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

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One day we'll get a full game of offense. One day...

Glenn Beil-USA TODAY Sports

Fourteen drives. The Syracuse Orange had 14 offensive drives against the Florida State Seminoles on Saturday, yet still managed to do so little with the football. Part of that is due to the level of difficulty that comes with facing the 'Noles, of course. But once again, SU bogged itself down a bit in the second half en route to a lopsided loss. Plenty of blame goes toward the defense here too, but want to make sure we see what the O is and isn't doing to help its own case as well.

First Quarter

DRIVE 1




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
13:01 1st and 10 FSU 49 Pass Estime Short R 2 Yard Gain
12:33 2nd and 8 FSU 47 Run Strickland Off Tackle R 1 Yard Loss
11:54 3rd and 9 FSU 48 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Estime)
DRIVE 2




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:25 1st and 10 SYR 34 Pass Strickland Screen R 62 Yard Gain
8:59 1st and Goal FSU 4 Run Fredericks Dive R 3 Yard Gain
8:28 2nd and Goal FSU 1 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Off Tackle R 1 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 3




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
8:08 1st and 10 SYR 25 PENALTY (False Start) Trudo N/A 5 Yard Loss
8:08 1st and 15 SYR 20 Run Morris End L 9 Yard Gain
7:38 2nd and 6 SYR 29 Run Philips Off Tackle R 5 Yard Gain
6:58 3rd and 1 SYR 34 Run Fredericks Dive R 2 Yard Gain
6:21 1st and 10 SYR 36 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Trudo N/A 15 Yard Loss
6:05 1st and 25 SYR 21 Run Morris End R 10 Yard Gain
5:25 2nd and 15 SYR 31 Pass Philips Screen L 2 Yard Gain
4:45 3rd and 13 SYR 33 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Dive L 0 Yard Gain
DRIVE 4




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:31 1st and 10 SYR 16 Pass Dungey Mid Range L Incomplete (Fredericks)
2:25 2nd and 10 SYR 16 Pass Philips Short M 3 Yard Gain
1:47 3rd and 7 SYR 19 Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete (Cornelius)

Play-Call Breakdown: 9 passes, 6 runs

There's a skew toward pass, but it's not the most egregious skew either. Syracuse managed to move the ball well on the ground and through the air in the first -- in particular on a screen pass from Eric Dungey to Dontae Strickland that went 62 yards to set up the first touchdown. Other than the gain itself, the play highlighted the team's improved blocking all around, especially when Rob Trudo scored himself a very nice downfield take out to spring Strickland another 15 yards. As mentioned, Strickland needs to be used more. When you see runs like that, you remember why.

Second Quarter

DRIVE 5





Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
12:55 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Fredericks End R 11 Yard Gain
12:21 1st and 10 SYR 36 Run Philips End R 2 Yard Gain
11:59 2nd and 8 SYR 38 Play Action; Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete (Ishmael)
11:53 3rd and 8 SYR 38 Pass Philips Screen R 6 Yard Loss
DRIVE 6





Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:05 1st and 10 SYR 24 Run Dungey Dive L 9 Yard Gain
6:34 2nd and 1 SYR 33 Run Fredericks Off Tackle L 2 Yard Gain
6:10 1st and 10 SYR 35 Run Strickland Off Tackle L 9 Yard Gain
5:29 2nd and 1 SYR 44 Run Fredericks Off Tackle L 4 Yard Gain
4:56 1st and 10 SYR 48 Pass Dungey Screen L Incomplete (Fredericks)
4:53 2nd and 10 SYR 48 Run Morris End L 8 Yard Gain
4:13 3rd and 2 FSU 44 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete (Estime)
DRIVE 7





Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:24 1st and 10 FSU 45 Option; Handoff Morris End L 11 Yard Gain
2:09 1st and 10 FSU 34 Play Action; Run Dungey End L 11 Yard Gain
1:44 1st and 10 FSU 23 Play Aciton; Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete (Strickland)
1:39 2nd and 10 FSU 23 Pass Parris Short M 4 Yard Gain
1:27 3rd and 6 FSU  19 Run Dungey Dive L 12 Yard Gain
1:11 1st and Goal FSU 7 Run Philips Dive R 6 Yard Gain
1:01 2nd and Goal FSU 1 Play Action; Run Dungey End L 1 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 8




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:09 1st and 10 SYR 25 Kneel Dungey N/A 2 Yard Loss

Play-Call Breakdown: 13 runs, 6 passes

Further proof that when this team's rolling, they're SO difficult to stop. And also not surprising, them rolling usually requires either a) a mix of run and pass or b) a steadfast dedication to running the ball (especially traditional handoffs). We saw both types of drives above, one of which led to a touchdown -- and we won't get to the ridiculous clock management issues that plagued the drive's end either. In this game, the team not only ran to the edge more, but was also more successful on the edge too. As we've seen too much lately, though, the team's momentum rises and falls with how many times Dungey takes off with the ball. Drive six stalls when he sticks to throwing. Drive seven thrives when he's the main ball-carrier. That's probably not for the best.

