I'll get this out of the way right at the onset. Good? Good. This week's #Pray4John play-calling breakdown shows you what happens when a running team barely runs and an "in the trenches" team barely blocks. It's astounding, really, though don't let it take away your positive opinion of our quarterback. We'll get to him, but spoiler: I think he did a really great job (and you should too). On we go...
|12:10||1st and 10||SYR 25||Run||Gulley||Counter L||12 Yard Gain|
|11:40||1st and 10||SYR 37||Run||Gulley||Off-Tackle R||0 Yard Gain|
|11:15||2nd and 10||SYR 37||Run||Gulley||Off-Tackle R||0 Yard Gain|
|10:47||3rd and 10||SYR 37||Pass||West||Mid-Range M||17 Yard Gain|
|10:28||1st and 10||NCST 46||Run||Gulley||Dive R||9 Yard Loss|
|9:56||2nd and 19||SYR 45||Pass||Long||Mid-Range L||Incomplete|
|9:53||3rd and 19||SYR 45||Pass||Long||Short M||Incomplete|
|7:17||1st and 10||SYR 2||Run||Gulley||Dive L||4 Yard Gain|
|6:45||2nd and 6||SYR 6||Run||Gulley||Dive R||4 Yard Loss|
|6:09||3rd and 10||SYR 2||Run||Gulley||Off-Tackle L||1 Yard Gain|
|3:37||1st and 10||SYR 14||Run||Phillips||Off-Tackle R||1 Yard Gain|
|3:11||2nd and 9||SYR 15||Pass||Long||Mid-Range M||Incomplete|
|3:06||3rd and 9||SYR 15||Pass; Sack||Long||N/A||8 Yard Loss|
Play-Call Breakdown: 8 runs, 5 passes
Two messy three-and-outs, and a stalled-out midfield drive due to Prince-Tyson Gulley's poor decision to run completely backwards of his own volition. After a week (Clemson) in which Syracuse appeared to throw the ball far too much, they showed an early commitment to the run vs. NC State, but one that proved almost equally detrimental. Until drive three, Gulley was the only halfback to touch the football, and despite diminishing returns with the veteran back, he was continually tossed right back out there. Running the ball is good. Running the ball repetitively with the same player is not.
|12:10||1st and 10||SYR 25||Play-Action Pass; Sack||Long||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|11:37||2nd and 15||SYR 20||Pass||Lewis||Short M||7 Yard Gain|
|11:10||3rd and 8||SYR 27||Pass||Long||Short M||Incomplete|
|8:06||1st and 10||SYR 25||PENALTY (Holding)||Palmer||N/A||10 Yard Loss|
|7:48||1st and 20||SYR 15||Pass||West||Short L||35 Yard Gain|
|7:18||1st and 10||NCST 50||Pass||Long||Mid-Range L||Incomplete|
|7:13||2nd and 10||NCST 50||Run||Gulley||Off-Tackle R||4 Yard Gain|
|6:43||3rd and 6||NCST 46||Pass||McFarlane||Screen R||2 Yard Gain|
|3:38||1st and 10||SYR 4||Run||Ameen-Moore||Off-Tackle L||4 Yard Gain|
|3:15||2nd and 6||SYR 8||Run||Ameen-Moore||End L||10 Yard Gain|
|2:51||1st and 10||SYR 18||Run||Ameen-Moore||Off-Tackle L||0 Yard Gain|
|2:20||2nd and 10||SYR 18||Pass||Long||Deep R||Incomplete|
|2:13||3rd and 10||SYR 18||PENALTY (Pass Interference)||Clark||N/A||15 Yard Gain|
|2:08||1st and 10||SYR 33||Play-Action Pass; Sack||Long||N/A||6 Yard Loss|
|1:38||2nd and 16||SYR 27||Pass||Parris||Mid-Range L||13 Yard Gain|
|1:07||3rd and 3||SYR 40||Pass||West||Deep L||30 Yard Gain|
|1:02||1st and 10||NCST 30||Pass||Ishmael||Short R||9 Yard Gain|
|0:48||2nd and 1||NCST 21||Pass||Long||Mid-Range M||Incomplete|
|0:43||3rd and 1||NCST 21||Run||Long||Off-Tackle L||6 Yard Gain|
|0:26||1st and 10||NCST 15||Pass||Long||Deep R||Incomplete|
|0:21||2nd and 10||NCST 15||Pass||Lewis||Mid-Range R||15 Yard Gain; TD|
Play-Call Breakdown: 14 passes; 5 runs
Or maybe the first quarter was run-heavy so the second one could be pass-heavy? While A.J. Long was under some pretty consistent and heavy pressure for the entire game, he was able to pick up big chunks of yards via the passing game. His accuracy was pretty spot-on throughout the afternoon, and it seems that he's been getting better and better by the week in terms of finding that exact spot to put the football on deeper routes. Obviously pointing most notably to the Jarrod West completion in drive five here, but we'll see plenty later. Also: Don't care what the review may have shown. The call on the field for Lewis's catch was a touchdown, and it's not clear enough to overturn based on what we saw afterward. First red zone TD in over a month, by the way...
