Syracuse Football: Breaking Down Offensive Play-Calling vs. Florida State

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Our weekly play-calling breakdown is a glutton for punishment...

Take this entire breakdown with a grain of salt. Facing Florida State was no normal circumstance, nor was being down by a ton very early. Of course, we've been here before, but this time seemed a bit different at least. Rather than just roll over and die, George McDonald seemed to have this group fighting more this time around. Doesn't change the outcome, but nice that we didn't get shut out.

We noticed some very good developments last week against Maryland, and I can't say we grew on those -- but again, how could we? The FSU breakdown is below. I try to make things seem less negative than they were, where possible.

First Quarter

DRIVE 1
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
12:29 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Smith End L 2 Yard Gain
11:51 2nd and 8 SYR 27 Run Smith Off-Tackle R 3 Yard Loss
11:09 3rd and 11 SYR 24 Pass Hunt Short R Incomplete
DRIVE 2
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
10:41 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Hunt Off-Tackle L 2 Yard Gain
10:05 2nd and 8 SYR 27 Pass West Mid-Range M 5 Yard Gain
9:21 3rd and 3 SYR 32 Pass West Mid-Range L 8 Yard Gain
8:54 1st and 10 SYR 40 Run Hunt Dive 1 Yard Gain
8:12 2nd and 9 SYR 41 Run Gulley End R 0 Yard Gain
7:42 3rd and 9 SYR 41 Pass Hunt Mid-Range M Incomplete
DRIVE 3
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
4:41 1st and 10 SYR 25 PENALTY (Holding) Foy N/A 10 Yard Loss
4:36 1st and 20 SYR 15 Pass Clark Screen L 10 Yard Gain
3:55 2nd and 10 SYR 25 Pass (Sack) Hunt N/A 4 Yard Loss
3:07 3rd and 14 SYR 21 Pass (Sack) Hunt N/A 2 Yard Loss
DRIVE 4
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:40 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Smith Off-Tackle L 1 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 7 passes, 6 runs

The first down running stuck around for the most part, which is great, except for the fact that we couldn't really move the ball on second or third down. As we've noticed over and over, these end runs don't really make an impact, but due to FSU's ridiculous talent inside, Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley couldn't do much between the tackles either.

***

Second Quarter

Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
15:00 2nd and 9 SYR 26 Pass Broyld Screen R 7 Yard Gain
14:18 3rd and 3 SYR 33 Run Smith Dive 0 Yard Gain
DRIVE 5
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
11:48 1st and 10 SYR 20 Pass Broyld Screen L 4 Yard Gain
11:11 2nd and 6 SYR 24 Pass West Screen L 4 Yard Gain
10:45 3rd and 2 SYR 28 Pass Wales Mid-Range R 2 Yard Gain
10:14 1st and 10 SYR 30 Run McFarlane Off-Tackle R 3 Yard Loss
9:33 2nd and 13 SYR 27 Pass McFarlane Screen R 23 Yard Gain
8:58 1st and 10 50 Yard Line Run Morris End R 2 Yard Gain
8:32 2nd and 8 FSU 48 Run Morris End R 8 Yard Gain
7:59 1st and 10 FSU 40 Pass Hunt Deep R Incomplete
7:54 2nd and 10 FSU 40 Run Morris End R 4 Yard Gain
7:30 3rd and 6 FSU 36 Run McFarlane Off-Tackle R 2 Yard Gain
6:50 4th and 4 FSU 34 Fumbled Snap Hunt N/A 15 Yard Loss; Turnover
DRIVE 6
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:04 1st and 10 SYR 27 Pass Hunt Screen R Incomplete
4:58 2nd and 10 SYR 27 Run Morris End L 3 Yard Loss
4:16 3rd and 13 SYR 24 Pocket Breakdown; Run Hunt Off-Tackle L 10 Yard Gain
DRIVE 7
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:42 1st and 10 SYR 20 Run Morris Off-Tackle L 3 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 9 passes, 8 runs

The fifth drive kills you, because you know that was our chance to get on the board in the first half. Florida State's defense had taken its foot off the gas a little bit, and SU was steadily moving the ball along with a nice mix of run and pass. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm not too worried about the McFarlane/Morris era of this backfield. Again, it was while down 35 points, however both looked great as the primary playmakers in this offense -- especially McFarlane, whose elusiveness netted the Orange its first trip into FSU territory.

