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

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Was the offense to blame at all for what transpired on Saturday? Maybe. We dive in...

Syracuse's loss to USF on Saturday was an embarrassing one for many reasons. While the defense was probably more to blame (Brian will get to that), there are some things we'll need to discuss about the Orange offense as well. Portions of that conversation will trend positive. Others might get a little negative. You should be used to how this goes by now...

First Quarter

DRIVE 1




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:56 1st and 10 SYR 12 Run Morris Off Tackle R 7 Yard Gain
14:22 2nd and 3 SYR 19 Run Morris Dive R 3 Yard Loss
13:45 3rd and 6 SYR 16 Pass Lewis Short R 18 Yard Gain
13:15 1st and 10 SYR 34 Pass Dungey Mid Range M Incomplete (Estime)
13:09 2nd and 10 SYR 34 Run Morris End R 3 Yard Loss
12:32 3rd and 13 SYR 31 Pass Dungey Deep M Incomplete
DRIVE 2




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:00 1st and 10 SYR 4 Run Morris Dive R 4 Yard Gain
8:28 2nd and 6 SYR 8 Pass Parris Short M 3 Yard Gain
7:52 3rd and 3 SYR 11 Run Morris Off Tackle R 2 Yard Gain
DRIVE 3




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:27 1st and 10 SYR 31 Run Morris End L 2 Yard Gain
4:54 2nd and 8 SYR 33 Option; Run Dungey End L Incomplete (Parris)
4:14 3rd and 8 SYR 33 Pass Dungey Short L Incomplete

Play-Call Breakdown: 7 runs, 5 passes

The first quarter was a disappointing one for the Syracuse offense -- possibly made more maddening by the departure from this pretty basic, vanilla play-calling. It's obvious that Tim Lester was aiming to easy Eric Dungey back into his role and as a result, there wasn't much going on in terms of real gains or the team's typical offense. Until the third drive of the quarter, it was all basic handoffs and some drop-back passes. They also failed to start Jordan Fredericks at running back, which seems like a grave error at this point. Moving on...

Second Quarter

DRIVE 4




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:08 1st and 10 SYR 21 Run Dungey Off Tackle L 6 Yard Gain
13:32 2nd and 4 SYR 27 Play Action; Pass Lewis Short M 5 Yard Gain
13:00 1st and 10 SYR 32 PENALTY (False Start) Parris N/A 5 Yard Loss
12:31 1st and 15 SYR 27 Pass Avant Short R 9 Yard Gain
11:49 2nd and 6 SYR 36 Option; Run Dungey Off Tackle L 1 Yard Loss
11:07 3rd and 7 SYR 35 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Hamilton N/A 15 Yard Gain
11:00 1st and 10 USF 50 Play Action; Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 5 Yard Loss
10:18 2nd and 15 SYR 45 Option; Toss Philips End L 14 Yard Gain
9:44 3rd and 1 USF 41 Direct Snap; Run Fredericks Off Tackle L 7 Yard Gain
9:10 1st and 10 USF 34 Play Action; Run Dungey End L 6 Yard Gain
8:35 2nd and 4 USF 28 Run Fredericks Off Tackle L 7 Yard Gain
8:03 1st and 10 USF 21 Run Fredericks Dive R 3 Yard Gain
7:23 2nd and 7 USF 18 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Dive L 5 Yard Gain
6:42 3rd and 2 USF 13 Run; Fumble Dungey Dive R 2 Yard Gain
5:37 1st and 10 USF 11 Run Fredericks End R 1 Yard Loss
4:56 2nd and 11 USF 12 Reverse; Run Hill End R 7 Yard Loss
4:13 3rd and 18 USF 19 Pass Parris Short M 5 Yard Gain
3:50 4th and 13 USF 14 Field Goal Murphy
FG is Good

Play-Call Breakdown: 10 runs, 5 passes

This is another non-typical quarter for Syracuse since it featured one VERY long drive and that was it. But at least the fourth drive of the game began to show signs of what this offense typically is. Dungey was finally able to incorporate some play action (successfully, as he regularly seems to), and once the team got Fredericks into a groove, the attack seemed to be clicking much more. Of course, that was cue to minimize his involvement as the team settled for a field goal. And that goddamn reverse to Jacob Hill... Still, an encouraging drive.

