clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

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

New, 22 comments

There were oddities, but also plenty of execution, too.

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

The Syracuse Orange lost another tough game on Saturday, this time to the USF Bulls by a score of 45-20. Due to the fact that Syracuse was up 17-0 in the first quarter of this game, we all took it pretty hard. After rewatching the game last night, there were actually a lot more positive than we were originally willing to admit. Don’t believe me? Let’s dive into some play-calling:

First Quarter

DRIVE 1




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:55 1st and 10 SYR 21 Run Strickland Dive L 8 Yard Gain
14:37 2nd and 2 SYR 29 Run Strickland Dive L 7 Yard Gain
14:21 1st and 10 SYR 36 Play Action; Pass Dungey Mid Range M Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)
14:16 2nd and 10 SYR 36 Play Action; Pass Dungey Screen L Incomplete (Estime)
14:12 3rd and 10 SYR 36 Pass Strickland Short M 9 Yard Gain
13:52 4th and 1 SYR 45 Run Dungey Dive L 1 Yard Gain
13:48 1st and 10 SYR 46 Run Strickland Dive R 2 Yard Gain
13:24 2nd and 8 SYR 48 Run Strickland Dive R 10 Yard Gain
13:04 1st and 10 USF 42 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Gain
12:40 2nd and 9 USF 41 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Gain
12:18 3rd and 8 USF 40 PENALTY (False Start) Estime N/A 5 Yard Loss
11:58 3rd and 13 USF 45 PENALTY (Pass Interference) Godwin Deep R 15 Yard Gain
11:51 1st and 10 USF 30 Run Strickland End L 4 Yard Gain
11:30 2nd and 6 USF 26 Pass Etta-Tawo Screen L 4 Yard Gain
11:10 3rd and 2 USF 22 Run Strickland End L 3 Yard Gain
10:43 1st and 10 USF 19 Play Action; Pass Dungey Mid Range L Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)
10:39 2nd and 10 USF 19 Play Action; Run Dungey End L 5 Yard Loss
10:07 3rd and 15 USF 24 Play Action; Pass Philips Deep M 24 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 2




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
8:46 1st and 10 SYR 8 Run Strickland Dive R 3 Yard Gain
8:27 2nd and 7 SYR 11 Play Action; Pass Etta-Tawo Short L 8 Yard Gain
8:10 1st and 10 SYR 19 Play Action; Pass Etta-Tawo Screen L 0 Yard Gain
7:36 2nd and 10 SYR 19 Run Strickland End R 4 Yard Gain
7:10 3rd and 6 SYR 23 Pass Etta-Tawo Deep L 30 Yard Gain
6:48 1st and 10 USF 47 Pass Estime Deep M 47 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 3




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
4:13 1st and 10 SYR 24 Run Strickland Dive R 4 Yard Gain
3:52 2nd and 6 SYR 28 Run Strickland Dive R 19 Yard Gain
3:36 1st and 10 SYR 47 Run Strickland Dive R 6 Yard Gain
3:13 2nd and 4 USF 47 Run Strickland Dive L 0 Yard Gain
2:55 3rd and 4 USF 47 Pass Dungey Short L Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)
2:49 4th and 4 USF 47 Pass Philips Short M 7 Yard Gain
2:33 1st and 10 USF 40 Pass Estime Screen L 8 Yard Gain
2:06 2nd and 2 USF 32 Run Strickland Dive R 3 Yard Gain
1:51 1st and 10 USF 29 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Off Tackle L 4 Yard Gain
1:26 2nd and 6 USF 25 Play Action; Pass Estime Screen L 1 Yard Gain
1:06 3rd and 5 USF 24 Run Neal End R 1 Yard Gain
0:36 4th and 4 USF 23 Field Goal Murphy N/A Field Goal is Good

Play-Call Breakdown: 18 runs, 15 passes

The Orange ran the ball poorly for two straight games, so in this game they came out of the gate trying to rectify that. Dontae Strickland ran the ball well enough to keep it moving in this quarter (15 carries for 75 yards) and the balanced attacked did seem to work. Syracuse scoring 17 points on three drives was a nice step toward imposing their will in this one – further assisted by the defense shutting out USF. The offense truly looked like a Dino Babers team, with the incessant running setting up two big passing touchdowns.

