Syracuse Football: Breaking Down Offensive Play-Calling vs. Wake Forest

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

After a very bad week against Georgia Tech and a bye, Syracuse's play-calling bounced back a bit against Wake Forest

Not even going to bother linking to the Georgia Tech breakdown. We all know what happened (or didn't), so no reason to rehash it.

But this week: Interesting stuff, to say the least (and positive, too). After a first half that mostly appeared mired in the same woes we've seen over and over again this season, something sparked with the Orange late in the first half, and then seemed to continue on into the second en route to the victory. Very stark contrast from quarter-to-quarter. Hopefully we start attacking future opponents the way we did Wake late in this one (and other games we've won), rather than the atrocious starts we've endured since ACC play began.

On to the breakdown:

First Quarter

DRIVE 1
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
12:47 1st and 10 SYR 24 Run Gulley End L 11 Yard Gain
12:22 1st and 10 SYR 35 Run Gulley Option R 3 Yard Gain
12:03 2nd and 7 SYR 38 Pass Estime Screen L 3 Yard Gain
11:27 3rd and 4 SYR 41 Pass Hunt Short M Incomplete
DRIVE 2
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
10:28 1st and 10 SYR 22 Wildcat; Run Gulley Dive 2 Yard Gain
10:00 2nd and 8 SYR 24 Run Smith Off-Tackle R 4 Yard Gain
9:34 3rd and 4 SYR 28 Pass Hunt Mid-Range R Incomplete
DRIVE 3
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:39 1st and 10 SYR 10 Pocket Breakdown; Run Hunt Dive 8 Yard Gain
5:15 2nd and 2 SYR 18 Run Gulley End R 3 Yard Loss
4:42 3rd and 5 SYR 15 Pass Hunt Deep L Incomplete
DRIVE 4
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:37 1st and 15 SYR 13 Run Smith Off-Tackle R 0 Yard Gain
2:13 2nd and 15 SYR 13 Pocket Breakdown; Run Hunt Off-Tackle L 8 Yard Gain
1:16 3rd and 7 SYR 21 Pass Hunt Mid-Range L Incomplete

Play-Call Breakdown: 7 passes, 6 runs

Lots of three-and-outs in the first quarter (three of four drives), mostly as a result of penalties (see third drive) and third-down passing. We passed on third down all four times in the first quarter, and all four times, the result was an incomplete pass. This is especially maddening on the two 3rd-and-4 looks we had, when running the ball could've worked just as well (if not more so). Other than the two scrambles to avoid pressure (both for eight yards, respectively), Hunt was not at all effective at the start of this contest.

***

Second Quarter

DRIVE 5
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:53 1st and 10 SYR 33 Run Gulley End R 0 Yard Gain
14:25 2nd and 10 SYR 33 Pass Hunt Deep M Incomplete
14:19 3rd and 10 SYR 33 Pass Hunt Deep R Incomplete
DRIVE 6
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
10:26 1st and 10 SYR 20 Pass Parris Mid-Range M 15 Yard Gain
10:09 1st and 10 SYR 35 Pass Clark Screen R 5 Yard Gain
9:45 2nd and 5 SYR 40 Pass Estime Screen L 5 Yard Gain
9:29 1st and 10 SYR 45 Run Smith Off-Tackle L 5 Yard Gain
9:06 2nd and 5 50 Yard Line Pass Estime Screen R 7 Yard Gain
8:45 1st and 10 WAKE 43 Run Smith End R 0 Yard Gain
8:22 2nd and 10 WAKE 43 Pass Hunt Tipped at Line Incomplete
8:18 3rd and 10 WAKE 43 Pass; Sack Hunt N/A 8 Yard Loss
DRIVE 7
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:04 1st and 10 SYR 20 Pocket Breakdown; Run Hunt Off-Tackle L 2 Yard Gain
4:33 2nd and 8 SYR 22 Pass Hunt Deep R Incomplete
4:26 3rd and 8 SYR 22 Pass Wales Mid-Range M 8 Yard Gain
4:12 1st and 10 SYR 30 Pass Estime Screen L 2 Yard Gain
3:44 2nd and 8 SYR 32 Run Gulley End R 5 Yard Loss
3:38 3rd and 13 SYR 27 Pass West Deep R 43 Yard Gain
3:06 1st and 10 WAKE 30 Pass Gulley Short L 0 Yard Gain
2:38 2nd and 10 WAKE 30 Run Smith Dive 4 Yard Gain
1:42 3rd and 19 WAKE 39 Pass Hunt Mid-Range M Incomplete

