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Syracuse Football: Breaking Down Offensive Play-Calling vs. NC State

These are still sort of valuable. We promise.

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

With the news yesterday that Scott Shafer will be let go as coach of the Syracuse Orange, these obviously take on a different tone. The original intent here was to track effectiveness and trends in play-calling, and while there's use to it even with this staff coaching just one last game this weekend, overly criticizing the various things that went wrong can seem like piling on.

So this week (and next), we'll be changing things up a bit. You'll still get the raw numbers, as well as some key takeaways for what the next Orange staff can do to improve personnel use and play-calling. But we'll remove the larger grid for each and every play. Don't "worry" -- they'll be back next year. And we'll be using those grids to track against the full year's numbers as well.

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 28 called runs vs. 25 called passes (last week: 32:23). We're down to 53 plays in this game. And while you might want to decry the nearly-even nature of play-calling here, the option wasn't working, so going to the pass more may have been for the best... even if we probably should've subbed in Wilson at that point.
  • First half play-calling: 11 runs vs. 8 passes (17:17 in second half)
  • First downs: 15 total (4 rushing, 7 passing, 4 penalty; 8:4:3 last week)
  • First down play selection: 14 called runs, 10 called passes (20:7 last week)
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 7 called runs, 5 called passes (7:5 last week)
  • First down plays for five or more yards: 10 (last week: 11) -- these were boom-or-bust all game, either gaining first downs or losing a couple yards.
  • Second down play selection: 10 called runs, 8 called passes (8:7 last week)
  • Third down play selection: 4 called runs; 7 called passes (4:9 last week)
  • Third down conversion: 2-for-111 (1 runs, 1 pass)... miserable.
  • 21 of Syracuse's 53 play calls (just under 40 percent) took place in NC State territory (last week, 36 percent of plays took place in the opponent's territory). That number takes a hit by way of explosive plays. They were also largely confined to a couple drives.
  • Play action was non-existent, despite Syracuse calling 25 pass plays.
  • "Four playmakers" usage rate: 51 percent (27 out of 53 plays). Big number, which is a plus. Though a lot of that leans on Jordan Fredericks handoffs. Steve Ishmael doesn't even appear in the grid until late in the third quarter, which should aggravate you as much as it aggravates me.
  • Syracuse had five plays of 15 yards or more (with three of those going for 25 or more). They also had another four plays gain between 10 and 14 yards. Those nine plays accounted for 287 of the Orange's deplorable 292 yards. Moving past the very positive first number immediately... holy shit. SU gained just five yards on the other 44 plays, for an average of 0.11 yards per play. Goddammit.
  • Including penalties, 16 plays went for a loss against NC State. Woof.
  • Syracuse was two for two in the red zone, settling for a field goal early and then finding Ishmael for a touchdown on the final drive.
  • Five three-and-outs this week sounds better, I guess (same number last week).

Additional observations:

As mentioned above and many times before, this offense has shown no ability to utilize Steve Ishmael regularly or effectively. When you have a receiver like him (among the best sophomore pass-catchers we've ever had), it behooves your offense to get the ball to him more often. Take notes, future offensive coordinator.

Zack Mahoney had shown himself adept at running the option in previous starts against LSU and Clemson, respectively, but against NC State, it largely went nowhere. Misdirection was at a minimum and Mahoney regularly seemed to make the wrong read in terms of the first "option" (the dive man) and keeping the football. That wouldn't be surprising to hear about a walk-on in most cases, however, and with two starts prior to this, the Wolfpack seemed to have the book on him at that point.

Zero involvement of the tight ends was not surprising, though still frustrating. We have some decent athletes (and Jamal Custis) at the position and with young QBs, they can be used as quality safety valve options.

For a team with seemingly tons of options for short-yardage situations and an ability to score within the 10-yard line, it's insane that the Orange struggle the way they do on third down. Part of that is the team is regularly sitting in third-and-long situations. But a lot of it is just an inability to execute, no matter the yardage. Though they've done well on fourth down all year... again, these things make zero sense.


Other thoughts from a week that (once again) wasn't? And maybe some expectations on what a new offensive coordinator should do? Share your thoughts below.