THIS is why I was looking forward to doing these for Syracuse Orange football games under Dino Babers. A loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers, yes. But as Sean mentioned on Monday, it’s hard to be disappointed in the offensive output in the process. Zack Mahoney simply "got it." And in the process, helped deliver arguably the most true-to-system game thus far for the Babers-led Orange.
Strap in. This took awhile (in the best way).
|14:53||1st and 10||SYR 25||Pass||Mahoney||Screen R||Incomplete (Cornelius)|
|14:49||2nd and 10||SYR 25||Run||Strickland||End R||3 Yard Gain|
|14:17||3rd and 7||SYR 28||Pass||Cornelius||Short R||8 Yard Gain|
|14:01||1st and 10||SYR 36||Run||Strickland||Dive L||2 Yard Gain|
|13:47||2nd and 8||SYR 38||Play Action; Pass||Cornelius||Mid Range R||12 Yard Gain|
|13:32||1st and 10||PITT 50||Play Action; Pass||Mahoney||Deep L||Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)|
|13:23||2nd and 10||PITT 50||Play Action; Pass||Estime||Short L||5 Yard Gain|
|13:07||3rd and 5||PITT 45||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Short R||6 Yard Gain|
|12:51||1st and 10||PITT 39||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Mahoney||Off Tackle R||5 Yard Gain|
|12:27||2nd and 5||PITT 34||PENALTY (False Start)||Adams||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|12:08||2nd and 10||PITT 39||Play Action; Pass||Estime||Screen L||3 Yard Gain|
|11:35||3rd and 7||PITT 36||Pass||Mahoney||Short L||Incomplete (Strickland)|
|9:55||1st and 10||PITT 45||Pass||Mahoney||Short R||Incomplete (Philips)|
|9:51||2nd and 10||PITT 45||Play Action; Pass||Riley||Short L||5 Yard Gain|
|9:19||3rd and 5||PITT 40||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Mid Range M||25 Yard Gain|
|9:01||1st and 10||PITT 15||Pass||Philips||Screen L||3 Yard Gain|
|8:41||2nd and 7||PITT 12||Run||Mahoney||Off Tackle R||4 Yard Gain|
|8:07||3rd and 3||PITT 8||Run||Riley||End R||6 Yard Gain|
|7:48||1st and Goal||PITT 2||Run||Mahoney||Off Tackle R||2 Yard Gain; TD|
|6:21||1st and 10||SYR 20||Run||Neal||End L||3 Yard Loss|
|5:59||2nd and 13||SYR 17||Pass||Mahoney||Deep M||Incomplete (Ishmael)|
|5:51||3rd and 13||SYR 17||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Mahoney||End L||3 Yard Gain|
|4:54||1st and 10||SYR 33||Pass||Estime||Short M||1 Yard Loss|
|4:31||2nd and 11||SYR 32||PENALTY (False Start)||Foster||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|4:18||2nd and 16||SYR 27||Pass||Philips||Short M||8 Yard Gain|
|4:03||3rd and 8||SYR 35||Pass||Mahoney||Short R||Incomplete (Cornelius)|
|3:28||1st and 10||SYR 26||Pass||Ishmael||Screen R||9 Yard Gain|
|3:11||2nd and 1||SYR 35||Play Action; Pass||Ishmael||Screen R||7 Yard Gain|
|2:53||1st and 10||SYR 42||Pass; Sack||Mahoney||N/A||7 Yard Loss|
|2:21||2nd and 17||SYR 35||Play Action; Pass||Mahoney||Screen L||Incomplete (Philips)|
|2:17||3rd and 17||SYR 35||Play Action; Pass||Ishmael||Deep R||30 Yard Gain|
|1:57||1st and 10||PITT 35||Pass||Philips||Short R||12 Yard Gain|
|1:45||1st and 10||PITT 23||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Mahoney||Off Tackle L||6 Yard Gain|
|1:27||2nd and 4||PITT 17||Run||Estime||End L||5 Yard Gain|
|1:13||1st and 10||PITT 12||Run||Mahoney||Dive R||2 Yard Gain|
|0:41||2nd and 8||PITT 10||PENALTY (Offside)||Soto||N/A||5 Yard Gain|
|0:34||2nd and 3||PITT 5||Run||Strickland||Dive L||5 Yard Gain; TD|
Play-Call Breakdown: 25 passes, 9 runs
Uh, 34 PLAYS IN THE FIRST QUARTER?! (/faints) Even by Babers’s standards, this is breakneck speed. Syracuse is operating at a very quick tempo from the start, and it’s clear this is not the team from the last couple weeks. Screens and short passes are setting up deep tries, just like they’re supposed to. The run game is also finding success because they’re not just hammering away at dives. This week’s gameplan latched onto what worked for Mahoney under Tim Lester’s option-based system and those principles worked incredibly well here, too.
