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Three things we learned from Syracuse’s 45-20 loss to USF

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NCAA Football: South Florida at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange (1-2) dropped their second straight game Saturday, falling to USF (3-0) by a score 45-20. Despite the Orange suffering their second straight blowout loss, there are still valuable lessons we can learn.

Here are three important things we can take away from Saturday’s game.

Down Goes Dungey

No, don’t worry, Eric Dungey didn’t literally go down with an injury (although that seems to be a scary trend these days), but the Orange quarterback did take a big hit in terms of his development as a passer.

After looking brilliant against Colgate, and admirable against Louisville, Dungey looked downright mediocre – at-best – against the Bulls Saturday.

The sophomore quarterback finished 32 for 48 for 350 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. However, that stat line is extremely misleading. Dungey was erratic from the start, with many of his passes sailing multiple feet above his wide receivers’ heads.

In addition, Dungey received plenty of help from the USF defense, as the young quarterback had at least three potential interceptions dropped by a Bulls defender, and one more erased thanks to a roughing the passer penalty.

Contain What?

After being gashed for 414 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground against Louisville last week, Syracuse decided to make a slight change to their defensive scheme, spreading their defensive line and having defensive ends Chris Slayton and Kendall Coleman line up further outside, in an attempt to limit USF’s rushing attack.

The result, however, was the exact opposite.

The Bulls had little-to-no trouble running the football for the majority of the game, finishing with 239 rushing yards. Four of USF’s five offensive touchdowns came on the ground – including a devastating 52-yard scamper by Marlon Mack on fourth down to put the Bulls up 35-20 to close out the third quarter, after Syracuse had made it to a one-score game just three minutes prior.

Mack finished the game with 115 rushing yards on just nine carries.

In addition, while Syracuse was able to get some pressure on USF quarterback Quinton Flowers early in the game with their “new” defensive line formation, they had trouble getting to the dual-threat quarterback after the first quarter, a key factor which led to USF scoring 28 straight points to close out the first half.

Run This Town Tonight For a Half

After averaging just 3.1 yards-per-carry in Syracuse’s first two games (2.5 if you take out Moe Neal’s 49-yard run against Colgate), Orange coach Dino Babers said his team needed to improve their rushing attack, specifically saying the offensive line had to execute their run-blocking better.

“We need to be able to find ways to run the football,” Babers said. “There were certain looks during the game (against Louisville) where we could have ran the ball better than we did, and we didn’t execute.”

Despite playing without starting center Jason Emerich, the Orange did just that – well, for the first half at least.

Syracuse began their opening drive with two straight Dontae Strickland runs, a foreshadowing of things to come, as Strickland would carry it 24 times for 108 yards in just the first half to help Syracuse jump out to an early 17-0 lead, before watching USF pull ahead 28-17 at halftime.

“I have to give a lot of credit to my offensive line,” Strickland said after the game. “Blocking schemes and play calling was awesome today. Just all the credit goes to my offensive line.”

While Syracuse would (once again) struggle running the ball in the second half, and turn to the air, they still finished the game with 199 rushing yards, a season-high for the Orange.

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What did you learn from Saturday’s blowout loss? Leave a comment below.