As mentioned on Sunday, the Syracuse Orange offense needs Eric Dungey in order to function properly. That’s not just limited to production, but the form and function of the play-calling, too. The loss to the NC State Wolfpack looked nothing like the previous games. So while we’re breaking it down below just like every other game, it says very little about Dino Babers’s scheme -- now and in the future.
|11:16||1st and 10||SYR 39||Pass||Philips||Short R||5 Yard Gain|
|11:01||2nd and 5||SYR 44||Pass||Philips||Mid Range R||9 Yard Gain|
|10:37||1st and 10||NCSU 47||Play Action; Pass||Mahoney||Deep R||Incomplete (Cornelius)|
|10:31||2nd and 10||NCSU 47||Run||Mahoney||Dive R||6 Yard Gain|
|10:12||3rd and 4||NCSU 41||Run||Strickland||Dive L||5 Yard Gain|
|9:55||1st and 10||NCSU 36||Play Action; Pass||Cornelius||Short R||8 Yard Gain|
|9:39||2nd and 2||NCSU 28||Run||Strickland||Dive R||1 Yard Gain|
|8:59||3rd and 1||NCSU 27||Run||Mahoney||Dive R||1 Yard Loss|
|8:20||4th and 2||NCSU 28||Pass||Philips||Screen L||12 Yard Gain|
|8:03||1st and 10||NCSU 16||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||4 Yard Gain|
|7:46||2nd and 6||NCSU 12||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Mahoney||Dive R||2 Yard Gain|
|7:10||3rd and 4||NCSU 10||Wildcat; Run||Strickland||Dive L||10 Yard Gain; TD|
|6:16||1st and 10||SYR 44||Play Action; Pass||Mahoney||Deep R||Interception|
Play-Call Breakdown: 8 passes, 5 runs
The first drive was truly the only complete drive of the game. This was really the only time short passes were utilized well, the run game was open up the middle and the miss downfield had no negative consequences (Alvin Cornelius was wide open, however). The Wildcat was a solid wrinkle to add in the red zone. You also can’t blame anyone for being pissed about the missed pass interference that led to the interception on the first play of drive two. It wasn’t a bad ball at all.
|14:55||1st and 10||SYR 25||Run||Strickland||Off Tackle R||2 Yard Gain|
|14:40||2nd and 8||SYR 27||Run||Strickland||Dive L||0 Yard Gain|
|14:20||3rd and 8||SYR 27||Play Action; Pass||Cornelius||Deep R||46 Yard Gain|
|13:59||1st and 10||NCSU 27||Run||Neal||Dive R||1 Yard Loss|
|13:28||2nd and 11||NCSU 28||Run; Fumble||Mahoney||Dive R||2 Yard Loss|
|13:01||3rd and 13||NCSU 30||Pass||Philips||Short L||4 Yard Gain|
|12:25||4th and 9||NCSU 26||PENALTY (False Start)||Roberts||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|12:12||4th and 14||NCSU 31||Field Goal||Murphy||N/A||FG is Good|
|8:38||1st and 10||SYR 25||Pass||Mahoney||Mid Range M||Incomplete (Philips)|
|8:36||2nd and 10||SYR 25||Pass; Sack||Mahoney||N/A||8 Yard Loss|
|7:55||3rd and 18||SYR 17||Pass||Strickland||6 Yard Loss|
|0:47||1st and 10||SYR 20||Run||Strickland||Off Tackle L||1 Yard Loss|
|0:25||2nd and 11||SYR 19||Pass||Cornelius||Screen R||6 Yard Gain|
|0:20||3rd and 5||SYR 25||Run||Strickland||Dive L||1 Yard Loss|
Play-Call Breakdown: 6 passes, 6 runs
The deep ball to Cornelius on drive three was a heave, but it worked well. It was one of just two plays the entire quarter to go for more than five yards. Playing in place of Steve Ishmael, active but sidelined for undisclosed reasons, Cornelius had a solid chemistry with Zack Mahoney from their shared time on the second time offense in practice. Still, NC State adjusted to Mahoney by the second quarter and the offense stalled as a result.