***

Third Quarter

DRIVE 8
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:55 1st and 10 SYR 22 Run Smith Dive 1 Yard Gain
14:24 2nd and 9 SYR 23 Pass Clark Mid-Range M 2 Yard Gain
13:45 3rd and 7 SYR 25 PENALTY (FSU - PI) Joyner Mid-Range M 5 Yard Gain
13:42 1st and 10 SYR 30 Run Morris Dive 4 Yard Gain
13:00 2nd and 6 SYR 34 Run Morris End L 2 Yard Gain
12:20 3rd and 4 SYR 36 Pass Hunt Short L Incomplete
DRIVE 9
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
10:51 1st and 10 SYR 25 Pass Parris Mid-Range R 10 Yard Gain
10:18 1st and 10 SYR 35 Pass Hunt Mid-Range L Incomplete
10:13 2nd and 10 SYR 35 Run McFarlane Counter L 5 Yard Gain
9:32 3rd and 5 SYR 40 Pass Hunt Screen R Incomplete
DRIVE 10
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:45 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Morris Dive 6 Yard Gain
7:15 2nd and 4 SYR 31 Run Morris Off-Tackle L 5 Yard Gain
6:42 1st and 10 SYR 36 Run Morris Off-Tackle L 1 Yard Gain
5:59 2nd and 9 SYR 37 Pass Hunt Deep L Incomplete
5:55 3rd and 9 SYR 37 Pass (Stripped) Hunt N/A 6 Yard Loss; Turnover
DRIVE 11
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:47 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run McFarlane Dive 7 Yard Gain
5:06 2nd and 3 SYR 32 Run McFarlane Counter L 4 Yard Gain
4:33 1st and 10 SYR 36 Run Morris Dive 3 Yard Gain
3:53 2nd and 7 SYR 39 Pass Allen Short R Interception
DRIVE 12
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:43 1st and 10 SYR 20 Run McFarlane Dive 0 Yard Gain
2:05 2nd and 7 SYR 20 Pass Broyld Screen L 7 Yard Gain
1:29 3rd and 3 SYR 27 Pass Moore Mid-Range M 4 Yard Gain
0:53 1st and 10 SYR 31 Run Morris Dive 3 Yard Gain
0:04 2nd and 7 SYR 34 Pass Allen Mid-Range L Incomplete
0:01 3rd and 7 SYR 34 Pass Kobena Mid-Range R 10 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 12 passes, 12 runs

Most of this game was played between SU's own 20- and 40-yard line, and that couldn't be more apparent than in the third quarter. While the Orange certainly ran the ball a whole bunch in this quarter, it was third-down passing that killed off drives in many cases -- in particular drive 11, which unsurprisingly ended in another Drew Allen pick and drive 10 (Hunt fumble). I did enjoy the methodical nature of drive 12, though, which continues into the fourth quarter. We don't need huge plays to score, and honestly, just chipping away like this early could've slowed down FSU's offense -- at least somewhat.

