clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Syracuse football: Breaking down offensive play-calling vs. Clemson

New, 1 comment

Sorry...

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Some tried to convince me not to do one of these this week. The Syracuse Orange lost Eric Dungey in the first quarter on Saturday, and from there, it all rolled downhill. They lost to the Clemson Tigers 54-0 in a game that was not enjoyable to watch. It also failed to be all that educational about this offense, as I mentioned post-game.

Austin Wilson simply doesn’t have the same skill set as Dungey, and the difference in execution was stark. Still, since we’re unsure about Dungey’s status, it’s worth taking a look at what happened in the loss, before we bury this one next to the 2013 Georgia Tech game and never speak of it again.

First Quarter

DRIVE 1




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:55 1st and 10 SYR 22 Pass Dungey Short M Incomplete (Philips)
14:53 2nd and 10 SYR 22 Pass Philips Screen L 4 Yard Gain
14:09 3rd and 6 SYR 26 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 5 Yard Loss
DRIVE 2




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:18 1st and 10 SYR 39 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete
9:16 2nd and 10 SYR 39 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Dive L 3 Yard Gain
8:50 3rd and 7 SYR 42 Play Action; Pass Etta-Tawo Short L 9 Yard Gain
8:44 1st and 10 CLEM 49 PENALTY (Illegal Block) Ishmael N/A 10 Yard Loss
8:12 1st and 20 SYR 41 PENALTY (Delay of Game) Dungey N/A 5 Yard Loss
8:02 1st and 25 SYR 36 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Dive R 0 Yard Gain
7:33 2nd and 25 SYR 36 Pass Strickland Screen R 9 Yard Gain
7:16 3rd and 16 SYR 45 Pass Philips Screen R 7 Yard Gain
6:58 4th and 9 CLEM 48 Pass Philips Short R 7 Yard Gain
DRIVE 3




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
4:51 1st and 10 SYR 26 Play Action; Pass Dungey Mid Range R Interception
DRIVE 4




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
3:44 1st and 10 SYR 11 Pass Estime Screen R 12 Yard Gain
3:24 1st and 10 SYR 23 Run Dungey Dive L 6 Yard Gain
3:04 2nd and 4 SYR 29 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Gain
2:24 3rd and 3 SYR 30 Pass Strickland Short R 6 Yard Gain
2:01 1st and 10 SYR 36 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Boulware N/A 15 Yard Gain
1:54 1st and 10 CLEM 49 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Gain
1:31 2nd and 9 CLEM 48 Play Action; Pass Etta-Tawo Mid Range M 18 Yard Gain
1:24 1st and 10 CLEM 30 PENALTY (Illegal Form.) Philips N/A 5 Yard Loss
0:55 1st and 15 CLEM 35 PENALTY (False Start) MacPherson N/A 5 Yard Loss
0:38 1st and 20 CLEM 40 Pass Wilson Short R Incomplete (Ishmael)
0:34 2nd and 20 CLEM 40 Pass Strickland Screen R 2 Yard Loss

Play-Call Breakdown: 16 passes, 3 runs

The unlucky 13th play of the quarter was the first called run — the one, of course, that would end up knocking Dungey out for the game. Clemson sets their gameplan up right from the beginning, and it works extremely well: use their defensive ends to cover screens, and generate pressure from the interior. Without screens, Syracuse’s go-to first down play’s toast, as is their offensive rhythm. Clemson’s among the few teams with the talent to do pull this maneuver off, however.

Second Quarter

Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
15:00 3rd and 22 CLEM 42 Play Action; Pass Wilson Mid Range R Incomplete (Estime)
DRIVE 5




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:06 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Neal Dive R 6 Yard Gain
13:46 2nd and 4 SYR 31 Run Neal Dive L 3 Yard Gain
13:31 3rd and 1 SYR 34 Pass Philips Screen R 11 Yard Gain
13:18 1st and 10 SYR 45 Play Action; Pass Wilson Short L Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)
13:10 2nd and 10 SYR 45 Run Neal Dive R 3 Yard Gain
12:34 3rd and 7 SYR 48 PENALTY (Int. Grounding) Wilson N/A 7 Yard Loss
DRIVE 6




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:04 1st and 10 CLEM 32 Run Strickland Dive R 3 Yard Gain
6:41 2nd and 8 CLEM 29 Play Action; Pass Wilson Mid Range L Interception
DRIVE 7




