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Syracuse Football: Breaking Down Offensive Play-Calling vs. Wake Forest

Two weeks of Lester's scheme, and... can't say I'm disappointed!

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Week two ended up being just as rewarding as week one, in a lot of respects. A win. Some promising moments from Eric Dungey. And a pleasant re-watch for me. The Syracuse Orange have taken pity at long last... or Tim Lester's offense is actually doing something productive, it would appear. So how productive were we against Wake Forest? Take a look below...

First Quarter


Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
15:00 1st and 10 SYR 25 Pass Estime Screen R 9 Yard Gain
14:27 2nd and 1 SYR 34 Run Morris Off Tackle L 4 Yard Gain
14:00 1st and 10 SYR 38 Pass Parris Short L 9 Yard Gain
13:26 2nd and 1 SYR 47 Option; Toss Lewis End L 17 Yard  Gain
12:59 1st and 10 WF 36 Run Morris Dive L 3 Yard Gain
12:34 2nd and 7 WF 33 Run Morris Off Tackle R 1 Yard Gain
11:54 3rd and 6 WF 32 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 1 Yard Loss

Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
6:45 1st and 10 WF 37 Option; Run Dungey Off Tackle R 7 Yard Gain
6:10 2nd and 3 WF 30 Play Action; Pass Strickland Short R 12 Yard Gain
5:43 1st and 10 WF 18 Run Estime Sweep L 1 Yard Gain
5:06 2nd and 9 WF 17 Play Action; Sack Dungey N/A 1 Yard Loss
4:26 3rd and 10 WF 18 Pass Dungey Mid Range M Incomplete (Ishmael)
4:21 4th and 10 WF 18 Field Goal Murphy N/A FG is Good

Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:25 1st and 10 SYR 30 Run Morris Off Tackle R 34 Yard Gain
1:45 1st and 10 WF 36 Run McFarlane Dive L 3 Yard Gain
1:14 2nd and 7 WF 33 Option; Run Dungey Off Tackle R 9 Yard Gain
0:45 1st and 10 WF 24 Run McFarlane Dive R 6 Yard Gain
0:10 2nd and 4 WF 18 Botched Snap; Run Morris End R 4 Yard Loss

Play-Call Breakdown: 11 runs, 6 passes

The offense, for once, came out in a rhythm, immediately taking it to Wake Forest's defensive line. The option to Ben Lewis was a nice wrinkle, in particular, so long as Dungey's not taking hits like that every single week. Unfortunately all of these drives would bog down (curse you, red zone issues!), so that's a bit of a negative. But the team recorded three plays gaining 10 yards or more (and another three that gained nine each). We talked a little about explosiveness last week and it bears repeating: this truly does matter, and can only have a positive impact on our ability to win football games (as long as every other play isn't for negative yardage, of course).

Second Quarter

15:00 3rd and 8 WF 22 Pass Dungey Short L Incomplete
14:56 4th and 8 WF 22 Field Goal Murphy N/A FG is Good

Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:20 1st and 10 SYR 25 PENALTY (False Start) Shanley N/A 5 Yard Loss
9:20 1st and 15 SYR 20 PENALTY (Pass Interference) Gaulden N/A 15 Yard Gain
9:11 1st and 10 SYR 35 Reverse; Pass Avant Deep M Incomplete (Estime)
9:04 2nd and 10 SYR 35 Option; Toss McFarlane End R 2 Yard Loss
8:26 3rd and 12 SYR 33 Pass Dungey Deep M Incomplete (Estime)

Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:06 1st and 10 SYR 11 Run Fredericks Off Tackle L 1 Yard Gain
4:30 2nd and 9 SYR 12 Pass Moore Short L 5 Yard Gain
3:53 3rd and 4 SYR 17 Run Fredericks Dive L 3 Yard Gain

Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:07 1st and 10 SYR 35 Run McFarlane Dive L 2 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 4 runs, 4 passes

This was the worst quarter of football for Syracuse to-date, and wouldn't it be nice if that remained true for the rest of the season? Struggling to sustain drives, the team tried throwing deep twice: once with Dungey (makes sense) and the other with Sean Avant (uhhhhh). We've seen this sort of play before back when Ashton Broyld was in the backfield and it made sense since he was a former QB. With Avant, it wasn't a badly thrown ball. It was just late and into coverage. Let's avoid that and the net 19-yard production in future quarters.

Third Quarter


Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:19 1st and 10 SYR 33 Run Morris Dive R 1 Yard Gain
8:47 2nd and 9 SYR 34 Run Morris Off Tackle R 3 Yard Gain
8:08 3rd and 7 SYR 37 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey End R 1 Yard Gain

Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:15 1st and 10 SYR 11 Pass Dungey Deep M 89 Yard Gain; TD

Play-Call Breakdown: 2 runs, 2 passes

The success of this quarter is entirely based on one incredible pass. That's fine, to be honest. I'd rather have one incredible pass define a quarter than a bunch of sustained, but ultimately stalled-out drives. The team's issues running the ball to the right side of the line (the less-experienced side, by the way) start to rear their ugly head a bit more in the third. It's also not lost on me how much of a disaster that Dungey pass play could've been if he didn't possess this sort of escape ability (but he does, so shut up!).

