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Syracuse Football: Breaking Down Offensive Play-Calling vs. Louisville

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At least there's a light at the end of the tunnel this time, everyone...

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Consider this a viking funeral for George McDonald's tenure as offensive coordinator. While we spent the weekend getting angry, and Monday expressing our satisfaction for his demotion from play-calling duties, we still need to officially say goodbye to McDonald-as-OC. This game was every bit as awful to re-watch as you figured, so what better way to bid McDonald adieu than with what was of Syracuse's worst performances under him?

First Quarter

DRIVE 1
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
12:37 1st and 10 SYR 20 Pass Hunt Deep L Incomplete
12:32 2nd and 10 SYR 20 Pass West Short R 7 Yard Gain
12:00 3rd and 3 SYR 27 Pass Flemming Short L 2 Yard Gain
DRIVE 2
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:50 1st and 10 LOU 45 Run Gulley Off-Tackle R 3 Yard Gain
9:20 2nd and 7 LOU 42 Pass Parris Short M 3 Yard Gain
8:49 3rd and 4 LOU 39 Pass Parris Short R 12 Yard Gain
8:22 1st and 10 LOU 27 Play-Action Pass Ishmael Deep R 22 Yard Gain
8:02 1st and Goal LOU 5 Run Gulley Dive R 1 Yard Gain
7:26 2nd and Goal LOU 4 Pass Hunt Mid-Range R Incomplete
7:20 3rd and Goal LOU 4 Pass Hunt Short L Incomplete
DRIVE 3
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:00 1st and 10 SYR 16 Run Hunt Dive L 4 Yard Loss
1:28 2nd and 14 SYR 12 Pass West Short R 8 Yard Gain
1:03 3rd and 6 SYR 20 Pass Hunt Mid-Range R Incomplete

Play-Call Breakdown: 10 passes, 3 runs

For the second straight game, Syracuse tries to go deep right off the bat, except this time, Terrel Hunt just can't connect. The first quarter would set the tone for much of the game, with a ton of passing, yet mixed results. Hunt overthrows have just become an expected part of this offense, which would be more maddening if we didn't know they'd be absent for at least a month. My first request of Tim Lester now, though: please get our quarterbacks to actually sell play-action fakes.

***

Second Quarter

DRIVE 4
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
12:09 1st and 10 SYR 1 Pass West Deep M Incomplete
12:04 2nd and 10 SYR 1 Run Ameen-Moore End R 1 Yard Loss; Safety
DRIVE 5
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:54 1st and 10 SYR 9 Run Morris End L 6 Yard Gain
9:27 2nd and 4 SYR 15 Pocket Breakdown; Run Hunt Off-Tackle R 4 Yard Gain
9:00 1st and 10 SYR 19 Run Gulley Dive L 4 Yard Gain
8:25 2nd and 6 SYR 23 Run Gulley Off-Tackle L 3 Yard Gain
7:50 3rd and 3 SYR 26 Pass Parris Short M 6 Yard Gain
7:22 1st and 10 SYR 32 Run Phillips Dive L 3 Yard Gain
6:45 2nd and 7 SYR 35 Pass Phillips Screen L 1 Yard Gain
6:10 3rd and 6 SYR 36 Pass Hunt Deep L Interception
DRIVE 6
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
3:36 1st and 10 SYR 15 Run Gulley Dive R 7 Yard Gain
3:08 2nd and 3 SYR 22 Pass Flemming Short R 2 Yard Gain
2:33 3rd and 1 SYR 24 Run Morris Dive R 3 Yard Gain
2:06 1st and 10 SYR 27 Pass Hunt Screen L Incomplete
2:01 2nd and 10 SYR 27 Pass Hunt Mid-Range L Incomplete
1:55 3rd and 10 SYR 27 Run Morris Dive R 2 Yard Loss
DRIVE 7
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:50 1st and 10 SYR 49 Pass Parris Short M 5 Yard Gain
0:28 2nd and 5 LOU 46 Pass Hunt Mid-Range L Incomplete
0:23 3rd and 5 LOU 46 Pocket Breakdown; Run Hunt Dive L 5 Yard Gain
0:10 1st and 10 LOU 41 Spike Hunt N/A Incomplete
0:09 2nd and 10 LOU 41 Pass West Deep L 39 Yard Gain
0:01 1st and Goal LOU 2 Spike Hunt N/A Incomplete

Play-Call Breakdown: 12 passes, 8 runs (plus 2 spikes)

Might as well sum up this quarter the same way I did on Twitter that night. There was no reason to toss it to your power back out of a shotgun formation in your own end zone. There was no reason to waste timeouts the way the coaching staff did in this quarter. There was no reason to lollygag when trying to pull within two points. There was ABSOLUTELY no reason not to know how many timeouts you have (or don't). And worst of all, there's no reason your coaching staff or quarterback should be unaware of the rules of the game, which state you can only run one play with less than three seconds remaining in the half. I'll stop there (for now).