|14:53||1st and 10||SYR 31||Wildcat; Run||Strickland||Off Tackle L||1 Yard Loss|
|14:26||2nd and 11||SYR 30||Run||Mahoney||Dive R||5 Yard Gain|
|14:05||3rd and 6||SYR 35||Pass||Mahoney||Screen R||Incomplete (Philips)|
|13:10||1st and 10||SYR 18||Run||Neal||Dive R||1 Yard Gain|
|12:50||2nd and 9||SYR 19||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Deep M||81 Yard Gain; TD|
|11:42||1st and 10||NCSU 17||Run||Mahoney||Dive R||3 Yard Loss|
|11:15||2nd and 13||NCSU 20||Pass||Mahoney||Short M||Incomplete (Philips)|
|11:10||3rd and 13||NCSU 20||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Short R||1 Yard Loss|
|10:34||4th and 14||NCSU 21||Field Goal||Murphy||N/A||FG is Good|
|8:22||1st and 10||SYR 34||Run||Strickland||Pitch R||1 Yard Gain|
|8:06||2nd and 9||SYR 35||Pass||Mahoney||Screen R||Incomplete (Philips)|
|7:59||3rd and 9||SYR 35||Pass||Mahoney||Deep R||Incomplete (Cornelius)|
|0:10||1st and 10||SYR 25||PENALTY (Holding)||Jones||N/A||10 Yard Gain|
|0:04||1st and 10||SYR 35||Pass||Mahoney||Deep L||Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)|
Play-Call Breakdown: 7 passes, 5 runs
The offense moves at a noticeably slower pace in the third quarter, and as a result, SU’s toned-down "playbook" for Mahoney looks a bit exposed. His 81-yard touchdown pass to Etta-Tawo was actually a pretty solid throw. And Amba makes a great adjustment to it in stride to get past the coverage with ease. Other than that, Syracuse squanders quality field position on drive eight — their last real shot to score in the game.
|15:00||2nd and 10||SYR 35||PENALTY (False Start)||Moore||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|15:00||2nd and 15||SYR 30||Run||Strickland||Dive R||2 Yard Loss|
|14:18||3rd and 17||SYR 28||Run||Mahoney||Dive L||2 Yard Gain|
|11:26||1st and 10||SYR 30||Run||Mahoney||Dive L||6 Yard Gain|
|11:10||2nd and 4||SYR 36||Wildcat; Run||Strickland||Dive L||13 Yard Gain|
|10:50||1st and 10||SYR 49||Wildcat; Run||Strickland||Dive R||1 Yard Gain|
|10:23||2nd and 9||NCSU 50||Run||Mahoney||Off Tackle L||5 Yard Loss|
|9:53||3rd and 14||SYR 45||Pass||Estime||Short M||17 Yard Gain|
|9:40||1st and 10||NCSU 38||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||4 Yard Gain|
|9:25||2nd and 6||NCSU 34||PENALTY (Personal Foul)||Strickland||N/A||15 Yard Loss|
|9:14||2nd and 21||NCSU 49||Pass; Sack||Mahoney||N/A||13 Yard Loss|
|8:33||3rd and 34||SYR 38||Pass||Mahoney||Short R||Incomplete|
|4:50||1st and 10||SYR 25||Pass||Mahoney||Short R||Incomplete (Philips)|
|4:46||2nd and 10||SYR 25||Run||Mahoney||Dive R||11 Yard Gain|
|4:30||1st and 10||SYR 36||Pass||Mahoney||Short R||Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)|
|4:22||2nd and 10||SYR 36||Pass||Cornelius||Screen L||1 Yard Gain|
|4:06||3rd and 9||SYR 37||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Mahoney||Dive L||4 Yard Gain|
|3:32||4th and 5||SYR 41||Pass; Sack||Mahoney||N/A||3 Yard Loss; Fumble|
Play-Call Breakdown: 9 passes, 7 runs
Drive 11 is this game in a nutshell. Questionable penalties (the "chop block" that negated the best-placed ball he’s thrown at Syracuse, perhaps), dangerously lobbed passes and happy feet leaving the pocket negated a promising drive. The game looked lost for SU by the time they repossessed the ball with around four minutes to go, and the inability to move the ball reflected that. Playing Donnie Foster at center also took its toll on the line and Mahoney as State ramped up pressure as the game wore on.
