It's difficult for any team to productively move the ball when they get so few tries at doing so. How difficult? The Syracuse Orange looked to be running a quality offensive attack for at least a half against Pitt this past weekend. But with only nine possessions, it simply wasn't enough. That's why this breakdown -- like every other this season, really -- feels so unbalanced and unfinished. There IS something there. We just need to see it for a full game.
|9:58||1st and 10||SYR 25||Run||Fredericks||Dive L||55 Yard Gain|
|9:20||1st and 10||PITT 20||Play Action; Pass||Philips||Short L||20 Yard Gain; TD|
|7:09||1st and 10||SYR 16||Pass||Philips||Short R||9 Yard Gain|
|6:37||2nd and 1||SYR 25||Pass||Dungey||Short M||Incomplete (Philips)|
|6:33||3rd and 1||SYR 25||Run||Dungey||Dive R||2 Yard Gain|
|6:02||1st and 10||SYR 27||Penalty (Pass Interference)||Estime||N/A||14 Yard Loss|
|5:41||1st and 24||SYR 13||Run||Fredericks||End R||2 Yard Gain|
|5:06||2nd and 22||SYR 15||Pass||Dungey||Deep R||Incomplete|
|4:59||3rd and 22||SYR 15||Pass||Philips||Mid Range M||16 Yard Gain|
|0:43||1st and 10||SYR 32||Option; Toss||Philips||End R||5 Yard Gain|
|0:09||2nd and 5||SYR 37||Play Action; Pass||Fredericks||Short R||6 Yard Gain|
Play-Call Breakdown: 6 passes, 4 runs
First off: WOW, on that first drive. That's the apex of what this offense can be. And when it's operating like that, and using the run game to set up the pass, beautiful things happen. Jordan Fredericks is extremely difficult to take down once he gets past the initial point of contact, and it showed on that run. Ervin Philips getting an early target was no surprise, and it's a testament to his speed that he got into the end zone on that throw. Drive two was unfortunate, but drive three started pretty well. I don't even mind the slight skew toward the pass. It was working and (again) was set up by the run.
|15:00||1st and 10||SYR 43||Run||Fredericks||Off Tackle R||6 Yard Gain|
|14:26||2nd and 4||SYR 49||Play Action; Pass||Philips||Short L||7 Yard Gain|
|13:53||1st and 10||PITT 44||Run||Morris||Off Tackle L||1 Yard Gain|
|13:20||2nd and 9||PITT 43||Pass||Parris||Short M||4 Yard Gain|
|12:38||3rd and 5||PITT 39||Pass||Morris||Short L||4 Yard Gain|
|11:55||4th and 1||PITT 35||Direct Snap; Run||Fredericks||Dive L||2 Yard Gain|
|11:25||1st and 10||PITT 33||Run||Fredericks||End L||2 Yard Loss|
|11:04||2nd and 12||PITT 35||Pass||Dungey||Mid Range R||Incomplete (Estime)|
|10:59||3rd and 12||PITT 35||Penalty (Pass Interference)||Maddox||Deep L||15 Yard Gain|
|10:54||1st and 10||PITT 20||Run||Fredericks||Off Tackle L||2 Yard Gain|
|10:17||2nd and 8||PITT 18||Pass||Ishmael||Short L||7 Yard Gain|
|9:43||3rd and 1||PITT 11||Play Action; Run||Dungey||Dive R||9 Yard Gain|
|9:08||1st and Goal||PITT 2||Direct Snap; Run||Fredericks||End L||1 Yard Loss|
|8:32||2nd and Goal||PITT 3||Pass||Dungey||Short L||Incomplete (Philips)|
|8:27||3rd and Goal||PITT 3||Play Action; Pass||Philips||Short R||3 Yard Loss|
|7:48||4th and Goal||PITT 6||Field Goal||Murphy||FG is Good|
|1:37||1st and 10||SYR 25||Pass||Estime||Short R||8 Yard Gain|
|1:31||2nd and 2||SYR 33||Pass||Dungey||Deep L||Incomplete (Philips)|
|1:26||3rd and 2||SYR 33||Pass||Fredericks||Short L||2 Yard Gain|
|1:14||1st and 10||SYR 35||Pass||Ishmael||Short L||8 Yard Gain|
|1:11||2nd and 2||SYR 43||Pass||Estime||Short R||7 Yard Gain|
|1:06||1st and 10||PITT 50||Pass||Ishmael||Deep R||40 Yard Gain|
|0:48||1st and Goal||PITT 10||Run||Philips||Off Tackle L||5 Yard Gain|
|0:38||2nd and Goal||PITT 5||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Dungey||Dive L||1 Yard Gain|
|0:31||3rd and Goal||PITT 4||Pass||Ishmael||Short L||4 Yard Gain; TD|
Play-Call Breakdown: 15 passes, 8 runs
The skew is even more toward the pass in quarter two, but that's because of an urgent fourth drive that called for it. The fact that Eric Dungey and Steve Ishmael really got cooking only served to help Lester's case. We'll address further below, but this quarter showed just how much Dungey grew in just one game -- getting the ball out quickly and accurately and using his legs as a last resort. Both drives three and four were examples of how a successful Syracuse possession should look at its peak, though drive three ended with just a field goal (which would haunt us...). This quarter also featured two key Philips drops, both of which were probably touchdowns if caught (the first was actually in the end zone). Still, nice to grab 17 points on just four drives.