Fourth Quarter


Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:52 1st and 10 SYR 15 Run Dungey End L 9 Yard Gain
14:22 2nd and 1 SYR 24 Run Fredericks Dive L 5 Yard Gain
13:54 1st and 10 SYR 29 Run Fredericks Dive R 3 Yard Gain
13:25 2nd and 7 SYR 32 Pass; Sack; Fumble; Run Fredericks End R 3 Yard Loss
12:40 3rd and 10 SYR 29 Pass Moore Mid Range R 21 Yard Gain
12:14 1st and 10 WF 50 Broken Play; Sack Dungey N/A 3 Yard Loss
11:27 2nd and 13 SYR 47 Pass Ishmael Deep R 53 Yard Gain; TD

Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
10:08 1st and 10 SYR 16 Run McFarlane Dive L 6 Yard Gain
9:33 2nd and 4 SYR 22 Run McFarlane Off Tackle L 9 Yard Gain
8:55 1st and 10 SYR 31 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey End R 11 Yard Gain
8:19 1st and 10 SYR 42 Run Dungey Off Tackle R 7 Yard Gain
7:38 2nd and 3 SYR 49 Run Fredericks Dive R 4 Yard Gain
7:08 1st and 10 WF 47 Run Fredericks Off Tackle R 1 Yard Gain
6:27 2nd and 9 WF 46 Play Action; Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete
6:17 3rd and 9 WF 46 Run McFarlane Dive R 8 Yard Gain
5:31 4th and 1 WF 38 Quick Kick Dungey N/A Punt

Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
4:03 1st and 10 WF 37 Pass McFarlane Mid Range L 23 Yard Gain
3:34 1st and 10 WF 14 Run McFarlane End L 2 Yard Gain
2:55 2nd and 8 WF 12 Play Action; Run Dungey End L 11 Yard Gain
2:16 1st and Goal WF 1 Run McFarlane Dive L 0 Yard Gain
2:09 2nd and Goal WF 1 PENALTY (Illegal Formation) Parris N/A 5 Yard Loss
2:03 2nd and Goal WF 6 Play Action; Pass Dungey Mid Range L Incomplete (Moore)
1:58 3rd and Goal WF 6 Run Dungey Off Tackle L 3 Yard Gain
1:51 4th and Goal WF 3 Field Goal Murphy N/A FG is Good

Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:27 1st and 10 SYR 20 Kneel Dungey N/A 2 Yard Loss

Play-Call Breakdown: 13 runs, 8 passes

It's amazing how rarely the victory formation has appeared in these write-ups. Beyond that, you'll find yourself a pretty productive period of football too for the Orange. The team leaned a bit toward run to kill some clock, but largely, Dungey's confidence and outright swagger were on full display throughout the fourth both through the air on and on the ground. Again, runs to the left bred more success, while passes to the right seemed to go pretty well too. That drop kick was a questionable one, and (shocking, I know) I have some thoughts there, which I'll share below.


  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 30 called runs vs. 20 called passes (last week: 50:26). This is a much more sustainable ratio, though you'd also like to see them run a few more plays per game. Last year, we were apoplectic at a number this low, but they were also less efficient with those plays.
  • First half play-calling: 15 runs vs. 10 passes (15:10 in second half)
  • First downs: 15 total (11 rushing, 3 passing, 1 penalty; 17:5:1 last week)
  • First down play selection: 16 called runs, 7 called passes (30:6 last week)
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 12 called runs, 3 called passes (20:3 last week)
  • First down plays for five or more yards: 12 (last week: 12)
  • Second down play selection: 11 called runs, 7 called passes (13:11 last week)
  • Third down play selection: 4 called runs; 5 called passes (10:9 last week)
  • Third down conversion: 1-for-9 (0 runs, 1 pass)
  • 24 of Syracuse's 50 play calls (48 percent) took place in URI territory (last week, 51 percent of plays took place in the opponent's territory). Like we said last week, explosive plays can account for some of this lower number.
  • Last week, we joked about Ben Lewis jet sweeps, and instead we got a failed Brisly Estime jet sweep and a really solid-looking Lewis option instead. Ervin Philips's absence may not be fully felt against a team like Wake Forest, but it sure will against the LSUs and Florida States of the world.
  • Dungey can fake with the best of them, and the above doesn't even capture all that he did in that department. Play action passes were just 1-for-4 with a sack. But play action motions and option reads that ultimately led to someone running the ball ended up yielding a whole lot more.
  • Five of Syracuse's plays (or 10 percent) went for 15 yards or more. Additionally, Syracuse had three plays that totaled between 10 and 14 yards each and five plays that gained nine yards each. Even the team is calling attention to explosiveness on Twitter. Get on board, gang!

As mentioned in the fourth quarter blurb, there would be a greater conversation around the decision to quick kick it in Wake territory. Inspired by my pro team's utter and abject failure by way of every metric imaginable on Sunday night, a quick analysis of win probabilities in Syracuse's situation shows they made the statistically incorrect decision. Going for it on fourth down would have given them a 95 percent chance to win if they'd converted. And a 90 percent chance if they'd failed to do so. Missing a long field goal had the same 90 percent win probability odds. Punting actually sunk Syracuse's odds to 89 percent. Obviously they won, so it's fine. But good to know that stats are still for losers, apparently...

Elsewhere, you'll notice that the numbers on passes attempted (14) and pass plays (20) don't add up, which speaks to Dungey's ability to take off when under pressure. While the 30:20 run-to-pass ratio sounds good to us, the actual runs to passes (36:14) is a little too skewed. Under McDonald's system last year, this would be cause for concern since the play-calls were basic and predictable. Under Lester, it appears (so far) that we can rest a little easier since the looks and personnel are varied, and Dungey's been able to keep defenses guessing with his faking abilities.

Despite the varied personnel, however, we're still seeing the same names in the box score. That's good when it yields big scores for Steve Ishmael and Brisly Estime, and plenty of carries for Devante McFarlane, but at some point one or more of these weapons won't be an option. The running backs seem equipped to hand it to whoever's playing well. But at receiver, you'd have to think someone else needs to get involved eventually.


Anything else? Share any and all thoughts below.