Second Quarter

DRIVE 4




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:22 1st and 10 SYR 19 Run Strickland Counter L 9 Yard Gain
14:00 2nd and 1 SYR 28 Run Dungey Dive R 2 Yard Gain
13:44 1st and 10 SYR 30 Run Strickland Dive R 0 Yard Gain
13:19 2nd and 10 SYR 30 Run Strickland End L 6 Yard Gain
12:49 3rd and 4 SYR 36 Pass Philips Screen R 5 Yard Gain
12:27 1st and 10 SYR 41 Run Strickland Dive R 3 Yard Gain
12:11 2nd and 7 SYR 44 Run Strickland End R 3 Yard Gain
11:48 3rd and 4 SYR 47 Run Neal Dive R 0 Yard Gain
11:07 4th and 4 SYR 47 Play Action; Pass Dungey Mid Range M Incomplete (Ishmael)
DRIVE 5




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:19 1st and 10 SYR 21 Run Neal Off Tackle L 2 Yard Gain
8:59 2nd and 8 SYR 23 Pass Philips Mid Range R 14 Yard Gain
8:44 1st and 10 SYR 37 Pass Dungey Short L Incomplete (Philips)
8:41 2nd and 10 SYR 37 PENALTY (FALSE START) Byrne N/A 5 Yard Loss
8:41 2nd and 15 SYR 32 Play Action; Pass Etta-Tawo Mid Range L 40 Yard Gain
8:30 1st and 10 USF 28 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Estime N/A 15 Yard Loss
8:13 1st and 10 USF 43 PENALTY (FALSE START) Neal N/A 5 Yard Loss
7:56 1st and 15 USF 48 Pass Dungey Deep L Interception
DRIVE 6




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:04 1st and 10 SYR 10 Pass Philips Short R 5 Yard Gain
6:39 2nd and 5 SYR 15 Play Action; Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Butler)
6:33 3rd and 5 SYR 15 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 8 Yard Loss
DRIVE 7




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
4:37 1st and 10 SYR 41 Run Strickland Dive L 2 Yard Gain
4:18 2nd and 8 SYR 43 Run Strickland Dive L 4 Yard Gain
3:59 3rd and 4 SYR 47 Pass Estime Screen L 4 Yard Gain
3:45 1st and 10 USF 49 Run Strickland Dive L 1 Yard Gain
3:23 2nd and 9 USF 48 Run Dungey Off Tackle L 2 Yard Gain
2:58 3rd and 7 USF 46 Run Dungey End L 2 Yard Gain
DRIVE 8




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:37 1st and 10 SYR 25 Play Action; Pass Estime Mid Range R 15 Yard Gain
0:30 1st and 10 SYR 40 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Bronson N/A 15 Yard Gain
0:26 1st and 10 USF 45 Run Strickland Dive R 5 Yard Gain
0:22 2nd and 5 USF 40 Pass Dungey Short M Incomplete (Philips)
0:18 3rd and 5 USF 40 Lateral; Pass Neal Deep L Incomplete (Dungey)
0:11 4th and 5 USF 40 Pass Philips Mid Range L 13 Yard Gain; Fumble

Play-Call Breakdown: 14 runs, 14 passes

Drive four is the team’s first full drive without Jason Emerich, and as a result, SU leans pretty heavy on the right side in the fourth drive (earlier version accidentally notated an Emerich injury in-game). It’s sniffed out by the Bulls on that drive, ultimately derailed the Orange near midfield. The fifth drive is an absolute backbreaker, with two penalties stopping what could’ve been easy points. Brisly Estime, in particular, moves SU back just outside the red zone to barely inside mid field before another penalty and a pick alter the course of this game. USF scored 28 points in the second quarter. SU easily could’ve scored 10 or more to keep pace. They just didn’t.

