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

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There’s a LOT to digest here, as you might’ve figured...

NCAA Football: Louisville at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange went and tested their new-look offense out against some FBS competition last Friday. Only problem was, it was top-15 FBS competition that had an even better offense than they did. So while we can pull some takeaways together from this Louisville game, do remember that the circumstances of this game (down two scores or more for 57 minutes) were far from normal... hopefully.

You know how the score went, obviously. But how’d the offense perform overall? We dive in...

First Quarter

DRIVE 1




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:38 1st and 10 SYR 35 Pass Philips Short L 8 Yard Gain
14:19 2nd and 2 SYR 43 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 8 Yard Loss
13:35 3rd and 10 SYR 35 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)
DRIVE 2




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
12:07 1st and 10 SYR 26 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Gain
11:45 2nd and 9 SYR 27 Pass Strickland Screen R 2 Yard Gain
11:18 3rd and 7 SYR 29 Run Dungey Dive L 0 Yard Gain
DRIVE 3




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
10:10 1st and 10 SYR 25 Pass Dungey Short M Incomplete (Philips)
10:07 2nd and 10 SYR 25 Play Action; Pass Philips Mid Range L 7 Yard Gain
9:51 3rd and 3 SYR 32 Pass Etta-Tawo Mid Range L 6 Yard Gain
9:37 1st and 10 SYR 38 Run Neal Dive R 2 Yard Gain
9:11 2nd and 8 SYR 40 Run Neal Dive R 16 Yard Gain
9:53 1st and 10 LOU 44 Pass Estime Screen R 10 Yard Gain
8:36 1st and 10 LOU 34 Pass Ishmael Screen R 6 Yard Gain
8:20 2nd and 4 LOU 28 Run Neal Dive R 3 Yard Gain
8:03 3rd and 1 LOU 25 Run Dungey Dive R 3 Yard Gain
7:48 1st and 10 LOU 22 Pass Neal Screen R 5 Yard Gain
7:27 2nd and 5 LOU 17 Run Neal Dive R 2 Yard Gain
7:03 3rd and 3 LOU 15 Pass Estime Mid Range M 15 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 4




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:45 1st and 10 SYR 39 Play Action; Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Estime)
5:39 2nd and 10 SYR 39 Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete
5:33 3rd and 1 SYR 39 Pass Estime Short L 4 Yard Gain
DRIVE 5




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
4:06 1st and 10 SYR 16 Play Action; Run Dungey End L 5 Yard Gain
3:48 2nd and 5 SYR 21 Run Dungey Dive L 1 Yard Loss
3:18 3rd and 6 SYR 20 PENATLY (PASS INTEFERENCE) Wiggins N/A 15 Yard Gain
3:11 1st and 10 SYR 35 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Dive L 12 Yard Gain
2:56 1st and 10 SYR 47 Run Neal Dive L 0 Yard Gain
2:35 2nd and 10 SYR 47 Pass Dungey Screen L Incomplete ()
2:31 3rd and 10 SYR 47 Pass Dungey Mid Range L Incomplete (Neal)

Play-Call Breakdown: 17 passes, 10 runs

The rough start nearly sinks the team in the first quarter, as three-and-outs lead to more quick Louisville scores. Eric Dungey being under siege doesn’t help much, and would become a trend. Still, despite the failings of the first two drives, that third drive is a case study in what this offense is supposed to look like. Syracuse went 75 yards in 12 plays over three minutes, ending with a really nice touchdown by Brisly Estime. If Louisville hadn’t scored 28 points in the first quarter, you’d probably be pretty happy with this.