|15:00||1st and 10||SYR 25||Pass||West||Short L||8 Yard Gain|
|14:34||2nd and 2||SYR 33||Run||Gulley||Off-Tackle R||3 Yard Gain|
|14:12||1st and 10||SYR 36||Run||Gulley||End L||2 Yard Loss|
|13:46||2nd and 12||SYR 34||Pass||Long||Short R||Incomplete|
|13:41||3rd and 12||SYR 34||PENALTY (Pass Interference)||Burch||N/A||15 Yard Gain|
|13:35||1st and 10||SYR 49||Run||Ameen-Moore||Off-Tackle L||6 Yard Gain|
|13:04||2nd and 4||NCST 45||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Long||End R||10 Yard Gain|
|12:43||1st and 10||NCST 35||Pass||Gulley||Screen R||5 Yard Gain|
|12:11||2nd and 5||NCST 30||Pass||Long||Short R||Incomplete|
|12:08||3rd and 5||NCST 30||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Long||End R||5 Yard Gain|
|11:44||1st and 10||NCST 25||Pass||Ishmael||Deep R||25 Yard Gain; TD|
|9:13||1st and 10||NCST 42||Pass; Sack; Fumble||Long||N/A||11 Yard Loss|
|8:24||2nd and 21||SYR 47||Pass||Long||Mid-Range L||Incomplete|
|8:21||3rd and 21||SYR 47||Run||Gulley||Dive R||16 Yard Gain|
|5:40||1st and 10||SYR 34||Run||Gulley||Dive R||5 Yard Gain|
|5:00||2nd and 5||SYR 39||Run||Gulley||Off-Tackle R||3 Yard Loss|
|4:29||3rd and 8||SYR 36||Pass||West||Deep L||29 Yard Gain|
|4:02||1st and 10||NCST 35||Run||Ameen-Moore||Off-Tackle R||6 Yard Gain|
|3:35||2nd and 4||NCST 29||Run||Phillips||Option R||7 Yard Gain|
|3:07||1st and 10||NCST 22||Pass||Long||Short M||Interception|
|2:52||1st and 10||SYR 25||Pass||Long||Deep L||Incomplete|
|2:47||2nd and 10||SYR 25||Run||Gulley||Dive R||1 Yard Loss|
|2:19||3rd and 11||SYR 24||Pass||Long||Short R||Incomplete|
|0:48||1st and 10||SYR 26||Run||Ameen-Moore||End L||12 Yard Gain|
|0:13||1st and 10||SYR 38||Pass||Ameen-Moore||Screen L||4 Yard Gain|
Play-Call Breakdown: 13 passes; 11 runs
Commendably, the Syracuse offense kept their foot on the gas to start the second half, using a pass-heavy attack and a gorgeous throw/catch combo by Long to Steve Ishmael to grab the team's second touchdown. But after that, it was a variation between too aggressive and too conservative methods of attacking the NC State defense. Once again, the Pack were incredibly disruptive, which outside of drive seven, helped keep the Orange off-balance and inconsistent. I don't think Long's pick-six lost this game for SU, but if you're looking for the moment the offense started going off the rails, that's probably it. On the bright side: More Adonis Ameen-Moore and more great passing from Long in this quarter.
|15:00||2nd and 6||SYR 42||Pass||Long||Mid-Range M||Incomplete|
|14:57||3rd and 6||SYR 42||Pass; Sack||Long||N/A||8 Yard Loss|
|9:59||1st and 10||SYR 6||Pass||Lewis||Screen R||6 Yard Gain|
|9:40||2nd and 4||SYR 12||Run||Gulley||Off-Tackle R||2 Yard Gain|
|9:09||3rd and 2||SYR 14||Pass||Ishmael||Mid-Range R||16 Yard Gain|
|8:47||1st and 10||SYR 30||Pass||Gulley||Screen R||1 Yard Gain|
|8:16||2nd and 9||SYR 31||Run||Ameen-Moore||Dive L||5 Yard Loss|
|7:42||3rd and 14||SYR 26||Pass||Ameen-Moore||Screen R||11 Yard Gain|
|5:23||1st and 10||SYR 38||PENALTY (Holding)||Palmer||N/A||10 Yard Loss|
|5:16||1st and 20||SYR 28||Pass; Sack||Long||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|5:00||1st and 20||SYR 23||PENALTY (Personal Foul)||Jones||N/A||15 Yard Gain|
|4:50||1st and 10||SYR 38||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Long||End R||4 Yard Gain|
|4:23||2nd and 6||SYR 42||Pass||Ishmael||Short R||8 Yard Gain|
|4:16||2nd and 6||NCST 50||PENALTY (Personal Foul)||Emerich||N/A||15 Yard Loss|
|4:01||3rd and 13||SYR 35||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Long||Dive R||1 Yard Gain; Fumble|
|2:14||1st and 10||SYR 25||Pass||Long||Mid-Range L||Incomplete|
|2:10||2nd and 10||SYR 25||Pass||Cornelius||Mid-Range R||19 Yard Gain|
|1:56||1st and 10||SYR 44||Pass||Ishmael||Short R||5 Yard Gain|
|1:35||2nd and 5||SYR 49||Pass||West||Mid-Range L||10 Yard Gain|
|1:29||1st and 10||NCST 41||Pass||Long||Deep L||Incomplete|
|1:23||2nd and 10||NCST 41||Pass||West||Deep M||32 Yard Gain|
|1:06||1st and Goal||NCST 9||PENALTY (Holding)||Emerich||N/A||10 Yard Loss|
|1:02||1st and Goal||NCST 19||Pass; Sack||Long||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|0:53||2nd and Goal||NCST 24||Pass||Long||Mid-Range L||Incomplete|
|0:49||3rd and Goal||NCST 24||Pass; Sack||Long||N/A||8 Yard Loss|
|0:13||1st and 10||SYR 46||Pass||Long||Short L||Incomplete|
|0:10||2nd and 10||SYR 46||Pass||Long||Deep R||Interception|
Play-Call Breakdown: 21 passes; 2 runs
You definitely understand passing in the fourth quarter when down three. But at the same time: down just three points. There were SOOOO many passes in this quarter, and part of that was caused by a run-game that simply couldn't consistently move the ball against a bad rushing defense (and of course, part of THAT was caused by PTG being leaned on too heavily). Again, Long was asked to virtually do everything for this group -- run, pass, block -- and despite the solo nature of his game, he still delivered some great results and put Syracuse in a position to win this game. The turnovers sucked, but can you blame him under that sort of pressure? And a few more runs would probably help...
