In 2007, the Syracuse offense had absolutely fallen off a cliff, most notably in the running game. Gone were memories of the number 44 (retired by the school just two years earlier) and in its place were horrifying images of a backfield that managed just 753 rushing yards on the season. Like much of the Gerg era, it was a nightmare.
And while 2008 wasn't much better for the Orange as a team, the running game at least picked up -- starting us off on what's currently a five-year streak of having a 1,000-yard back on the roster. In '08, it was Curtis Brinkley (1,164 yards). In 2009, Delone Carter just got over the mark with 1,021, and then very clearly hurdled it in 2010 with 1,233 yards. Antwon Bailey managed 1,051 in 2011. And of course, Jerome Smith rode a blistering second half to 1,176 yards last season. So how are things looking for 2013?
Jerome Smith: 116 carries, 587 yards
Okay! Well then how about Prince-Tyson Gulley?
77 carries, 437 yards
Hmm... about that streak...
Now, there's still plenty of season to go. At minimum, Syracuse will play four more games -- five if they manage to make a bowl game. And remember, at this time last season, things also didn't look to hot for SU's top two backs. Gulley had just 322 yards through eight games (he'd finish with 830), while Smith had just 615. Over the final five games, they'd combine for 1,030 combined yards. That stretch also coincided with an enjoyable Syracuse winning streak through the final four games.
If current rates hold for both, Smith is on track for 189 carries through 13 games, equaling 961 yards on the season (based on his 5.1 yards per carry average). Gulley is on pace for 125 yards through 13 games, which comes out to 713 yards when multiplied by his 5.7 yards per carry average. A few things stick out here:
- It's not impossible to see Smith pick things up the way he did late last year
- Our top two running backs are both averaging over five yards per carry. Nice!
- Our top two running backs are only averaging 23 combined carries per game...
We've been through this in the play-calling breakdowns each week, but now it's confirmed. George McDonald, I don't think you're aware of the weapons at your disposal right now. We're a power running team by design. Our personnel dictates that. And yet, just 23 carries for these two players? Last week's 30 carries between them were the most they'd had all season, and they've hit 28 total just two other times (Penn State an NC State). This is mind-blowing, frustrating and down right aggravating. It's not even about the 1,000-yard rusher streak anymore. It's simply about winning games.
We'll have more on the play-calling breakdown tomorrow, but know that if this team falls short of bowl eligibility, the 1,000-yard streak or both, it'll likely be due to nonsensical offensive strategy. Your top two running backs getting just 37 percent of the total offensive touches (rushing plus receiving) is insane, especially when you have no semblance of a passing game to speak of. Time to give 'Rome (and PTG) the damn ball.