 11 full drives)

Now take a look at those figures and tell me you don't just shake your head. Look at the second- and third-down play-calling. Early in the game, we were converting on second down with runs. Then we abandoned that for the pass, and proceeded to not pick up the first nearly ever time. I get why we were emphasizing the pass early -- both to kick-start that part of the offense and then try and come back against Tech -- but if the passing game wasn't working (and it largely wasn't), why not stick to the run?

Look, it's tough to infer much from the second half of this game since Drew Allen was at quarterback, we were down by five touchdowns at least, and the team was absolutely demoralized. But how do we explain the offense's absolute ineptitude here? Six plays past the 50-yard line? We also ran 21 (?!?!) plays in the second half. I know it's Georgia Tech. And part of this falls on the defense. But they largely don't control how we move the ball on offense. This game was a sham on so many levels, and outside of the defense being ill-prepared for the triple-option, you can say a ton about play-calling's role in this loss as well.

Anything else jump out at you? Feel free to dive in and bring up any other trends I didn't call out above. The comment section and this data is your oyster...

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