Second Quarter

DRIVE 6




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
15:00 1st and 10 SYR 25 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Loss
14:37 2nd and 11 SYR 24 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Gain
14:11 3rd and 10 SYR 25 Pass Strickland Screen R 18 Yard Gain
13:52 1st and 10 SYR 43 Run Strickland Dive R 3 Yard Gain
13:38 2nd and 7 SYR 46 Pass; Sack; Fumble Dungey N/A 18 Yard Loss
13:05 3rd and 25 SYR 28 Pass Dungey
Incomplete (Ishmael)
DRIVE 7




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
12:01 1st and 10 SYR 38 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete (Philips)
11:57 2nd and 10 SYR 38 Pass Dungey Short L Incomplete (Neal)
11:53 3rd and 10 SYR 38 Screen; Pass Etta-Tawo Deep L 23 Yard Pass
11:36 1st and 10 LOU 39 Pass Etta-Tawo Screen L 1 Yard Loss
11:17 2nd and 9 LOU 40 Pass Philips Mid Range L 22 Yard Gain
10:58 1st and 10 LOU 18 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Estime)
10:51 2nd and 10 LOU 18 Run Strickland Dive L 1 Yard Loss
10:20 3rd and 11 LOU 19 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Off Tackle L 8 Yard Gain
10:00 4th and 3 LOU 11 Pass Dungey
Incomplete (Philips)
DRIVE 8




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:41 1st and 10 SYR 47 PENALTY (FALSE START) Dungey N/A 5 Yard Loss
7:36 1st and 15 SYR 42 Run Dungey End L 2 Yard Gain
7:18 2nd and 13 SYR 44 Pass Dungey Mid Range L Incomplete (Neal)
7:13 3rd and 13 SYR 44 PENALTY (Offsides) Hearns N/A 5 Yard Gain
7:06 3rd and 8 SYR 49 Play Action; Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete (Ishmael)
DRIVE 9




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
3:18 1st and 10 SYR 21 Pass Ishmael Mid Range R 32 Yard Gain
2:55 1st and 10 LOU 47 Pass Etta-Tawo Deep M 47 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 10




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:15 1st and 10 SYR 32 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Fields N/A 15 Yard Gain
2:08 1st and 10 SYR 47 Pass Philips Short M 8 Yard Gain
1:48 2nd and 2 LOU 45 Pass Etta-Tawo Short L 10 Yard Gain
1:42 1st and 10 LOU 35 Pass Dungey Deep M Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)
1:38 2nd and 10 LOU 35 Play Action; Pass Philips Screen L 2 Yard Gain
1:34 3rd and 8 LOU 33 Run Strickland Dive L 13 Yard Gain
1:22 1st and 10 LOU 20 Play Action; Pass Etta-Tawo Screen L 5 Yard Gain
1:17 2nd and 5 LOU 15 Play Action; Pass Dungey Mid Range L Incomplete (Philips)
1:14 3rd and 5 LOU 15 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Off Tackle L 10 Yard Gain
1:00 1st and Goal LOU 5 Run Philips Dive L 1 Yard Gain
0:48 2nd and Goal LOU 4 Pass Dungey Short L Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)
0:44 3rd and Goal LOU 4 Pass Dungey Short L 4 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 11




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:02 1st and 10 LOU 38 Field Goal Murphy N/A Field Goal is No Good

Play-Call Breakdown: 24 passes, 7 runs

As the game continued to hover between two and three touchdowns, the balance of the Orange offense obviously skewed even further toward the pass. Still, it worked really well for much of the second quarter. One drive stalled inside the 20 when SU elected to go for it. But the final two full drives (long field goal attempt aside) were frighteningly efficient. The ball Dungey threw to Amba Etta-Tawo on that long TD pass was gorgeous, as were the Maryland transfer’s own moves after the catch. I personally enjoyed the game’s third touchdown drive so much I watched it twice. Part of me wonders if they should’ve just tossed it up on the final play... but can’t cast too much doubt on the decision for a long field goal.