|10:31||1st and 10||SYR 9||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||10 Yard Gain|
|10:15||1st and 10||SYR 19||Run||Strickland||Dive R||11 Yard Gain|
|10:02||1st and 10||SYR 30||Run||Strickland||Dive L||4 Yard Gain|
|9:44||2nd and 6||SYR 34||Play Action; Pass||Mahoney||Deep M||Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)|
|9:37||3rd and 6||SYR 34||PENALTY (False Start)||Foster||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|9:37||3rd and 11||SYR 29||Pass||Ishmael||Screen R||5 Yard Gain|
|6:51||1st and 10||SYR 32||Play Action; Pass||Estime||Short L||8 Yard Gain|
|6:30||2nd and 2||SYR 40||Run||Strickland||Dive R||3 Yard Gain|
|6:13||1st and 10||SYR 43||Run||Strickland||Dive L||6 Yard Gain|
|5:58||2nd and 4||SYR 49||Run||Strickland||Dive R||2 Yard Gain|
|5:38||3rd and 2||PITT 49||Run||Strickland||Dive R||0 Yard Gain|
|5:03||4th and 2||PITT 49||Pass||Philips||Short M||7 Yard Gain|
|4:47||1st and 10||PITT 42||Pass||Estime||Short L||5 Yard Gain|
|4:26||2nd and 5||PITT 37||Run||Strickland||Dive L||1 Yard Loss|
|3:50||3rd and 6||PITT 38||Pass||Philips||Short M||7 Yard Gain|
|3:38||1st and 10||PITT 31||Run||Philips||Screen R||8 Yard Gain|
|3:14||2nd and 2||PITT 23||Run||Estime||End L||6 Yard Gain|
|2:48||1st and 10||PITT 17||Pass||Philips||Screen R||8 Yard Gain|
|2:09||2nd and 2||PITT 9||Run||Strickland||Off Tackle L||4 Yard Gain|
|1:42||1st and Goal||PITT 5||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||5 Yard Gain; TD|
|0:03||1st and 10||SYR 38||PENALTY (Delay of Game)||Mahoney||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|0:03||1st and 15||SYR 33||Run||Strickland||Dive L||3 Yard Gain|
Play-Call Breakdown: 11 runs, 9 passes
It’s been quite some time since Babers called more runs than passes in a quarter, but it works quite well here. SU came out at a manic pace on drive six, and the payoff misses by inches on the deep ball to Amba Etta-Tawo. You saw it in the way Dontae Strickland was running; that aspect of the game was working much more effectively than it had all year. Again, harping on drive six, the early plays were this offense at its peak. Then on drive seven, that was arguably the most true-to-form this team has looked all year.
|12:40||1st and 10||SYR 8||Run||Strickland||Dive R||3 Yard Gain|
|12:18||2nd and 7||SYR 11||Run||Strickland||Dive L||2 Yard Gain|
|11:42||3rd and 5||SYR 13||Pass||Mahoney||Short L||Interception|
|11:31||1st and 10||SYR 11||Run||Strickland||Dive L||4 Yard Gain|
|11:03||2nd and 6||SYR 15||Run||Strickland||Dive R||0 Yard Gain|
|10:22||3rd and 6||SYR 15||PENALTY (Roughing)||Edwards||N/A||15 Yard Gain|
|10:22||1st and 10||SYR 30||Play Action; Pass||Ishmael||Screen R||0 Yard Gain|
|10:03||2nd and 10||SYR 30||Pass||Mahoney||Deep L||Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)|
|9:57||3rd and 10||SYR 30||Pass; Sack||Mahoney||N/A||7 Yard Loss|
|8:54||1st and 10||SYR 15||PENALTY (Delay of Game)||Mahoney||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|8:54||1st and 15||SYR 10||Pass||Philips||Short M||41 Yard Gain|
|8:33||1st and 10||PITT 49||Pass||Estime||Screen L||7 Yard Gain|
|8:19||2nd and 3||PITT 42||Pass||Mahoney||Short R||Incomplete|
|8:03||3rd and 3||PITT 42||Run||Neal||Dive R||42 Yard Gain; TD|
|7:23||1st and 10||SYR 17||Run||Neal||Dive L||2 Yard Gain|
|6:57||2nd and 8||SYR 19||Run||Neal||Dive L||1 Yard Gain|
|6:40||3rd and 7||SYR 20||PENALTY (Pass Interference)||Briggs||N/A||15 Yard Gain|
|6:32||1st and 10||SYR 35||Play Action; Pass||Mahoney||Short R||Incomplete (Estime)|
|6:27||2nd and 10||SYR 35||Run||Neal||Dive R||2 Yard Gain|
|6:11||3rd and 8||SYR 37||Pass||Estime||Screen L||4 Yard Gain|
|3:56||1st and 10||PITT 45||Pass||Philips||Short R||5 Yard Gain|
|3:40||2nd and 5||PITT 40||Pass||Philips||Short R||7 Yard Gain|
|3:27||1st and 10||PITT 33||Play Action; Pass||Estime||Mid Range L||17 Yard Gain|
|2:55||1st and 10||PITT 16||Play Action; Pass||Philips||Screen L||2 Yard Loss|
|2:31||2nd and 12||PITT 18||Pass||Estime||Short L||6 Yard Gain|
|2:01||3rd and 6||PITT 12||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen R||12 Yard Gain; TD|