Third Quarter

DRIVE 9




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
15:00 1st and 10 SYR 25 Option; Run Dungey End R 3 Yard Gain
14:36 2nd and 7 SYR 28 Run Philips End L 3 Yard Loss
13:58 3rd and 10 SYR 25 Pass Ishmael Deep L 25 Yard Gain
13:34 1st and 10 FSU 50 Option; Run Dungey Off Tackle R 2 Yard Gain
12:54 2nd and 8 FSU 48 Run Fredericks Dive L 9 Yard Gain
12:24 1st and 10 FSU 39 Run Fredericks Dive L 1 Yard Gain
11:45 2nd and 9 FSU 38 Play Action; Pass Dungey Deflection 3 Yard Loss
11:14 3rd and 12 FSU 31 Pass Dungey Short M Incomplete (Parris)
DRIVE 10




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:17 1st and 10 SYR 20 Run Fredericks Dive R 3 Yard Gain
8:41 2nd and 7 SYR 23 Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete (Philips)
8:35 3rd and 7 SYR 28 Run Dungey Off Tackle R 5 Yard Gain; Fumble
DRIVE 11




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:03 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Fredericks Off Tackle L 1 Yard Gain
6:28 2nd and 9 SYR 26 Pass Dungey Short L Incomplete (Philips)
6:24 3rd and 9 SYR 26 Pass Dungey Mid Range L Incomplete (Ishmael)
DRIVE 12




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:41 1st and 10 SYR 23 Run Strickland Dive L 2 Yard Gain
5:07 2nd and 8 SYR 25 Pass Parris Short L 9 Yard Gain
4:43 1st and 10 SYR 34 Pass Dungey Short M Incomplete
4:36 2nd and 10 SYR 34 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey End R 8 Yard Gain
3:56 3rd and 2 SYR 42 Run Strickland Off Tackle L 3 Yard Gain
3:39 1st and 10 SYR 45 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Dive L 3 Yard Gain
3:04 2nd and 7 SYR 48 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 4 Yard Loss
2:23 3rd and 11 SYR 44 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 5 Yard Loss

Play-Call Breakdown: 12 runs, 10 passes

Some gripes in this quarter as the Orange derail themselves with questionable focus on a few elements. First, the option returns and is minimally successful for a drive, and then it's luckily abandoned. If nothing else, this is progress. Second, STOP SENDING PHILIPS OUT WIDE LIKE A TRADITIONAL RECEIVER. Ervin Philips had several notable drops last week, and this week he ran an improper route and another he wasn't looking for the ball. He's a quality pass-catcher, but can't be expected to be a traditional receiver. Stop it. The offensive line is also worn down by this point. We'll discuss them later, but they actually did a decent job in this one.

Fourth Quarter

DRIVE 13




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
13:33 1st and 10 SYR 35 Run Morris End R 9 Yard Gain
12:57 2nd and 1 SYR 44 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Strickland)
12:52 3rd and 1 SYR 44 Run Morris Dive L 8 Yard Gain
12:27 1st and 10 FSU 48 Run Philips Off Tackle R 12 Yard Gain
12:01 1st and 10 FSU 36 PENALTY (Pass Interference) Estime N/A 15 Yard Loss
11:52 1st and 25 SYR 49 Pass Parris Short M 9 Yard Gain
11:14 2nd and 16 FSU 42 Pass Parris Mid Range M 13 Yard Gain
10:38 3rd and 3 FSU 29 Run Philips Off Tackle R 2 Yard Gain
9:41 4th and 1 FSU 27 Direct Snap; Run Fredericks Dive R 1 Yard Loss
DRIVE 14




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:58 1st and 10 SYR 35 PENALTY (False Start) Roberts N/A 5 Yard Loss
5:58 1st and 15 SYR 30 Run McFarlane End R 1 Yard Gain
5:16 2nd and 14 SYR 31 Run McFarlane Off Tackle L 1 Yard Gain
4:26 3rd and 13 SYR 32 Pass MacPherson Mid Range M 10 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 7 runs, 4 passes

Garbage time drives are always difficult endeavors to get your team up for, so in some ways it's understandable to see the Orange walk away from the fourth quarter with no offensive points (Brisly Estime's score was on a punt return). Tight end sightings were the only truly notable occurrence, as they were largely absent until this point. It's unlikely to be a harbinger of future strategy. And of course, SU once again calls that direct snap Wildcat set with Jordan Fredericks on a short yardage play. People are sniffing that out now, guys... since he just runs it after the snap.