Third Quarter

DRIVE 5





Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
12:53 1st and 10 SYR 29 Option; Run Dungey End L 6 Yard Gain
12:23 2nd and 4 SYR 35 Play Action; Pass Estime Mid Range R 10 Yard Gain
11:53 1st and 10 SYR 45 Run Dungey Dive R 3 Yard Gain
11:19 2nd and 7 SYR 48 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Estime)
11:09 3rd and 7 SYR 48 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Dive R 0 Yard Gain
DRIVE 6





Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:47 1st and 10 SYR 28 Pass Estime Mid Range L 8 Yard Gain
9:12 2nd and 2 SYR 36 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Foy N/A 15 Yard Loss
9:05 2nd and 17 SYR 21 Pass Ishmael Mid Range L 10 Yard Gain
8:31 3rd and 8 SYR 31 Pass Philips Deep L 29 Yard Gain
7:53 1st and 10 USF 40 PENALTY (Holding) Abraham N/A 10 Yard Gain
7:47 1st and 10 USF 30 Play Action; Pass Fredericks Short R 30 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 7





Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
6:52 1st and 10 USF 16 Option; Toss Philips End L 5 Yard Gain
6:19 2nd and 5 USF 11 Pass Ishmael Short L 4 Yard Gain
5:49 3rd and 1 USF 7 Play Action; Run Dungey Off Tackle L 7 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 8




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
4:45 1st and 10 SYR 25 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Bayes N/A 15 Yard Gain
4:45 1st and 10 SYR 40 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Dive L 0 Yard Gain
4:04 2nd and 10 SYR 40 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Lewis)
3:57 3rd and 10 SYR 40 Pass Philips Short M 11 Yard Gain
3:21 1st and 10 USF 49 Play Action; Pass Philips Screen R 12 Yard Gain
2:51 1st and 10 USF 37 Pass Fredericks Mid Range M 8 Yard Gain
2:11 2nd and 2 USF 29 Play Action; Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete (Ishmael)
2:07 3rd and 2 USF 29 Option; Toss Lewis End R 4 Yard Loss
1:25 4th and 6 USF 33 Fake FG; Run Dixon End R 9 Yard Gain
0:50 1st and 10 USF 24 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Hill)
0:43 2nd and 10 USF 24 Pass Ishmael Short R 6 Yard Gain
0:07 3rd and 4 USF 18 Pass Parris Mid Range M 11 Yard Gain


Play-Call Breakdown: 17 passes, 6 runs

THIS WAS AN OFFENSE! Quickly faced with a 14-point deficit to open the third quarter, Syracuse came out firing. And if not for a Brisly Estime drop on a deep ball on drive five, perhaps it turns into a very different game. I'll even take the very uneven pass-to-run ratio (nearly 3:1) because the Orange truly were moving very well through the air. Weeks from now, we'll probably continue to rave about the Riley Dixon fake (and we should). But that shouldn't gloss over what was an excellent quarter for Dungey and Tim Lester, finally re-gaining the moxie and excitement we'd loved so much back in September. Nearly a perfect quarter of offensive football (if only the defense had been able to stop anything...).

Fourth Quarter

15:00 1st and Goal USF 7 Pass Ishmael Short R 7 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 9




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:33 1st and 10 SYR 21 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Estime)
9:27 2nd and 10 SYR 21 Pass Estime Short R 9 Yard Gain
9:11 3rd and 1 SYR 30 Option; Run Dungey Off Tackle R 2 Yard Gain
8:49 1st and 10 SYR 32 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 9 Yard Loss
8:15 2nd and 19 SYR 23 Fumble; Run Dungey Dive R 5 Yard Gain
7:51 3rd and 14 SYR 28 Pass Dungey Deep L Interception
DRIVE 10




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:24 1st and 10 SYR 24 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete
7:22 2nd and 10 SYR 24 Pass Ishmael Mid Range M 13 Yard Gain
7:02 1st and 10 SYR 37 Pass Philips Mid Range M 14 Yard Gain
6:40 1st and 10 USF 49 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Dive R 0 Yard Gain
6:08 2nd and 10 USF 49 Pass Dungey Mid Range M Incomplete (McFarlane)
6:02 3rd and 10 USF 49 Pass Dungey Short M Incomplete (Strickland)
5:57 4th and 10 USF 49 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey End R 12 Yard Gain
5:31 1st and 10 USF 37 Pass Strickland Short R 10 Yard Gain
5:05 1st and 10 USF 27 Pass Dungey Short M Incomplete (Lewis)
5:01 2nd and 10 USF 27 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 8 Yard Loss; Fumble

Play-Call Breakdown: 16 passes, 1 run

And then it finally happened. And then it happened again. Under siege for much of the contest, Dungey was forced to scramble a ton, rush throws and make quick decisions. Through three quarters, the worst that happened after that was an incomplete pass. But finally in the fourth, he turned it over twice (his first two turnovers for SU). You can't even really blame him given the circumstances. Down big and under pressure, he had to make plays happen. At times, he certainly did. At others, he failed to. These things happen to ANY QB, not just a freshman. He'll learn from them and get better.