Third Quarter

DRIVE 12




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:52 1st and 10 SYR 21 Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete (Philips)
14:45 2nd and 10 SYR 21 Pass Dungey Deep M Incomplete (Estime)
14:38 3rd and 10 SYR 21 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete
DRIVE 13




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
12:12 1st and 10 SYR 21 Pass Dungey Short M Incomplete (Philips)
12:09 2nd and 10 SYR 21 PENALTY (FALSE START) Lasker N/A 5 Yard Loss
12:08 2nd and 15 SYR 16 Run Neal Off Tackle R 9 Yard Gain
11:52 3rd and 6 SYR 25 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Estime)
DRIVE 14




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
10:47 1st and 10 SYR 24 Run Neal Dive R 1 Yard Loss
10:23 2nd and 11 SYR 23 Run Neal Dive R 0 Yard Gain
9:48 3rd and 11 SYR 23 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Smith Deep R 15 Yard Gain
9:41 1st and 10 SYR 38 Run Dungey Dive R 1 Yard Loss
9:19 2nd and 11 SYR 37 Play Action; Pass Ishmael Mid Range R 18 Yard Gain
9:02 1st and 10 LOU 45 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey End L 17 Yard Gain
8:42 1st and 10 LOU 28 Pass Etta-Tawo Screen L 9 Yard Gain
8:28 2nd and 1 LOU 19 Pass Philips Screen L 5 Yard Gain
8:13 1st and 10 LOU 14 Pass Dungey Screen L Incomplete (Philips)
8:09 2nd and 10 LOU 14 Run Strickland Dive L 9 Yard Gain
7:26 3rd and 1 LOU 5 PENALTY (Illegal Formation) Dungey N/A 5 Yard Loss
7:07 3rd and 6 LOU 10 Play Action; Run Dungey Dive L 9 Yard Gain
6:52 1st and Goal LOU 1 Run Dungey Dive L 1 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 15




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
4:12 1st and 10 SYR 20 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)
4:05 2nd and 10 SYR 20 Play Action; Pass Ishmael Short L 9 Yard Gain
3:49 3rd and 1 SYR 29 Play Action; Pass; Sack Dungey Short L 12 Yard Loss

Play-Call Breakdown: 13 passes, 7 runs

Syracuse wasn’t dead after stalling quickly on the first two drives of the half, but truthfully, it really did them zero favors and ultimately helped bring this one to an early close. Drive 14 was enjoyable and fairly balanced -- two things that seem to go hand-in-hand in Dino Babers’s scheme. This is where the constant pressure starts to disrupt Dungey too much, though not enough to completely derail the offense... yet.

Fourth Quarter

DRIVE 16




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
13:08 1st and 10 SYR 20 Pass MacPherson Short R 3 Yard Gain
12:46 2nd and 7 SYR 23 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 8 Yard Loss
12:11 3rd and 15 SYR 15 Pass Dungey Short M Incomplete (Estime)
DRIVE 17




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
10:11 1st and 10 SYR 23 Pass MacPherson Short L 1 Yard Gain
9:46 2nd and 9 SYR 24 Run Strickland Dive L 3 Yard Gain
9:20 3rd and 6 SYR 27 Pass Dungey Deep L Interception
DRIVE 18




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
8:48 1st and 10 SYR 21 Run Neal Dive L 1 Yard Loss
8:20 2nd and 11 SYR 20 Run Neal Off Tackle L 9 Yard Gain
8:01 3rd and 2 SYR 29 Run Neal Dive R 2 Yard Gain
7:45 1st and 10 SYR 31 Run Neal Dive R 1 Yard Loss; Fumble
DRIVE 19




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:23 1st and 10 SYR 23 Run Fredericks End R 3 Yard Gain
7:00 2nd and 7 SYR 26 Run Fredericks Dive R 1 Yard Gain
6:17 3rd and 6 SYR 27 Pass Dungey Mid Range R Incomplete (Fredericks)
DRIVE 20




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:26 1st and 10 SYR 7 Run Fredericks Counter R 29 Yard Gain
0:13 1st and 10 SYR 36 Run Moore End L 15 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 9 runs, 6 passes

You might as well throw out this quarter, since the gameplan shifted to simply kill the clock after the 17th (!!!) drive. A lot of SU’s rushing yards on the game were racked up here, and it was sort of surprising to see Babers sort of coast to the finish when the team could’ve conceivably worked on some things and maybe put up another touchdown or two. Still, prefer this to risking players’ health on needless comeback attempts, so I’m fine with it.