- Overall play-calling breakdown: 53 called passes vs. 26 called runs (week five in a row that passing is outweighing running -- and TWICE the amount this time)
- First half play-calling: 19 passes vs. 13 runs (20:19 in second half)
- First downs: 20 total (10 passing, 7 rushing, 3 penalty; oh look -- running yields results!)
- First down play selection: 21 called passes, 12 called runs (14:11 last week)
- First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 11 called passes, 6 called runs (6:4 last week)
- First down plays for five or more yards: 12 (stark difference between late-second, early-third vs. rest of game)
- Second down play selection: 20 called passes, 10 called runs (7:13 last week)
- Third down play selection: 11 called passes, 5 called runs (13:3 last week)
- Third down conversion: 6-for-16 (4 passes, 2 runs -- 2 more were also TDs)
- 23 of Syracuse's 79 play calls (29 percent) took place in NC State territory (just nine in the first half); last week, that number was 23 percent. Also, 79 plays sounds like it should be good, right?
- It was a decent gain, but I'd contend bubble screens with Adonis Ameen-Moore are a weird play-call...
- Play-action came back to bit Long a few times, adding an extra second or so for the defense to get to him behind a shoddy line. If SU had run the ball more, they may have actually believed the fake as well (alas, not the case).
- Syracuse had 17 big plays (ones that gained 10 or more yards) -- totaling 302 of Syracuse's ghastly 345 yards on offense. The other 62 plays gained a disgusting 0.69 yards per, which was an even steeper drop from last week's atrocious 1.1. Overall yards per play were 4.37 (vs. 2.66 last week), which you'd view as an improvement if not for the other numbers you're aware of.
- SU had 18 (!!!) plays for loss (including offensive penalties). Doubt anything but "holy shit" thoroughly captures my feelings about that number.
See, when I first re-watched the game, It thought I'd been too hard on the offense on Saturday. Then you look through these numbers, and... yup. Should definitely be annoyed and perplexed by what we're seeing out there. Those yards-per-play averages are next-level awful, and it's a shame too, because it completely overshadows what a great game A.J. Long had throwing the football. He never should have thrown 42 passes with this offensive personnel, mind you. But considering how many times he got hit, how little protection he had and the injuries on this offense, a line of 22-of-42, 307 passing yards and two TDs (and yes, two INTs plus a fumble) is about as good as you're going to get.
Pivoting from Long's passing: RUN THE DAMN BALL!!! NC State's run defense was poor going into Saturday's matchup, and with five capable running backs available to SU, this seemed like a no-brainer to exploit that weakness. And yet, the Orange called (note: differs from ran) 18 runs in the final three quarters. Plus, and this is the second straight week we're doing this, why is Prince-Tyson Gulley being trotted out there like a feature back? In the past, he's thrived as a member of a two-man or three-man attack, yet received 15 carries vs. the Wolfpack (and 18 last week vs. Clemson). Ameen-Moore was running the ball well, yet barely got a chance to show his stuff, while Devante McFarlane, George Morris II and Ervin Phillips have nearly been buried on the depth chart. WHY?!
The biggest problem of all in this game (an a contributing factor to the lack of rushing) was the offensive line, however. Injuries have ravaged this group and also called attention to something many of us didn't want to face: they're really not as "top-notch" a unit as we thought going into this year. Manhandled by every opponent but Central Michigan and (somehow) Florida State, they're simply not up to snuff this season whether at full health or not. Obviously, that doesn't bode well for our chances these last few weeks of the season, like many of the issues outlined above.
But what do you think, though? Share some thoughts below and let's try to exorcise this performance and find the way forward..