Last week, offensive coordinator George McDonald finally figured out how to call a game for this team... by the second half. So did he learn anything from the Wake Forest game's play-calling?
Sort of, it would appear. Against Maryland, the Orange came out running the ball and throwing bubble screens -- the only two things we know how to do. Lucky for SU, they're reasonably good at these things and their offensive coordinator has finally recognized this after nine games. Hopefully teams don't figure out how to stop these things...
On to the breakdown:
|14:53||1st and 10||SYR 20||Pass||Clark||Screen L||4 Yard Gain|
|14:31||2nd and 6||SYR 24||Run||Smith||Dive||7 Yard Gain|
|14:16||1st and 10||SYR 31||PENALTY (False Start)||Broyld||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|14:06||1st and 15||SYR 26||Run||Smith||Dive||8 Yard Gain|
|13:31||2nd and 7||SYR 34||Pass||Estime||Mid-Range M||11 Yard Gain|
|13:19||1st and 10||SYR 45||Run||Smith||End R||4 Yard Gain|
|12:52||2nd and 6||SYR 49||Run||Hunt||Off-Tackle L||8 Yard Gain|
|12:36||1st and 10||MD 43||PENALTY (False Start)||Trudo||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|12:14||1st and 15||MD 48||Run||Gulley||End R||3 Yard Gain|
|11:42||2nd and 12||MD 45||Run||Smith||Off-Tackle R||6 Yard Gain|
|11:03||3rd and 6||MD 39||Pass||West||Short R||4 Yard Gain|
|10:22||4th and 2||MD 35||Run||Smith||Counter R||7 Yard Gain|
|9:55||1st and 10||MD 28||Run||Smith||End R||2 Yard Loss|
|9:29||2nd and 12||MD 30||Pass||Estime||Screen L||22 Yard Gain|
|9:07||1st and Goal||MD 8||Run||Smith||Dive||1 Yard Loss|
|8:42||2nd and Goal||MD 9||Pass||Estime||Screen L||4 Yard Gain|
|8:01||3rd and Goal||MD 5||Pass/Lateral||Hickey/Trudo||Screen L||4 Yard Gain|
|7:12||4th and Goal||MD 1||Run||Smith||Dive||1 Yard Gain; TD|
|4:52||1st and Goal||SYR 15||Run||Smith||Off-Tackle L||3 Yard Gain|
|4:27||2nd and 7||SYR 18||Run||Smith||Dive||0 Yard Gain|
|3:52||3rd and 7||SYR 18||Pass||Broyld||Deep L||23 Yard Gain|
|3:38||1st and 10||SYR 41||Run||Hunt||Dive||2 Yard Gain|
|3:13||2nd and 8||SYR 43||Run||McFarlane||End R||2 Yard Gain|
|2:35||3rd and 6||SYR 45||Pass||Hunt||Deep R||Incomplete|
Play-Call Breakdown: 14 runs, 8 passes
Not only did we finally lean on the run to start the game, but we actually USED IT TO SET UP THE PASS. Heavy doses of Jerome Smith very early, coupled with injuries on the Terps' defense, allowed for favorable one-on-one matchups and very little pass-rush in the first. Unlike previous games, there was a variance in first-down play-calling, Syracuse didn't lean too heavily on one side of the field over another, and the Orange managed to convert on fourth down twice. Running 22 plays in the first quarter is also a major positive toward setting the tone early.