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
1:22 1st and 10 SYR 20 Pass Riley Short L 3 Yard Gain
1:08 2nd and 7 SYR 23 Pass Etta-Tawo Screen L 5 Yard Gain
1:03 3rd and 2 SYR 28 Pass Etta-Tawo Screen L 3 Yard Gain
1:00 1st and 10 SYR 31 Pass Wilson Short L Incomplete (Philips)
0:57 2nd and 10 SYR 31 Pass Wilson Short M Incomplete (Philips)
0:53 3rd and 10 SYR 31 Pass Strickland Short L 4 Yard Gain
DRIVE 8




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:03 1st and 10 SYR 23 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 10 passes, 5 runs

Once Austin Wilson enters the game late in the first quarter, the offense gets hyper-simplified. Clemson doesn’t need to spy the QB since Wilson’s not very mobile, and also lacks the accuracy of Dungey. The lack of nuance is SU’s offensive death knell by the second quarter. Without some of the small things Dungey does well, the Tigers are happy to just generate light pressure and let Wilson complete three-yard balls to heavily covered receivers. Also, the pick on drive six could not have been more telegraphed. Ugh.

Third Quarter

DRIVE 9




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
12:02 1st and 10 SYR 20 Run Strickland Dive R 4 Yard Gain
11:42 2nd and 6 SYR 24 Pass Etta-Tawo Short L 6 Yard Gain
11:36 1st and 10 SYR 30 Pass Philips Screen L 4 Yard Gain
11:14 2nd and 6 SYR 34 Pass Etta-Tawo Short L 17 Yard Gain
11:02 1st and 10 CLEM 49 Pass Wilson Mid Range L Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)
10:57 2nd and 10 CLEM 49 Run Strickland Dive R 2 Yard Gain
10:24 3rd and 8 CLEM 47 Pass Wilson Short L Incomplete (Strickland)
DRIVE 10




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:24 1st and 10 SYR 20 Run Neal Dive L 49 Yard Gain
7:09 1st and 10 CLEM 30 Run Neal End L 4 Yard Gain
6:48 2nd and 6 CLEM 26 Pass Philips Short L 8 Yard Gain
6:32 1st and 10 CLEM 18 Play Action; Pass Philips Short M 3 Yard Gain
6:05 2nd and 7 CLEM 15 Run Neal End L 3 Yard Loss
5:17 3rd and 10 CLEM 18 Pass Philips Screen R 4 Yard Gain
4:35 4th and 6 CLEM 14 Field Goal Murphy N/A FG is No Good
DRIVE 11




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
1:20 1st and 10 SYR 19 Play Action; Pass Etta-Tawo Short L 5 Yard Gain
0:55 2nd and 5 SYR 24 Pass Wilson Short R Incomplete
0:50 3rd and 5 SYR 24 Pass Etta-Tawo Short M 1 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 11 passes, 5 runs

With the run going nowhere and the Clemson lead mounting, Syracuse throws quite a bit. Unfortunately, Wilson has no one deep options to throw to, so we’re left with perpetual short passes. SU was actually in Tigers territory twice in this quarter, yet came away with zero points due to telegraphed passes, limited play selection and another missed Cole Murphy field goal (we’ll get to that in a separate piece).

Fourth Quarter

DRIVE 12




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
11:35 1st and 10 SYR 17 Run Neal Dive L 2 Yard Gain
11:13 2nd and 8 SYR 19 PENALTY (False Start) Adams N/A 5 Yard Loss
11:03 2nd and 13 SYR 14 Run Fredericks Dive R 13 Yard Gain
10:42 1st and 10 SYR 27 Run Fredericks Dive R 4 Yard Gain
10:17 2nd and 6 SYR 31 PENALTY (False Start) Philips N/A 5 Yard Loss
9:58 2nd and 11 SYR 26 Run Fredericks Dive R 2 Yard Gain
9:12 3rd and 9 SYR 28 Run Fredericks Dive R 8 Yard Gain
8:45 4th and 1 SYR 36 Run Fredericks Dive L 2 Yard Gain
8:12 1st and 10 SYR 38 Play Action; Pass Etta-Tawo Deep L 20 Yard Gain
7:54 1st and 10 CLEM 42 Pass Wilson Short M Interception
DRIVE 13