***

Third Quarter

DRIVE 8
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
15:00 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Gulley Off-Tackle R 4 Yard Gain
14:55 2nd and 6 SYR 29 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Rankins N/A 15 Yard Gain
14:46 1st and 10 SYR 44 Pass Lewis Screen L 6 Yard Gain
14:22 2nd and 4 LOU 50 Pass Phillips Screen R 1 Yard Gain
13:44 3rd and 3 LOU 49 Pass Lewis Mid-Range L 48 Yard Gain
13:21 1st and Goal LOU 1 Run Gulley Off-Tackle L 3 Yard Loss
12:51 2nd and Goal LOU 4 PENALTY (Ineligible Man) Palmer N/A 5 Yard Loss
12:38 2nd and Goal LOU 9 PENALTY (Holding) Trudo N/A 10 Yard Loss
12:07 2nd and Goal LOU 19 Reverse; Pass West Deep R Incomplete
12:00 3rd and Goal LOU 19 Pass West Mid-Range L 13 Yard Gain
DRIVE 9
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
8:43 1st and 10 SYR 19 Run Ameen-Moore End L 2 Yard Loss
8:08 2nd and 12 SYR 17 Pass Hunt Deep M Incomplete
8:02 3rd and 12 SYR 17 Pass Hunt Mid-Range M Incomplete
DRIVE 10
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:27 1st and 10 SYR 25 Pocket Breakdown; Run Hunt End R 18 Yard Gain
5:01 1st and 10 SYR 43 Run Gulley Dive R 3 Yard Gain
4:33 2nd and 7 SYR 46 Pass Parris Short R 8 Yard Gain
4:08 1st and 10 LOU 46 Play-Action Pass Hunt Short M Incomplete
4:03 2nd and 10 LOU 46 Run Ameen-Moore Off-Tackle R 6 Yard Gain
3:23 3rd and 4 LOU 40 Pass Hunt Short R Incomplete
DRIVE 11
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:51 1st and 10 LOU 43 Play-Action Pass Hunt Mid-Range R Interception

Play-Call Breakdown: 13 passes, 5 runs

We went over this. If we could never, EVER replicate drive no. 8 from the Maryland game, we'd be okay. So what do we do? We make a SEQUEL. And it's even more horrifying than the first one! "Drive 8, Part 2: Fail Harder" was an absolutely maddening display, the likes of which I (once again) pray we never have to see again. Unfortunately, it's Syracuse football in a microcosm, though, so no guarantees there. Great pass play to the one-yard line gets turned back by shoddy play-calling and penalties, followed by half-assed effort to make back yardage. It's uncanny how many times this happens. Hopefully Tim Lester makes sure there's no "Drive 8" trilogy in store.

***

Fourth Quarter

DRIVE 12
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
13:16 1st and 10 SYR 19 Run Ameen-Moore Dive L 11 Yard Gain
12:52 1st and 10 SYR 30 Run Ameen-Moore End L 19 Yard Gain
12:33 1st and 10 SYR 49 Pass; Sack Hunt N/A 10 Yard Loss
12:02 2nd and 20 SYR 39 Pass Wilson Short R Incomplete
11:55 3rd and 20 SYR 39 Pass Hunt Short R Incomplete
DRIVE 13
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:40 1st and 10 SYR 15 Pass West Mid-Range L 13 Yard Gain
7:25 2nd and 10 SYR 28 Pass Hunt Short R 15 Yard Loss
7:16 2nd and 25 SYR 13 PENALTY (Int. Grounding) Hunt Short R 0 Yard Gain
7:11 3rd and 25 SYR 13 Pass Wilson Mid-Range R Incomplete
DRIVE 14
Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:23 1st and 10 SYR 14 Run Phillips Off-Tackle L 1 Yard Gain
4:57 2nd and 9 SYR 15 Run Phillips Off-Tackle L 0 Yard Gain
4:26 3rd and 9 SYR 15 Pass; Fumble Wilson N/A 15 Yard Loss; Safety

Play-Call Breakdown:7 passes, 4 runs

You can see the moments where Hunt first tweaks his ankle (the sack), and then flat-out fractures it (the intentional grounding call), because the play-calls thereafter reflect his lack of mobility or McDonald's lack of faith in Austin Wilson. Speaking of: could he look any less assured of what he's doing out there? That's probably the biggest reason why there's a real call for A.J. Long to start or for the rumored two-QB system. Wilson will have a chance to display competence with this offense. But that leash will also be pretty short -- and should be based on the above.

***

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 44 called passes vs. 20 called runs
  • First half play-calling: 24 passes vs. 11 runs (20:9 in second half)
  • First downs: 14 total (7 passes, 6 running, 1 penalty)
  • First down play selection: 14 called runs, 13 called passes (13:15 last week)
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 7 called runs, 7 called passes (9:8 last week)
  • First down plays for five or more yards: 9
  • Second down play selection: 16 called passes, 4 called runs (14:6 last week)
  • Third down play selection: 13 called passes, 2 called runs (11:4 last week)
  • Third down conversion: 5-for-16 (3 passes, 2 run; none after first drive of second half)
  • Just 19 of Syracuse's 64 play calls (30 percent) took place in Louisville territory (just seven in the second half); last week, that number was 61 percent
  • Four "screen" passes (not including "short" passes) were attempted, but there were 20 short/screen distance passes altogether
  • Hunt threw out of play-action just three times (four last week); still don't get why this died after CMU
  • This week in "big gains gloss over ineptitude," nine of SU's 64 plays went for 10 yards or more; these amounted to 210 of the Orange's paltry 260 yards (so they averaged 0.9 yards per play on all other plays from scrimmage).

Looking at that last figure on yards/play should tell you all you need to know about George McDonald's offense in 2014, and why it is now Tim Lester's offense in 2014. At some point, you can't keep stalling out in the red zone, or relying solely on big plays to move the football, or continually throwing screen passes with no blockers out front. For Scott Shafer, the athletic department, the boosters, or all three, Friday night was a test for McDonald and he failed. Miserably. And that's what cost him his position as offensive coordinator.

With luck, the offense through these first five games ends up just being a footnote to a much less frustrating situation for the final seven. But given Hunt's injury, who really knows? I'm excited and terrified all at once for what Lester's tenure will bring, especially with an unseasoned QB or two under center. Whatever Lester's offense ends up being, it won't be this, which is a start. Now let's just cross our fingers that it can't get any worse, either.