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Syracuse Football: Breaking Down Offensive Play-Calling vs. Boston College

You're not going to read this. That's never stopped me before.

Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Like we mentioned last week, we've changed up the format given the fact that Scott Shafer and the rest of his staff (including offensive coordinator Tim Lester) have been dismissed from the Syracuse Orange football program. Rather than criticism and over-analysis, we'll be using this week to inform the overall season takeaways (sorry in advance) and take a look at what a new coaching staff might be able to continue (or avoid).

Below are the raw numbers and information around personnel use from last week's last-second victory over Boston College. No larger grid until next fall, though there will be plenty of numbers late this week/early next, depending on when the Orange hire their next head coach.

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 41 called runs vs. 30 called passes (last week: 28:25). This is actually one of the better totals of the year and a sustainable number for any new staff, at least early on (we're assuming some sort of spread's probably being installed, right?).
  • First half play-calling: 19 runs vs. 16 passes (22:14 in second half)
  • First downs: 17 total (7 rushing, 6 passing, 4 penalty; 4:7:4 last week)
  • First down play selection: 23 called runs, 9 called passes (14:10 last week)
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 12 called runs, 6 called passes (7:5 last week)
  • First down plays for five or more yards: 10 (last week: 10) -- like we saw last week too, there's a boom-or-bust tendency here, and plenty of negative plays in there.
  • Second down play selection: 16 called runs, 10 called passes (10:8 last week)
  • Third down play selection: 1 called runs; 13 called passes (4:7 last week)
  • Third down conversion: 4-for-14 (0 runs, 4 passes)
  • 23 of Syracuse's 71 play calls (just over 32 percent) took place in Boston College territory (last week, about 40 percent of plays took place in the opponent's territory). Caveat: this game WAS against the country's top defense. Caveat to that caveat: most of the offense's ineffectiveness was based on a lack of execution and unforced errors.
  • Zack Mahoney threw plenty, but no play action to be found.
  • "Four playmakers" usage rate: 58 percent (41 out of 71 plays). This game might have done one of the best jobs in terms of both amount of plays they were used, as well as the way in which they were used too.
  • Syracuse had four plays of 15 yards or more. They also had another six plays gain between 10 and 14 yards. Those 10 plays accounted for 149 of the Orange's downright weak 241 yards. So on the other 61 plays, Syracuse gained just 1.49 yards per play. Like we've been saying: that's a joke.
  • Including penalties, 15 plays went for a loss against Boston College. That's how the number above happens.
  • Syracuse was three for three in the red zone, snagging a field goal at the end of the game to win. More on this success rate when we summarize the season...
  • Once again, five three-and-outs this week -- which is better but can be improved upon too.

Additional observations:

Like we've been saying all season, Ervin Philips is really a running back that can occasionally catch passes. And when he runs the ball, great things seem to happen repeatedly. This week, it was to the tune of nine carries for 73 (an 8.11 yards per average). GIVE HIM THE DAMN BALL... out of the backfield.

The Dontae Strickland throw to Steve Ishmael was a much better use of personnel for a trick play than the simple direct snaps to Jordan Fredericks we've seen, and this one almost worked too. Strickland was slightly telegraphed before the throw, but beyond that, he got air under the ball and put it pretty close to where Ishmael needed it to be in order to get a catch.

Speaking of Ishmael, FINALLY the talented sophomore wideout was utilized for the entirety of a game. He caught four passes for 44 yards and a score, and was targeted another four times. Obviously it's tougher to get him the ball when you have an option offense running, but you can commend Syracuse (and Mahoney, particularly) for trying to get him involved just the same. Expect numbers to go up for him under the new regime, no matter who's hired.

You have to wonder what happens to George Morris II and Devante McFarlane next season. Both have definitely taken a back seat to Jordan Fredericks this past year, and by season's end, it appeared that Dontae Strickland and Erv had grabbed the remaining carries. That's likely going to be a trend that keeps going under a new coach too, so time to start guessing what happens to the two redshirt juniors as they enter their final years at SU.


More on all of this once we get to the recap. Share any additional thoughts below.