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Syracuse Quarterback Play Through Four Games: Better or Just More Efficient?

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A quick look at the numbers show some things... what are they?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange's 3-1 start is encouraging, and better than what we've seen in the last couple years. The focus on that improvement has been directed at both the opponents (less difficult than normal) and the quarterback play. But IS the QB play really improved over the course of Scott Shafer's tenure as head coach?

Well, yes and no. A look at the numbers first (by player and overall) over the course of the first four games from 2013 through 2015:

2015








Player Comp. Att. % Pass Yards YPC Pass TDs INT Rush Yards Rush TDs
Eric Dungey 21 36 58.3% 428 20.4 5 0 106 1
Zack Mahoney 20 42 47.6% 173 8.7 3 1 52 0
Austin Wilson 4 8 50.0% 49 12.3 1 1 0 0
Terrel Hunt 0 2 0.0% 0 0.0 0 1 2 0
TOTAL 45 88 51.1% 650 14.4 9 3 160 1
2014








Player Comp. Att. % Pass Yards YPC Pass TDs INT Rush Yards Rush TDs
Terrel Hunt 66 113 58.4% 782 11.8 1 2 299 6
Austin Wilson 11 17 64.7% 89 8.1 0 0 -4 0
Riley Dixon 1 1 100.0% 1 1.0 1 0 0 0
TOTAL 78 131 59.5% 872 11.2 2 2 295 6
2013








Player Comp. Att. % Pass Yards YPC Pass TDs INT Rush Yards Rush TDs
Terrel Hunt 33 43 76.7% 468 14.2 7 0 91 2
Drew Allen 54 94 57.4% 555 10.3 2 6 -8 0
Charley Loeb 4 5 80.0% 24 6.0 0 0 0 0
TOTAL 91 142 64.1% 1047 11.5 9 6 83 2

***

Surprisingly, a bunch of the key metrics are actually DOWN when compared to previous seasons. Completions are just over half. Completion percentage is way down, as is yardage. But where we ARE seeing improvement -- and that's really the difference between 3-1 and 2-2 (SU's start in both 2013 and 2014, respectively). Yards per completion? A full three yards higher than last year's totals. And turnovers from the QB position? Three, which is higher than last season, but as a factor in TD-to-INT ratio,  we're at 3:1 this year, versus 1:1 in 2014 (and 3:2 in 2013). I didn't bother adding rushing attempts in the ground numbers, but Hunt definitely ran a lot more in 2014 to get the team to that 295-yard total. This also doesn't even take into account the running backs, which have definitely been much more involved in Tim Lester's offense than they were under George McDonald...

The most important number of all, of course, is wins. And in that regard, Syracuse is 3-1, and that's improvement. Whether the opponents were better or worse is largely irrelevant since starting fast is the core demand on this or any other program. It gains confidence for players and keeps fans engaged. And so far, Orange fans certainly are engaged, even if it's not showing at the box office just yet.

Also of note, the Orange have lost the fifth game in each of Shafer's first two seasons. And have actually lost the fifth game in three of the last five years. The most recent victory was 2012's season-turning triumph over Pittsburgh. The other one over the last five? Over USF on the road, on October 9, 2010.