Play-Call Breakdown: 15 passes, 8 runs
Mahoney’s first bad decision of the day (the interception thrown off his back foot) arguably puts the game away. Beyond that, however, there’s a lot to like — even if it takes Syracuse awhile to get going in this quarter. The runs are noticeably different all game, but especially here. They’re not necessarily dives. Rather, they’re almost counters, and that’s rarely more apparent than Moe Neal’s 42-yard score on a beautifully executed delayed handoff. Play-action works like a charm due to success running the ball, and by quarter’s end, you’re seeing some excellent runs after the catch (Ervin Philips) and some perfect throws on the run by Mahoney. Also, what was that weird play where the entire line played dead? (something the Cincinnati Bearcats did as well the day before)
|13:27||1st and 10||SYR 37||Run||Strickland||Off Tackle L||6 Yard Gain|
|12:55||2nd and 4||SYR 43||Run||Mahoney||Off Tackle L||7 Yard Gain|
|12:41||1st and 10||PITT 50||Run||Neal||Dive L||3 Yard Gain|
|12:27||2nd and 7||PITT 47||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Mahoney||End L||8 Yard Gain|
|11:57||1st and 10||PITT 39||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||12 Yard Gain|
|11:37||1st and 10||PITT 27||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||8 Yard Gain|
|11:24||2nd and 2||PITT 19||Run||Mahoney||Dive R||19 Yard Gain; TD|
|9:33||1st and 10||SYR 35||Pass||Ishmael||Short R||9 Yard Gain|
|9:02||2nd and 1||SYR 44||Run||Strickland||Dive R||2 Yard Gain|
|8:40||1st and 10||SYR 46||Run||Neal||Dive L||42 Yard Gain|
|8:12||1st and 10||PITT 12||Run||Neal||Dive L||2 Yard Gain|
|7:59||2nd and 8||PITT 10||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||3 Yard Gain|
|7:33||3rd and 5||PITT 7||Pass||Mahoney||Mid Range L||Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)|
|7:27||4th and 5||PITT 7||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Short L||7 Yard Gain; TD|
|4:57||1st and 10||SYR 31||Pass||Ishmael||Mid Range M||16 Yard Gain|
|4:41||1st and 10||SYR 47||Pass||Mahoney||Deep L||Incomplete|
|4:30||2nd and 10||SYR 47||Run||Strickland||Dive L||4 Yard Gain|
|4:11||3rd and 6||PITT 49||Run||Strickland||Dive L||0 Yard Gain|
|4:00||4th and 6||PITT 49||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||49 Yard Gain; TD|
|3:09||1st and 10||SYR 23||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Mahoney||End L||11 Yard Gain|
|2:47||1st and 10||SYR 34||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||6 Yard Gain|
|2:30||2nd and 4||SYR 40||Pass||Mahoney||Short L||Incomplete|
|2:23||3rd and 4||SYR 40||Pass; Sack||Mahoney||N/A||4 Yard Loss|
|1:50||4th and 8||SYR 36||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Mid Range L||22 Yard Gain|
|1:37||1st and 10||PITT 42||Pass||Mahoney||Deep L||Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)|
|1:29||2nd and 10||PITT 42||PENALTY (Offside)||Blair||N/A||5 Yard Gain|
|1:29||2nd and 5||PITT 37||Pass||Philips||Short M||11 Yard Gain|
|1:23||1st and 10||PITT 26||PENALTY (Roughing)||Blair||N/A||13 Yard Gain|
|1:14||1st and 10||PITT 13||Pass||Mahoney||Mid Range M||Incomplete (Philips)|
|1:10||2nd and 10||PITT 13||Pass||Mahoney||Short L||Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)|
|1:06||3rd and 10||PITT 13||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||13 Yard Gain; TD|
Play-Call Breakdown: 20 passes, 9 runs
The balance gets skewed by the clock-necessitated passing toward the end, but really this was a well-balanced and near-perfect quarter of Babers-branded football. Syracuse scores four TDs on four drives, finds itself in perpetual motion and is going as fast as it possibly can — with great success on nearly every play. Strickland’s speed is apparent in the run game, and Pitt’s front can’t even stop him. Babers sees a play works on drive 14, so he just goes and uses it again the very next snap. At one point, Mahoney has 12 consecutive completions (!!!). This is everything this offense is supposed to be. And maybe more.