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:34 1st and 10 SYR 19 Run Fredericks Off Tackle R 4 Yard Loss
6:48 2nd and 14 SYR 15 Play Action; Pass Riley Screen L 8 Yard Gain
6:10 3rd and 6 SYR 23 Run Mahoney Off Tackle R 10 Yard Gain
5:22 1st and 10 SYR 33 Run Fredericks Dive R 1 Yard Loss
4:35 2nd and 11 SYR 32 Play Action; Pass Mahoney Mid Range R Incomplete
4:27 3rd and 11 SYR 32 Pass Mahoney Short L Incomplete (Riley)
DRIVE 14




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:38 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Fredericks Off Tackle R 2 Yard Gain
1:54 2nd and 8 SYR 27 Run Fredericks Dive R 4 Yard Loss
1:12 3rd and 12 SYR 23 Play Action; Pass Mahoney Short R Incomplete (Avant)

Play-Call Breakdown: 11 runs, 6 passes

Dino Babers knows when to just start running the ball to get his guys out injury-free (if possible), and this game was no different. Some points would’ve been nice, but after the pick-six early in the quarter, it’s an easy case to make that running was the most prudent option. Unfortunately Moe Neal got hurt in the process of that. Mahoney getting some work was probably for the best, given the uncertainty about Dungey too.

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 43 called passes vs. 24 called runs. This makes a lot of sense playing for behind the entire time.
  • First half play-calling: 26 passes vs. 8 runs (17:16 in second half)
  • First downs: 15 total (9 passing, 5 rushing, 1 penalty; 14:16:3 last week)
  • First down play selection: 16 called passes, 13 called runs (18:15 last week)
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 10 called passes, 5 called runs (12:11 last week)
  • First down plays for five or more yards: six, which is the season’s lowest mark by a very long shot (11 was the previous low).
  • Second down play selection: 14 called passes, 8 called runs (17:9 last week)
  • Third down play selection: 14 called passes, 2 called runs (10:4 last week)
  • Third down conversion: 5-for-16 (4 passes, 1 runs, 0 penalty; 3:2:1 last week)
  • Fourth down conversion: 1-for-2 (0-for-0 last week)
  • This week, 17 of Syracuse's 67 play calls (25 percent) took place in Clemson territory. That’s well under the season average, and a big reason why they only really sniffed the end zone once on Saturday.
  • Play-action was up this week, despite minimal use of the run game until the fourth quarter. SU’s three quarterbacks for 6-for-12 for 63 yards out of play action, but to the tune of two interceptions as well.
  • Syracuse had four plays of 15 or more yards (10 last week vs. Boston College). Of those, just one went for 49 yards or more (they had five vs, BC). Another four plays gained between 10 and 14 yards. Those eight total plays accounted for 150 of the Orange’s miserable 277 yards from scrimmage. That means the other 59 plays averaged just 2.15 yards per. That’s bad, and also indicative of just how little explosiveness the Orange had vs. Clemson.
  • Including penalties, 13 plays went for a loss. And another went for zero yards. That’s a whole lot of moving backwards.
  • Syracuse was 0-for-1 in the red zone, with the Murphy missed field goal being their most legitimate shot to score close to the goal line.
  • Just three three-and-outs, but another three drives were killed off quickly by turnovers (and another ended by the half after one play). So despite having 14 possessions, only seven of them lasted more than three plays.

We mentioned this during and after the game, but this game proved that while Babers’s system is effective, it’s not as much so without a capable passer. Seeing how limited Wilson was within the scheme is a testament to how far Dungey’s progressed running the offense and the nuances in his game that allow him to continue to excel. His threat to run, ability to fit passes into tight windows, and quality deep ball are all difference-makers Wilson couldn’t begin to replicate.

While the Tigers’ athletes are better than nearly every opponents’ (Florida State aside) we’ll face all year, they did create a bit of a blueprint to shutting down the Orange offense. Using fast defensive ends to cover receivers close to the line of scrimmage is a risk unless you have skill players in the middle to continue generating a pass rush. With interior defenders like Carlos Watkins, it’s very feasible to disrupt SU like this. The ‘Noles will have surely taken note.

Whether by design or not, the team does tend to lean heavily on one side of the field, then another when it comes to the passing game. SU started out passing almost exclusively to the right side, then switched to the left for much of the second half. Clemson didn’t necessarily read it, as much as shut down the majority of the offense anyway. Patterns like this do emerge in most Orange games, and it would be interesting to know if it was by design or just a coincidence.

If Dungey’s not back this Saturday, we’re sort of screwed, FYI.

***

Anything else that caught your eye above, or from watching the game yourself? Go ahead and add below.