|15:00||1st and 10||SYR 25||Broken Play; Run||Dungey||Dive R||3 Yard Gain|
|14:30||2nd and 7||SYR 28||PENALTY (False Start)||Palmer||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|14:30||2nd and 12||SYR 23||Run||Fredericks||End L||3 Yard Gain|
|13:52||3rd and 9||SYR 26||Pass||Estime||Short R||7 Yard Gain|
|9:42||1st and 10||SYR 13||Play Action; Pass||Ishmael||Deep R||33 Yard Gain|
|9:09||1st and 10||SYR 46||Run||Fredericks||Off Tackle R||9 Yard Gain|
|8:30||2nd and 1||PITT 45||Pass||Dungey||Deep R||Incomplete (Ishmael)|
|8:22||3rd and 1||PITT 45||Run||McFarlane||Dive R||2 Yard Loss|
|5:50||1st and 10||SYR 39||Run||Fredericks||Counter R||3 Yard Gain|
|5:18||2nd and 7||SYR 42||Pass||Ishmael||Short L||13 Yard Gain|
|4:45||1st and 10||PITT 45||Run||Fredericks||Dive R||3 Yard Gain|
|4:07||2nd and 7||PITT 42||Pass||Dungey||Mid Range M||Interception|
|2:08||1st and 10||SYR 35||Play Action; Pass||Dungey||Deep M||Interception|
Play-Call Breakdown: 6 passes, 6 runs
This is what you DON'T want out of a quarter of Syracuse football. A hard hit on Dungey that took him out for a drive, two interceptions, quick and unsuccessful drives, and the worst part: zero points. In previous games, the third quarter had largely been one long drive. In this one, we saw four short ones, all ending unceremoniously. The highlight was another gorgeous connection between Dungey and Ishmael, with the latter adding another fantastic catch in an afternoon (and short career) full of them.
|14:00||1st and 10||SYR 25||Run||Fredericks||Dive L||4 Yard Gain|
|13:26||2nd and 6||SYR 29||Pass||Philips||Screen R||7 Yard Gain|
|12:57||1st and 10||SYR 36||Option; Run||Dungey||Dive R||3 Yard Loss|
|12:15||2nd and 13||SYR 33||Pass||Parris||Short L||10 Yard Gain|
|11:40||3rd and 3||SYR 43||Pass||Philips||Short L||3 Yard Gain|
|11:07||1st and 10||SYR 46||Option; Run||Dungey||End R||26 Yard Gain|
|10:41||1st and 10||PITT 28||Run||Fredericks||Off Tackle R||3 Yard Gain|
|10:08||2nd and 7||PITT 25||Pass||Dungey||Short L||Incomplete (Ishmael)|
|10:03||3rd and 7||PITT 25||Pass||Parris||Short M||5 Yard Gain|
|9:26||4th and 2||PITT 20||Field Goal||Murphy||N/A||FG is Good|
Play-Call Breakdown: 5 passes, 4 runs
And that was it. Another quarter where Syracuse gets just one shot at it because of a long drive by the opposition. The Orange drove the ball well against Pitt on this single change, but settled on a field goal. The key play -- beyond a smart, 26-yard scamper by Dungey -- was unfortunately a second down drop by Ishmael that would've given the team a fresh set of downs inside the 20. As you can tell above, the traditional run game falls apart by this point in the contest, and we're back to the option too. Obviously settling for those three points to tie would be crucial (as they were previously too), since Pitt would win by a field goal later.