***

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 24 called runs vs. 43 called passes (last week: 29:40). For the second straight week, Syracuse passes way more than they run. For the second straight week, they spent most of the second half passing to try and make up a deficit.
  • First half play-calling: 17 runs vs. 10 passes (7:33 in second half)
  • First downs: 22 total (7 rushing, 11 passing, 3 penalty; one in first quarter; 9:8:4 last week)
  • First down play selection: 10 called runs, 18 called passes (16:17 last week)
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 5 called runs, 13 called passes (10:11 last week)
  • First down plays for five or more yards: 13 (last week: 12)
  • Second down play selection: 7 called runs, 15 called passes (8:12 last week)
  • Third down play selection: 6 called runs; 10 called passes (4:12 last week)
  • Third down conversion: 7-for-15 (3 runs, 4 passes)
  • Fourth down conversion: 2-for-2 (2 runs)
  • 30 of Syracuse's 73 play calls (41 percent) took place in USF territory (last week, 51 percent of plays took place in the opponent's territory). The Orange didn't make it to midfield until half way through the second quarter, and most of their possessions in Bulls territory took place in the second and third quarters.
  • For the second straight week, play action didn't show up until after the first quarter, but overall, play action passes were 4-for-5, for 57 yards and a score. Dungey was also sacked on a play action pass attempt. Still, it's pretty clear that it's effective. The Orange should be utilizing it more, especially if Fredericks is involved early.
  • For large portions of the game, rather than alternating sides of the field here and there, play calls would shift either right or left for large portions of time. Perhaps this was due to things the offensive line could or couldn't do in various formations? In general, Dungey was under pressure much more than normal, something that's hopefully addressed going into the UVa game.
  • Three of Syracuse's plays went for 15 yards or more. Additionally, Syracuse had nine more plays that totaled between 10 and 14 yards each. USF also committed several penalties to give the Orange first downs (three), which aren't counted there.
  • Where things were problematic were negative plays. Through four games, the Orange had cut down on those dramatically. But not so much against the Bulls. In total 12 plays (including penalties) went for either zero or negative yardage. That needs to be halved (at least) by next week.
  • Syracuse continued its improved red zone play (a big difference in the scoring, as you probably figured), going 3-for-3 from inside the 20, including two touchdowns.

***

At this point, we sort of know what this offense is, but Lester seems to resist it at times. The option is an effective tool, but also shouldn't be used to so much that Dungey's getting repeatedly knocked around or throwing ill-fated tosses to Ben Lewis without blockers. The run game was stunningly underutilized in this one, which I'd contend was at least part of the offense's ineffectiveness in the first and final quarters, respectively. Just 73 yards on the ground when you have a well-stocked backfield makes minimal sense. Fredericks needs to see more touches, as he's electric with the ball in his hands. Devante McFarlane was oddly buried all game.

Dungey was not perfect (two turnovers) but he was still very good in his first late-game action playing from behind. His stat line of 262 total yards and three scores is still pretty excellent, especially when you factor in the 62 percent passing as well. That number could've been even higher if not for two drops in the third quarter by Brisly Estime (a nicely placed deep ball that would've set SU up to be down just 17-10 early in the third) and Jacob Hill (nicely floated TD pass late in the third). He can throw a deep ball, but receivers need to be able to catch it too.

Due to conservative play-calling at the onset, we're left to wonder what might have happened in this game instead had Syracuse just set the tempo early. It took four drives for them to truly play "their" game, and by that point, USF had already established the rules of engagement. Six of the team's 10 drives could be classified as "quality" yet the team came away with just 24 points and all of those were clustered into a small space within the game (a 17-minute stretch from late in the second to the first play of the fourth). This team can score, but it can't be expected to put up 40-plus. It's just not happening... this year.

***

Anything else? Share any and all thoughts below.