Play-Call Breakdown: 15 passes, 5 runs

The good: hurry-up offense for portions of the sixth and seventh drives actually seemed to wake up this offense. The bad: a 3:1 pass:rush ratio. For this team, that should never, ever happen. Once again, passing on third down killed off the first two drives, and two costly penalties forced us to pass on the last one. But at the same time, Hunt was actually moving the ball fairly well through the air, and could've done even more if not for the botched pass interference non-calls by the refs.

***

Third Quarter

DRIVE 8
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
15:00 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Smith Dive 6 Yard Gain
14:37 2nd and 4 SYR 31 Run Smith Off-Tackle R 3 Yard Gain
14:15 3rd and 1 SYR 34 Run Smith Dive 3 Yard Gain
14:02 1st and 10 SYR 37 Pass Clark Screen L 8 Yard Gain
13:22 2nd and 2 SYR 45 Run; Botched Handoff Hunt Dive 1 Yard Gain
12:45 3rd and 1 SYR 46 Wildcat; Run Gulley Dive 1 Yard Gain
12:25 1st and 10 SYR 47 Run Smith Counter L 11 Yard Gain
12:15 1st and 10 WAKE 42 Run Smith Counter L 8 Yard Gain
11:31 2nd and 2 WAKE 34 Run Estime End R 1 Yard Gain
10:58 3rd and 1 WAKE 33 Run Gulley Counter L 2 Yard Gain
10:36 1st and 10 WAKE 31 Pass Estime Mid-Range M 13 Yard Gain
10:16 1st and 10 WAKE 18 Run Smith Dive 2 Yard Gain
9:37 2nd and 8 WAKE 16 Pass West Screen L 15 Yard Gain
9:02 1st and Goal WAKE 6 Run Hunt Off-Tackle L 6 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 9
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:58 1st and 10 SYR 27 Pass Gulley Screen R 5 Yard Gain
7:44 2nd and 5 SYR 32 Run Gulley End R 1 Yard Loss
7:09 3rd and 6 SYR 31 Pass Hunt Deep R Incomplete
DRIVE 10
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
6:13 1st and 10 WAKE 25 Reverse; Pass West/Estime Deep R 25 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 11
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
3:57 1st and 10 SYR 16 Run Smith Dive 1 Yard Gain
3:19 2nd and 9 SYR 17 Pass Hunt Tipped at Line Incomplete
3:14 3rd and 9 SYR 17 Run Hunt End L 4 Yard Gain
DRIVE 12
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:28 1st and 10 SYR 9 Run Gulley Counter L 67 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 15 runs, 7 passes

OFFICIALLY COOKING WITH GAS. Look what happens when this team uses the run to set up the pass. The first drive featured 14 plays, and just three of those were passes (all for eight yards or more). By making the defense fear the run, we freed up receivers down the field a lot more, and even got more space on those bubble screens (SOOO many bubble screens), allowing for more yards after the catch. The reverse and West-to-Estime connection on the second score was also gorgeous. Just so well thought-out and it really caught Wake's defense off guard.