- Overall play-calling breakdown: 22 called runs vs. 32 called passes (last week: 33:32). Emphasis on the pass is warranted because of one drive (drive four) in the second quarter carrying that load. Option numbers are down, which is a plus in terms of Dungey getting hit. Running 54 plays is bad, and doing so in nine drives makes you feel worse about it.
- First half play-calling: 12 runs vs. 21 passes (10:11 in second half)
- First downs: 16 total (5 rushing, 10 passing, 1 penalty; 11:8:2 last week)
- First down play selection: 17 called runs, 7 called passes (17:11 last week)
- First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 12 called runs, 4 called passes (13:3 last week)
- First down plays for five or more yards: 11 (last week: 11)
- Second down play selection: 1 called run, 17 called passes (11:11 last week)
- Third down play selection: 3 called runs; 8 called passes (4:10 last week)
- Third down conversion: 5-for-11 (2 runs, 3 passes)
- 24 of Syracuse's 54 play calls (44 percent) took place in Pittsburgh territory (last week, 63 percent of plays took place in the opponent's territory). Overtime or not last week, this week presented a large drop-off. Syracuse was able to get into Pitt territory quickly when they were there, however, which partially explains the change.
- Play action passes were 5-for-6, for 62 yards, a touchdown (the first pass of the game) and an interception. As the run game faded away in the game, it was used less. It also wasn't used on that touchdown drive in the second quarter which is totally understandable (short clock meant no chance they'd run anyway).
- Like I said above, Dungey's gotten a whole lot quicker at getting the ball out, and getting it out accurately. On the game, he was 21-of-30 for 210 yards (an average of seven yards per pass). That's highly efficient play, despite the two picks. And when you factor in three key drops, those numbers could be even higher. Tons of praise go his way for making quick adjustments that worked wonders.
- Six of Syracuse's plays went for 15 yards or more (that's 11 percent of all plays). They also had three more plays gaining between 10 and 14 yards. Explosive plays were the staple of the offense in Saturday's loss. If you remove the gains from those six long plays, Syracuse had just 163 yards on the other 48 plays (an average just below 3.4 yards per). Explosive plays are great. But they also need to be complemented by more sufficient gains.
- The Orange had only six plays go for a loss this week (excluding penalties), a big improvement over the 17 from last week.
- SU settled for field goals twice in the red zone, so it was almost ironic that they'd lose by a field goal on Saturday. The Orange scored on all four red zone trips, but only two times were those touchdowns. Obviously things are better than they were last year, but the settling for three is still costing them.
Last week, Kevin penned a piece begging Tim Lester to utilize the "four playmakers" (Fredericks, Ishmael, Philips and Brisly Estime), and to his credit, SU's offensive coordinator absolutely delivered. Of Syracuse's 54 offensive plays, 38 either targeted or got the ball to one of those four -- a winning formula, we can all certainly agree with. We'll have to wait on see on Ben Lewis's status for this coming week, but you can at least assume his absence had something to do with doubling down on the four biggest weapons on the team (save Dungey, who's obviously involved on every play). If Syracuse has a shot to test Florida State, it'll be on the strength of these skill players. Percentages like we saw this past week in terms of targets should continue -- especially when it comes to getting the ball to Ishmael. The sophomore had a fantastic all-around game and will surely be eager to replicate last year's production vs. the 'Noles in front of a home state crowd next week in Tallahassee.
A few more notes before moving on: Handoffs to George Morris II and Devante McFarlane are fine here and there, but going to them on key short yardage situations seems odd, especially when Fredericks has shown success with the Wildcat set. The run/pass ratio on second down was some cause for alarm, because you have to assume Pitt noticed the same thing we do above (and future opponents will as well). Same goes for first down, really. Having first be your "run down" and second be your "passing down" allows defenses to simply load up the box and drop an extra man in coverage accordingly. Pitt may not have been smart enough to take advantage, but FSU certainly will be.
Oh, and those drops were a one-time thing, right? Avoiding for the future is probably best for our collective health and well-being (especially if Dungey's going to be putting passes on the money as he did in those situations).
Anything else? Share any and all thoughts below.