***

Fourth Quarter

Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
15:00 1st and 10 SYR 44 Run McFarlane Off-Tackle R 6 Yard Gain
14:21 2nd and 4 50 Yard Line Run McFarlane Dive 11 Yard Gain
13:49 1st and 10 FSU 39 Run Morris Dive 4 Yard Gain
13:05 2nd and 6 FSU 35 Run Allen Off-Tackle R 4 Yard Gain
12:19 3rd and 2 FSU 31 Run McFarlane Dive 1 Yard Loss
11:33 4th and 3 FSU 32 Pass Clark Screen R 4 Yard Gain
11:01 1st and 10 FSU 28 Run McFarlane Dive 3 Yard Gain
10:16 2nd and 7 FSU 25 Run Morris Off-Tackle R 2 Yard Gain
9:31 3rd and 5 FSU 23 Pass Cleveland Short R 4 Yard Gain
9:13 4th and 1 FSU 19 Run Allen Dive 4 Yard Gain
8:38 1st and 10 FSU 15 Pass Allen Deep R Incomplete
8:33 2nd and 10 FSU 15 Run Morris Dive 1 Yard Gain
7:51 3rd and 9 FSU 14 Pass Allen Deep R Incomplete
7:47 4th and 9 FSU 14 Field Goal Norton N/A FG is Good
DRIVE 13
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
6:10 1st and 10 SYR 16 Run Morris End L 2 Yard Gain
5:28 2nd and 8 SYR 18 Run Morris Dive 7 Yard Gain
4:41 3rd and 1 SYR 25 Run Morris Dive 2 Yard Gain
4:04 1st and 10 SYR 27 Run McFarlane Dive 12 Yard Gain
3:28 1st and 10 SYR 39 Run McFarlane Off-Tackle R 7 Yard Gain
3:04 2nd and 3 SYR 46 Run Morris Dive 4 Yard Gain
2:32 1st and 10 50 Yard Line Run Morris Dive 3 Yard Gain
1:48 2nd and 7 FSU 47 Pocket Breakdown; Run Loeb Off-Tackle R 0 Yard Gain
1:05 3rd and 7 FSU 47 Run McFarlane End R 28 Yard Gain
0:44 1st and 10 FSU 19 PENALTY (False Start) Palmer N/A 5 Yard Loss
0:16 1st and 15 FSU 24 Pass Loeb Mid-Range M Incomplete
0:12 2nd and 15 FSU 24 Run Morris Off-Tackle R 4 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 18 runs, 6 passes

Yes, this was against the backups, but we can have these sorts of drives all game -- we've had these sorts of drives in the fourth quarter of every ACC win. Just keep running the ball and holes will start to break open. Syracuse doesn't need to be one-dimensional, per se, but we know we don't move the ball too well through the air. Just commit to pounding the ball. Look what happens in this fourth quarter when we stop trying to run along the edge and just hit it inside. Success!

***

Some trends/numbers to note:

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 44 runs v. 34 passes
  • First half play-calling: 16 runs, 14 runs (27 first-half runs last week)
  • First downs: 16 total (9 rushing, 6 passing, 1 penalty)
  • First down play selection: 22 called runs, 8 called passes (22:7 last week)
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 13 called runs, 4 called passes (13:3 last week)
  • Second down play selection: 16 called runs, 11 called passes
  • Third down play selection: 14 called passes, 5 called runs (ugh -- predictable)
  • Third down conversion: 6-for-19 (3 passes, 2 runs, 1 penalty)
  • Every Syracuse drive started between the SU 16 and SU 27
  • Surprisingly, just four three-and-outs for Syracuse (all in the first half)
  • 35 (!!!) of the Orange's 78 offensive plays gain two yards or less

Trying to balance the bad with there good here: Syracuse could not move the ball at all against FSU's starters -- or at least until they were down 35-0 and the defenders no longer cared. The run game was effective when the Orange committed to it, and the passing game was (as usual) effective when the rushing the ball set it up. Bubble screens worked here in many cases, but McDonald didn't call nearly enough of them. End runs are also horrendous for this team and I wish we'd stop bothering with them, especially since one got Prince-Tyson Gulley hurt.

I'm also torn about the end of game play-calling. If we'd been a bit more aggressive, we could've put more points on the board, but the rushing attack was working reasonably well just the same. A trick play would've also worked out to our advantage, but I guess why let that cat out of the bag when you're not going to win?

Other concerns: why did Scott Shafer defer the kickoff? You'd think he'd want the ball first, considering this team doesn't play well from behind. Also, they pointed out something during the broadcast which worries me -- that SU's linemen are showing the direction of the play pre-snap, which is why Florida State was able to get to the ball-carrier so many times in the first half. Let's stop doing that, guys. Please? For me?

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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