***

Fourth Quarter

15:00 1st and 10 WAKE 24 Run Gulley Off-Tackle L 7 Yard Gain
14:14 2nd and 3 WAKE 17 Run Hunt Dive 7 Yard Gain
13:41 1st and Goal WAKE 10 Pass Hunt Mid-Range M Incomplete
13:36 2nd and Goal WAKE 10 Run Smith Off-Tackle R 5 Yard Gain
12:54 3rd and Goal WAKE 5 Pass Smith Screen L 2 Yard Gain
12:09 4th and Goal WAKE 3 Fake FG; Run Loeb Off-Tackle L 2 Yard Gain; Turnover
DRIVE 13
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
10:52 1st and 10 SYR 35 Run Smith Off-Tackle L 3 Yard Gain
10:24 2nd and 7 SYR 38 Pass Clark Screen L 6 Yard Gain
10:04 3rd and 1 SYR 44 Run Smith Dive 3 Yard Gain
9:51 1st and 10 SYR 47 Run Smith Counter R 1 Yard Gain
9:12 2nd and 9 SYR 48 Run Hunt Off-Tackle L 10 Yard Gain
8:41 1st and 10 WAKE 42 Run Gulley Dive 1 Yard Gain
8:07 2nd and 9 WAKE 41 Pass Estime Screen L 2 Yard Gain
7:24 3rd and 7 WAKE 39 Pass Estime Screen R 3 Yard Gain
DRIVE 14
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
3:37 1st and 10 SYR 32 Run Smith Counter L 3 Yard Gain
3:30 2nd and 7 SYR 35 Run Gulley Dive 0 Yard Gain
3:26 3rd and 7 SYR 35 Run Hunt End R 2 Yard Loss







DRIVE 15
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
1:46 1st and 10 WAKE 13 Kneel Down Hunt N/A 1 Yard Loss
1:02 2nd and 11 WAKE 14 Kneel Down Hunt N/A 1 Yard Loss
0:19 3rd and 12 WAKE 15 Kneel Down Hunt N/A 1 Yard Loss

Play-Call Breakdown: 15 runs, 5 passes

Even removing the three kneel downs by Hunt at the end, it's still a big advantage for called runs in the fourth, and rightfully so. As was mentioned by the broadcast team during the game, Smith and Gulley are closers. They're also "starters" though, George McDonald, and we might want to lean on them a bit more early too. As you'll notice with this run-centric play-calling, we appear to move the ball much better overall, and make the passing game more effective as well. Hunt's not a great passer, so running the ball a lot helps him out. This seems obvious...

***

Some trends/numbers to note:

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 41 runs v. 32 passes
  • First half play-calling: 22 passes, 11 runs (0 points); Second half: 30 runs, 10 passes (13 points)
  • First downs: 16 total (9 rushing, 7 passing)
  • First down play selection: 20 called runs, 11 called passes
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 9 called runs, 6 called passes
  • The Orange only ran three plays beyond the 50-yard line in the second half
  • SU only called six plays in Wake territory in the first half, but had 20 in the second half
  • Second down play selection: 13 called runs, 12 called passes
  • Third down play selection: 12 called passes, 7 called runs
  • Third down conversion: 6-for-19 (4 runs, 2 passes)
  • Syracuse went three-and-out seven different times (in 14 full drives)

Most interesting fact here: Ashton Broyld didn't catch a pass in this quarter (or game) on account of being a focal point for opposing defenses. This seemed to free up Brisly Estime to have a bigger impact, along with the tight ends as well. Also,fFor the third time in four games (I've mentioned this as a trend to watch), Syracuse called two trick plays -- one on special teams and one on offense. Georgia Tech was the only ACC game they did not attempt a trick play.

Penalties impacted play-calling on numerous occasions, turning running downs into passing downs. However, it's worth noting that these instances were mainly relegated to the first half, and McDonald has exhibited an unwillingness to run on 3rd-and-4 or more all year. The hurry-up offense also worked like gangbusters (same as it did last year), and if that works out again on Saturday, we have a solid shot at beating Maryland. Would like to note as well that "hurry-up" doesn't imply all passing either, since we appeared to be at our best while running and mixing quick passes in.

Finally, after rewatching the game tape, you'll see that they're trying to incorporate some play-action (thank you!), but it's not fully developed yet. Hunt's motion is not selling the fake enough just yet, but I assume that's something they're working on with his mechanics each week.

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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