***

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 38 called runs vs. 29 called passes (last week: 22:32). Still not a great number. Just seems better compared to stuff like last week's numbers (54 plays).
  • First half play-calling: 19 runs vs. 15 passes (19:14 in second half)
  • First downs: 14 total (11 rushing, 3 passing; 5:10:1 last week)
  • First down play selection: 20 called runs, 8 called passes (17:7 last week)
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 9 called runs, 5 called passes (12:4 last week)
  • First down plays for five or more yards: 12 (last week: 11) -- just three of those were in the second half (all in fourth quarter)
  • Second down play selection: 9 called run, 13 called passes (1:17 last week)
  • Third down play selection: 6 called runs; 10 called passes (3:8 last week)
  • Third down conversion: 5-for-16 (4 runs, 1 pass)
  • 22 of Syracuse's 67 play calls (33 percent) took place in Florida State territory (last week, 44 percent of plays took place in the opponent's territory). Syracuse spent large stretches of the game not getting to FSU territory. They also needed quick drives/good field position to convert points once on the Seminoles' side of the field too. Just one drive into Florida State territory started before the SU 35.
  • Play action created some downfield shots, but its only completion was to Dungey himself off a deflection (and that should've been dropped on purpose). Downfield looks were hard to come by for Dungey, with Orange receivers blanketed right at the snap.
  • "Four playmakers" usage rate: 45 percent (30 out of 67 plays). That's well short of last week's big mark of 70 percent, but still gets a passing grade from this end. Dungey is the biggest playmaker of all and he was doing what he could to move the football. Dontae Strickland was also used more than normal, taking away from the involvement of those "big four" but not hurting the overall strategy. If you add him, the rate jumps to 55 percent.
  • Just two of Syracuse's plays went for 15 yards or more (compared to six last week). They also had another seven plays gaining between 10 and 14 yards (nice uptick from last week's three). Even with the seemingly lower number, those nine plays still made up 177 of Syracuse's minuscule 303 yards of offense. So that's just 2.2 yards per play on the other 58 from scrimmage. (/vomits)
  • Including penalties, 12 plays went for a loss against Florida State. After a season of largely disciplined play too, the Orange did get dinged for five fouls for 45 yards.
  • Syracuse only made it into the red zone twice, and both times Eric Dungey punched it in from the one. Percentage may be trending up, but overall scoring's obviously plummeting.

After watching the first time around, you could've made the case for Dungey having a less-than-stellar game. But on the rewatch, it was clear that the freshman QB really couldn't have done anything more in this one. With receivers blanketed by FSU's pro-caliber secondary, he was forced to hang onto the ball longer, resulting in more check-downs and taking off with it. He didn't force any passes, though he did have a few deflections. He's also managed to put the ball on the money to Steve Ishmael and Ervin Philips more often than not -- though coverage and (in Erv's case) attention to detail have prevented some successful completions. The offensive line also gets its due here: they held up incredibly well throughout the game, with sacks and pressure only coming later on.

Play-calling on first down is still a bit predictable, skewing heavy toward the run (something teams sort of appear to catch onto by the second half). The use of Philips was weird in this one, as they had him run off-tackle instead of around the end (where they had success with other ball-carriers all afternoon). There's also the splitting him out wide nonsense that he simply doesn't have the technical background for, given four miscues in two weeks now.

Of note, the option was only utilized lightly, though you could make a case for several inside handoffs falling under that umbrella too. In a change of pace, there were 13 runs around the edge for over 80 yards and a score. The team also briefly went back to an ol' stand by -- the screen pass -- which only really saw success on the big Strickland gain.

Again, there's good here this week, just as there is every week. But you can't simply ignore the second half fades and lack of ability to really put it into the end zone of late, either. The Orange are clearly better than last year's offense, but then again, how can you not be? With excuses like fewer drives, etc., previous weeks may have came fully-baked with reasons why production wasn't there. Against Florida State, though, the team had 14 chances and still only amassed 303 yards (62 of which on a single play). The Orange haven't scored a second half TD in three games. Something has to change if they want to get back in the win column.

Anything else? Share any and all thoughts below.