|14:11||1st and 10||SYR 24||Run||Hunt||End R||12 Yard Gain|
|13:56||1st and 10||SYR 36||Pass||Hunt||Screen L||Incomplete|
|13:53||2nd and 10||SYR 36||PENALTY (ILL. FORM.)||N/A||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|13:30||2nd and 15||SYR 31||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Hunt||Dive||10 Yard Gain|
|12:47||3rd and 5||SYR 41||Pass||Hunt||Mid-Range M||Incomplete|
|10:59||1st and 10||SYR 18||Run||Smith||Counter R||4 Yard Gain|
|10:29||2nd and 6||SYR 22||Run||Smith||Off-Tackle R||4 Yard Gain|
|9:57||3rd and 2||SYR 26||Run||Morris||Off-Tackle R||7 Yard Gain|
|9:40||1st and 10||SYR 33||Run||Morris||Counter L||23 Yard Gain|
|9:19||1st and 10||MD 44||Run||Morris||Off-Tackle R||12 Yard Gain|
|8:56||1st and 10||MD 32||Run||Smith||Off-Tackle L||4 Yard Loss; Fumble|
|6:07||1st and 10||SYR 20||Pass||Cleveland||Mid-Range R||19 Yard Gain|
|5:47||1st and 10||SYR 39||PENALTY (Clipping)||MacPherson||N/A||15 Yard Loss|
|5:29||1st and 23||SYR 26||Pass||Hunt||Deep R||34 Yard Gain|
|5:12||2nd and 23||MD 41||Pass||Hunt||Mid-Range M||Interception|
|2:07||1st and 10||SYR 28||Run||Smith||Dive||2 Yard Gain|
|1:48||2nd and 8||SYR 30||Pass||Parris||Screen L||2 Yard Gain|
|1:41||3rd and 6||SYR 32||Pass||Hunt||Mid-Range M||Incomplete|
|1:07||1st and 10||MD 38||Run||Smith||End R||9 Yard Gain|
|0:39||2nd and 1||MD 29||Run||Smith||Off-Tackle R||3 Yard Gain|
|0:27||1st and 10||MD 26||Run||Smith||Off-Tackle R||7 Yard Gain|
|0:20||2nd and 3||MD 19||Run||Smith||Off-Tackle L||2 Yard Gain|
|0:08||3rd and 1||MD 17||Ball Spike||Hunt||N/A||Stops Clock|
|0:07||4th and 1||MD 17||Field Goal||Norton||N/A||FG is Good|
Play-Call Breakdown: 13 runs, 8 passes
Again, McDonald exhibits a better understanding of personnel hear in the second quarter, especially after he spent the first already battering Maryland front seven. The team actually moves the ball incredibly well for the majority of this quarter, but the turnovers are absolute killers. On drive four, the team averaged 10 yards per carry on the first five plays (again, all runs) before a fumble derailed them. On the fifth drive of the game, the early emphasis on the run allowed Hunt to throw the ball a ton (and well), until an ill-advised ball thrown at Ahston Broyld turned into a pick. This is how this team should be starting every game.
|12:35||1st and 10||MD 40||Run||Smith||Dive||11 Yard Gain|
|12:17||1st and 10||MD 29||Pass||Broyld||Screen R||11 Yard Gain|
|11:56||1st and 10||MD 18||Run||Morris||Dive||2 Yard Gain|
|11:26||2nd and 8||MD 16||Run||Smith||Off-Tackle L||4 Yard Gain|
|10:49||3rd and 4||MD 12||Run||Smith||Dive||0 Yard Gain|
|10:07||4th and 4||MD 12||Field Goal||Norton||N/A||FG is Good|
|7:21||1st and 10||SYR 32||Pass||Broyld||Screen L||7 Yard Loss|
|6:45||2nd and 17||SYR 25||Run||Morris||End R||2 Yard Gain|
|6:09||3rd and 15||SYR 27||Pass||Smith||Screen R||2 Yard Gain|
|1:10||1st and 10||SYR 35||Run||Morris||End L||2 Yard Gain|
|0:41||2nd and 8||SYR 37||Pass||West||Short L||5 Yard Gain|
Play-Call Breakdown: 6 runs, 4 passes
Continuing to be set up well by the Orange defense, SU doesn't have to run a ton of plays on the other side of the ball. When Maryland has its own very long, penalty-assisted drive to a field goal too, that obviously helps the very skewed time of possession from being tar far in Syracuse's favor in the third. As you also might have noticed, the bubble screens aren't nearly effective as they were at the game's onset, since nearly every single pass Hunt throws is of that variety.