***

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 60 called passes vs. 33 called runs. Ummm, 93 goddamn plays on 20 drives?! I don’t care how long this takes to recap. Sign me up for more (on the plays front, not the drives).
  • First half play-calling: 41 passes vs. 17 runs (19:16 in second half)
  • First downs: 24 total (11 passing, 11 rushing, 3 penalty; 18:5:2 last week)
  • First down play selection: 23 called passes, 15 called runs (20:14 last week)
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 14 called passes, 10 called runs (15:10 last week)
  • First down plays for five or more yards: 13 — down from 14 last week, and two of this week’s 13 were in garbage time (the final two plays from scrimmage).
  • Second down play selection: 19 called passes, 11 called runs (17:9 last week)
  • Third down play selection: 18 called passes; 5 called runs (14:4 last week)
  • Third down conversion: 10-for-23 (5 runs, 3 passes, 2 penalties; 3:5:0 last week)
  • Fourth down conversion: 0-for-1 (3-for-3 last week)
  • Just 31 of Syracuse's 93 play calls (33 percent) took place in Louisville territory, and only seven of those were in the second half. That was certainly PART of the problem on Friday...
  • Play action was not used as much this time around, and also wasn’t as effective. Dungey was just 5-for-7 for 41 yards, plus another play where he lost eight yards on a sack out of play action. Last week, he was 9-for-10 for 204 yards and a touchdown. Part of this disparity from week to week is that SU trailed the entire game, making it harder to sell the run.
  • Syracuse had 11 plays of 15 or more yards (eight last week). Just three of those went for over 25 yards, however (vs. seven such plays vs. Colgate). Another five played gained between 10 and 14 yards. Those 16 plays accounted for 277 of the Orange’s 414 yards from scrimmage, meaning that the other 77 plays averaged less than 1.8 yards per. That’s not great.
  • Including penalties, 15 plays went for a loss for the second straight week. Dungey was pressured pretty heavily and that resulted in an uptick in sacks -- many of which lost not just a handful of yards at a clip, but quite a few (most between eight and 18).
  • Syracuse was three-for-four in the red zone with three touchdowns. That’s a nice improvement after going four-for-four, but with three field goals last week. The only reason they didn’t stay perfect was because they opted to forego kicking a field goal while down 21. I have no qualms with this tact.
  • Six Orange drives ended in three-and-outs, and another ended in an interception after three plays. That’s all pretty bad and another contributor to how and why Louisville was able to jump on Syracuse so damn quickly. If you’re not moving the ball in a hurry-up offense, you’re just handing the ball back to the opposition with just a few seconds elapsed.

Syracuse’s inability to run the ball against Colgate seemed worrisome, and that proved even more true against Louisville. Without any fear of the run, the Cardinals were able to dial up blitzes at will to stop the Orange’s one-dimensional attack. When you remove the 44 yards picked up on the final two garbage time plays, SU averaged less than two yards per carry on the game. That’s not sustainable in that it encourages blitzing, allows the opposition to sit back and defend the pass, and also hurts the effectiveness of play-action.

After utilizing the right side of the field for deep balls last week, Dungey switched course and leaned heavily on the left. In general, the team’s passing game seemed to lean heavily on the left side of the line, which could’ve been a shift based on that side’s strength. The screen to the left did seem to be available often enough that Dungey could just keep going to it.

With the diminished targets in the middle distances, and a heavy reliance on screens and deep throws in this game, it’s no wonder Steve Ishmael was barely involved. While he can run deep routes and operate in a slot-type role if necessary, Ishmael does excel most in the intermediate routes, which can take some more time to develop. Without time to throw, Dungey won’t be able to look his way as much, which is a crime.

Other than that one nice-looking wide receiver pass from Estime to Etta-Tawo, I can’t say the playbook looked a WHOLE lot different from what was trotted out against Colgate. After the team talked about holding back some key elements vs. the Raiders, it seemed like we’d see several new complexities added. Can’t say we saw a TON of that — though again, tougher to judge when the team was in desperation/comeback mode pretty much the entire game.

***

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