- Overall play-calling breakdown: 30 called passes vs. 23 called runs. No surprise this was the lowest total of the season for the Orange.
- First half play-calling: 14 passes vs. 11 runs (16:12 in second half)
- First downs: 10 total (4 passing, 5 rushing, 1 penalty; 9:5:1 last week)
- First down play selection: 10 called passes, 9 called runs (16:13 last week)
- First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 6 called passes, 4 called runs (10:5 last week)
- First down plays for five or more yards: three, which cut last week’s season-low in half (which itself cut the previous season low in half as well).
- Second down play selection: 9 called passes, 9 called runs (14:8 last week)
- Third down play selection: 8 called passes, 5 called runs (14:2 last week)
- Third down conversion: 4-for-13 (2 passes, 2 runs, 0 penalty; 4:1:0 last week)
- Fourth down conversion: 1-for-2 (1-for-2 last week)
- This week, 19 of Syracuse's 53 play calls (36 percent) took place in NC State territory. That’s much better than last week, but volume of plays is also down, so still negative.
- With some dedication to the run game, play-action seemed to be a bit more effective too. Mahoney was 3-for-5 for 135 yards, one touchdown and one interception. You could’ve added the Cornelius called-back touchdown to this list as well.
- Syracuse had just three plays of 15 or more yards (only four last week vs. Clemson). Of those, two went for 25 yards or more. Another three plays gained between 10 and 14 yards. Those six total plays accounted for 180 of the Orange’s awful 218 yards from scrimmage. That means the other 47 plays averaged a putrid 0.81 yards per. Another season low figure.
- Including penalties, 17 plays went for a loss. And additional play went for zero yards. Even taking out the three offensive penalties, over 25 percent of SU’s snaps went for negative yardage. That’s trash.
- Syracuse was 1-for-1 in the red zone, but did managed to score three times from outside of the 20-yard line.
- The Orange had five three-and-outs, plus a turnover. So half of SU’s drives went for more than three plays.
As mentioned above, the lack of speed really did hurt this group’s production and ability. Mahoney’s not the first-team quarterback, but the simplified play-calling and slower tempo made it very easy for the Wolfpack to figure him out. Once they did so around the second quarter, his only chance was to throw it up near Etta-Tawo and Cornelius and hope for the best — a tactic he utilized frequently.
Also mentioned earlier, but Foster coming in to play center had a huge impact as the Pack crashed the middle of the line to both sell out on the run and put pressure on Mahoney. Mahoney gets some happy feet and has a tendency to run backwards when the blitz bears down. This created some big negative plays that derailed the Orange offense immensely.
Less than half (five out of 12) Syracuse drives started any further back than their own 30. To struggle as much as they did given those circumstances was unsettling. NC State looked better for stretches, sure. But the SU defense and special teams also gave the home team every opportunity to put more points on the board, yet they couldn’t.
It’s hard to choose what Babers should commit to if Mahoney’s truly at the helm in place of Dungey. He can’t run the true offensive system at the moment, and his passing is never going to be at the level of Dungey’s. Mahoney runs were not always super effective, but worked in spurts. TBD on the Wildcat’s incorporation, since it’s there out of necessity right now.
For the most part, I feel like this poor execution couldn’t have been cooked up in a Tim Lester fever dream, and yet, we were in position to potentially win in the fourth quarter. That may provide more positive feedback about Babers’s system than we think.
Anything else that caught your eye above, or from watching the game yourself? Go ahead and add below.