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Syracuse Football: A Tale of Two Offenses

The 2015 Syracuse Orange football season has certainly seen its share of highs and lows. At the halfway point, is there a reason for the inconsistent offense?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief..."

Ok, the worst of times is a bit extreme, unless you only started watching Syracuse Orange football 3 weeks ago. However, after watching the Orange go from a 3-0 start, and a wave of excitement to a 3-3 record, it's alright if you, like me, don't know exactly what's happening. It's not just the record, but during the last 5 games, it seems that two different Syracuse teams are playing and this post is going to try and look deeper to see what in the Dickens is going on. (Sorry, not sorry)

I'm going to just look at offensive numbers in this post because I think the bright light is shining on the defense, and I don't think they deserve all of the blame for what's going on.  We're going to look at the last 5 games, not including the Overtimes with Central Michigan and Virginia, to see how things break down by half.

In addition to plays, yards, and points, I am also going to look at the production numbers from the Four Playmakers- Jordan Fredericks, Ervin Phillips, Steve Ishmael and Brisly Estime. This isn't a slight to the other offensive players, but I think we can agree that these four offer Syracuse the most in terms of big-play ability right now.

Week 2 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (John's Breakdown)

1st Half: 27 Plays, 113 yards, 4.85 yards per play, 6 points from Offense

The Four Playmakers- 4 touches for 9 yards.

2nd Half: 26 plays, 259 yards, 9.96 yards per play, 17 points from Offense

The Four Playmakers- 6 touches for 155 yards and 2 TD's

Erv Phillips missed this game due to injury, and Fredericks was still 3rd on the depth chart at RB,  so it's natural that the total number of touches is low. Two big pass receptions by Estime and Ishmael carried SU to victory in the 2nd half, and sparked some excitement in the 2015 Orange.

Week 3 Central Michigan Chippewas (John's Breakdown)

1st Half: 28 plays, 285 yards, 10.17 yards per play, 24 points from Offense

The Four Playmakers- 6 touches for 92 yards.

2nd Half: 10 plays, 9 yards, 0.9 yards per play, 0 points from Offense

The Four Playmakers- 2 touches for 7 yards.

Another game without Phillips, and the Dungey injury is certainly a factor in the dip in the 2nd half stats, but oh man that 2nd half was even worse than I had remembered it being. Fredericks had two carries to start the half, gained 7 yards and didn't see the ball again. Ishmael had a 62 yard reception off of play-action, and that was the only time he touched the ball during the game. This was the first warning sign, but hey 3-0, so no one was supposed to be complaining.

Week 4 LSU Tigers (John's Breakdown)

1st Half: 34 plays, 102 yards, 3.39 yards per play, 3 points from Offense

The Four Playmakers- 10 touches for 47 yards.

2nd Half: 38 plays, 234 yards, 6.157 yards per play, 21 points from Offense

The Four Playmakers- 5 touches for 69 yards and 1 TD.

A full game without both Dungey and Phillips, and in the 1st half at least, Fredericks touched the ball often. The 2nd half featured the long TD to Estime and a rarity so far, a drive where Steve Ishmael catches multiple passes. LSU was by far the best defense SU has faced so far, and the 2nd-half numbers are encouraging.

Week 5 South Florida Bulls (John's Breakdown)

1st Half: 28 plays, 95 yards, 3.39 yards per play, 3 points from Offense

The Four Playmakers- 6 touches for 25 yards

2nd Half: 40 plays, 325 yards, 8.125 yards per play, 21 points from Offense

The Four Playmakers- 14 touches for 169 yards and 1 TD.

The USF game marked the return of both Dungey and Phillips, but it didn't kick start the offense until the end of the half when Erv and Fredericks accounted for 20 yards on the eventual field goal drive. The 2nd half was a different story and the 1st TD for the Orange featured a drive where all four guys caught passes from Dungey. The pattern continued as the Orange had a 21 point outburst in the 3rd quarter, keyed by the presence of Phillips in the passing game. I know the motto of this game was "Dungey missed reads in the 1st half", but honestly I think the offense was put in much better situations in the 2nd half and when you get the ball to the Playmakers, good things happen.

Week 6 Virginia Cavaliers (John's Breakdown)

1st Half: 39 plays, 224 yards, 5.74 yards per play, 14 points from Offense

The Four Playmakers- 14 touches for 66 yards and 1 TD.

2nd Half: 19 plays, 99 yards, 5.21 yards per play, 3 points from Offense

The Four Playmakers- 4 touches for  36 yards

The 4th and goal run is attributed to Dungey, but I counted it as a touch for Fredericks because the late pitch was out of desperation, not design. Erv Phillips was effective in the 1st half with 4 touches for 35 yards, but then he didn't receive a touch until overtime. Fredericks only had one second-half carry and even though there were only two possessions for the Orange, it's hard to understand why he and Phillips didn't touch the ball more to try and put the game away. It's especially hard when you look at the plays in the OT as Fredericks, Phillips, and Ishmael had all the touches.

Five Game Totals

Syracuse Offense Total- 289 plays for 1745 yards. 6.038 yards per touch

The Four Playmakers- 71 touches for 675 yards and 5 TD's. 9.507 yards per touch


Based upon the data I collected, it's clear that the Syracuse offense produces at a higher rate when the ball gets into the hands of The Four Playmakers. Obviously, opposing teams know this and are certainly trying to prevent them from touching the ball, but the challenge is on the Syracuse offense to find a way to work around this as it's clear that good things happen when they are getting touches on offense.

If Syracuse is going to get at least three more wins this season, then I think it's obvious that these four guys (and probably Dontae Strickland) need to be getting touches on a more consistent basis each week.