|15:00||3rd and 3||SYR 42||Run||Smith||Dive||2 Yard Gain|
|12:38||1st and 10||SYR 43||Run||Hunt||Off-Tackle R||2 Yard Gain|
|12:07||2nd and 8||SYR 45||Pass||Estime||Screen L||3 Yard Gain|
|11:34||3rd and 5||SYR 48||Run||Hunt||Dive||29 Yard Gain|
|11:10||1st and 10||MD 23||Run||Morris||End L||2 Yard Gain|
|10:39||2nd and 8||MD 21||Run||Smith||Off-Tackle L||21 Yard Gain; TD|
|8:51||1st and 10||SYR 39||Run||Smith||Dive||1 Yard Gain|
|8:07||2nd and 9||SYR 40||Pass||Hunt||Short R||Incomplete|
|8:02||3rd and 9||SYR 40||Pass||Hunt||Mid-Range R||Incomplete|
|5:54||1st and 10||SYR 43||Pass||Hunt||Mid-Range M||Incomplete|
|5:49||2nd and 10||SYR 43||Run||Smith||Dive||4 Yard Gain|
|5:06||3rd and 6||SYR 47||Run||Hunt||Off-Tackle L||4 Yard Gain|
|1:58||1st and 10||MD 46||Run||Smith||Dive||2 Yard Gain|
|1:13||2nd and 8||MD 44||Run||Smith||Off-Tackle R||12 Yard Gain|
|0:35||1st and 10||MD 32||Run||Smith||Off-Tackle L||1 Yard Gain|
Play-Call Breakdown: 11 runs, 4 passes
Play-calling looks like it makes sense at first, but then you direct your attention to the three straight plays when George McDonald lost his mind and ordered up passes. Dangerous passes. That stopped the clock, were almost intercepted, and overall, made no sense for a team up 20-3 late in a game. Beyond that, running Smith and Hunt's exactly what we've been doing when leading late. I (like you) would just prefer we don't throw passes when it's unnecessary.
Some trends/numbers to note:
- Overall play-calling breakdown: 44 runs v. 24 passes
- First half play-calling: 27 runs, 16 passes (22 first-half passes last week)
- First downs: 18 total (12 rushing, 6 passing) <-- more smart changes!
- First down play selection: 22 called runs, 7 called passes
- First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 13 called runs, 3 called passes
- Three different Syracuse drives started in Maryland territory
- Second down play selection: 12 called runs, 9 called passes (still this...)
- Third down play selection: 9 called passes, 5 called runs
- Third down conversion: 3-for-14 (2 runs, 1 passes)
- The Orange ran 14 plays that resulted in gains of 10 yards or more (six gained 20 ore more yards)
This was the first game we've really seen McDonald and the Syracuse offense completely buy into the run-first philosophy -- most notably in the first half and on first down. As we've all been harping on for weeks, successful runs allowed for opportunities in the passing game and even opened up some downfield throwing opportunities. Bubble screens were effective when used sparingly, so as you might have noticed, Maryland's defense began sniffing them out earlier as the game wore on.
Like every game of ACC play but one (Georgia Tech), Syracuse incorporated what seemed like a trick play into the fold -- the throw to Sean Hickey inside the Maryland five-yard line. I'm all for surprises, though not sure throwing to inexperienced ball-carriers is the way to go. Still, everyone (myself included) seems to notice more variance in play-calling over the past two weeks as McDonald does appear increasingly comfortable with this team's capabilities. A few slightly concerning notes, though:
- I know we're Prince-Tyson Gulley was injured early, but we leaned very heavily on Smith in this one (28 carries, after having no more than 19 in any other contest). Might want to incorporate everybody when possible (and it was here).
- That series of fourth-quarter passes that became increasingly terrifying... let's never do that again.
- (less concerning) Play-action! Let's do more of this! We've been saying so since Hunt took over. He's getting more deliberate with his mechanics, but still, just two instances that I counted on Saturday. More, please.
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...
More from Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician:
- ACC Football Recap, Week 11: Coastal Division Chaos
- Syracuse Football: Jerome Smith Should Be Offered No. 44. He Should Take No. 44.
- The Quest For Belk, Week 10 Update: Just Win (One More), Baby
- Syracuse vs. Florida State: Game Televised On ABC/ESPN2, 'Noles Favored By 38.5
- Syracuse 20, Maryland 3: One Win from a Bowl Game