- Overall play-calling breakdown: 69 called passes vs. 37 called runs. (/lights cigarette)
- First half play-calling: 34 passes vs. 20 runs (35:17 in second half)
- First downs: 38 total (20 passing, 15 rushing, 3 penalty; 9:1:3 last week)
- First down play selection: 31 called passes, 16 called runs (15:12 last week)
- First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 22 called passes, 10 called runs (7:6 last week)
- First down plays for five or more yards: 23, which i more than any other week and more than the last three weeks combined.
- Second down play selection: 18 called passes, 17 called runs (15:10 last week)
- Third down play selection: 16 called passes, 4 called runs (15:2 last week)
- Third down conversion: 9-for-20 (6 passes, 1 runs, 2 penalties; 3:0:1 last week)
- Fourth down conversion: 4-for-4 (0-for-2 last week)
- This week, 53 of Syracuse's 106 play calls (50 percent) took place in Pitt territory. That’s a great rate, and is even better when you consider how often Orange trips into Pitt territory resulted in point this week (nine out of 10 times).
- With the running game working as well as it has all year, play-action followed For Mahoney. He was 16-for-20, with 182 yards and three touchdowns coming out of play-action... which is phenomenal.
- 15+: 10 (16, 17, 19, 22, 25, 30, 41, 42, 42, 49)
- 25+: 6 (25, 30, 41, 42, 42, 49)
- 10-14: 10 (10, 11, 11, 11, 12, 12, 12, 12, 13, 13)
- Syracuse had 10 plays of 15 or more yards (only four last week vs. Florida State). Of those, six went for 25 yards or more — even better, several of those were rushes. Another 10 plays gained between 10 and 14 yards. Those 20 total plays accounted for 420 of the Orange near-record (school-wise) 668 yards from scrimmage. That means the other 86 plays averaged 2.35 yards per. That’s not amazing, though when you consider that 20 plays went for 10 or more, it’s more than inexcusable.
- Including penalties, 12 plays went for a loss. An additional four plays went for zero yards. So despite all of the positives above, there’s still room for even more gains.
- Syracuse was a stunning 7-for-7 in the red zone, reversing course on their continued woes inside the 20. While that didn’t do much to help their annual scoring percentage (still among the 30 worst in the country), their touchdown percentage of 67.57 was top-40.
- The Orange had three three-and-outs if you include the third down interception in the third quarter. That’s a lot of threes. Apologies in advance.
Running just 20 out of 106 plays on third down is actually a pretty big accomplishment considering the relative success (9-for-20) converting and high overall (38) first down mark. That means the Orange were doing a great job creating first down on first and second -- which becomes more apparent when you see the 23 first down play for five or more yards. Unlike they had all season, SU wasn’t creating many third-and-long situations for themselves.
The Orange ran for 228 yards against Pitt. That would be fantastic against any opponent given this offensive line’s struggles, but against the Panthers, it’s pretty stunning. Pittsburgh was a top-five unit against the run going into Saturday. They fell to ninth after SU averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 45 attempts.
Said it earlier, but it’s absolutely worth restating: this was the best the offense had looked all year. They were true to form to most of the concepts of Babers’s scheme, running the ball reasonably well, utilizing screens en masse and finding the occasional big play past the weak Pitt secondary too. Mahoney was a surprising conduit for this system reaching the best of its abilities, but the gameplan was tailored to both his and the offense’s strengths and it worked like gangbusters.
Syracuse finished the year with 971 plays from scrimmage. That puts them 110 beyond the pace of the next-best Syracuse team (2002).
Also, why not just run up some solid numbers like that at the end of every game this year? Babers largely went with clock-killing runs to finish off games in 2016. But what happened vs. Pitt was far more fun.
And if someone wants to frame that fourth quarter for me, go right ahead.
Anything else that caught your eye above, or from watching the game yourself? Go ahead and add below.