Third Quarter

DRIVE 9




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
13:51 1st and 10 SYR 13 Run Strickland Dive L 3 Yard Gain
13:29 2nd and 7 SYR 16 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Dive L 3 Yard Gain
13:08 3rd and 4 SYR 19 Pass Strickland Screen R 5 Yard Gain
12:49 1st and 10 SYR 24 Play Action; Pass Dungey Mid Range L Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)
12:44 2nd and 10 SYR 24 Run Dungey End R 7 Yard Gain
12:29 3rd and 3 SYR 31 Pass Philips Mid Range R 9 Yard Gain
12:10 1st and 10 SYR 40 Run Strickland Dive R 3 Yard Gain
11:50 2nd and 7 SYR 43 Pass Philips Screen R 3 Yard Gain
11:33 3rd and 4 SYR 46 Pass Ishmael Screen R 8 Yard Gain
11:12 1st and 10 USF 46 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete (Strickland)
11:06 2nd and 10 USF 46 Pass Dungey Short L Incomplete (Strickland)
11:00 3rd and 10 USF 46 Play Action; Pass Etta-Tawo Mid Range L 9 Yard Gain
10:30 4th and 1 USF 37 Run Strickland Dive L 0 Yard Gain
DRIVE 10




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:18 1st and 10 SYR 11 Pass Philips Screen R 2 Yard Gain
8:49 2nd and 8 SYR 13 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Dive L 1 Yard Gain
8:23 3rd and 7 SYR 14 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey End R 7 Yard Gain
8:02 1st and 10 SYR 21 Pass Ishmael Screen R 5 Yard Gain
7:41 2nd and 5 SYR 26 Run Neal Dive L 4 Yard Gain
7:27 3rd and 1 SYR 30 Pass Strickland Screen R 3 Yard Gain
7:11 1st and 10 SYR 33 Run Strickland Dive L 10 Yard Gain
6:42 1st and 10 SYR 43 Run Strickland Dive L 0 Yard Gain
6:10 2nd and 10 SYR 43 Pass Etta-Tawo Short L 7 Yard Gain
5:42 3rd and 3 USF 50 Pass Philips Mid Range L 15 Yard Gain
5:19 1st and 10 USF 35 Run Strickland Dive L 4 Yard Gain
4:49 2nd and 6 USF 31 Run Neal End L 0 Yard Gain
4:20 3rd and 6 USF 31 Play Aciton; Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)
4:04 4th and 6 USF 31 Field Goal Murphy N/A Field Goal is Good
DRIVE 11




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:49 1st and 10 SYR 24 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete (Philips)
0:45 2nd and 10 SYR 24 Pass Estime Short R 5 Yard Gain
0:05 3rd and 5 SYR 29 Run Dungey Dive L 2 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 19 passes, 10 runs

Among the biggest issues I’ve noticed with Syracuse’s play-calling this year is how much it seems to lean into one side of the field for extended periods. This can be a great strategy when you’re moving the ball rapidly and repeatedly exploiting weaknesses in certain parts of the opposing defense. But when you’re not really getting those quality numbers to back up it, it allows the D to sniff out much of what you’re doing. The Orange were within 8 to 11 points for much of the third. Yet, some slightly telegraphed play-calling and a lot of hits on Eric Dungey really prevented them from getting any closer.

Fourth Quarter

DRIVE 12




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:35 1st and 10 SYR 30 PENALTY (Sub. Infraction) Estime N/A 5 Yard Loss
14:35 1st and 15 SYR 25 PENALTY (Holding) Roberts N/A 10 Yard Loss
14:23 1st and 25 SYR 15 Pass Neal Screen L 1 Yard Gain
13:58 2nd and 24 SYR 16 Pass Ishmael Mid Range R 17 Yard Gain
13:33 3rd and 7 SYR 33 Pass Etta-Tawo Mid Range M 25 Yard Gain
13:14 1st and 10 USF 42 Run Neal Dive L 5 Yard Gain
12:39 2nd and 5 USF 37 Pass Dungey Short R Interception
DRIVE 13




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
8:46 1st and 10 SYR 16 PENALTY (Roughing Passer) Bronson N/A 15 Yard Gain
8:34 1st and 10 SYR 31 Pass MacPherson Short L 4 Yard Gain
8:19 2nd and 6 SYR 35 Run Fredericks End L 17 Yard Gain
7:56 1st and 10 USF 48 Run Fredericks Dive L 3 Yard Gain
7:40 2nd and 7 USF 45 Run Fredericks End L 4 Yard Gain
7:21 3rd and 3 USF 41 PENALTY (Holding) Byrne N/A 10 Yard Loss
7:02 3rd and 13 SYR 49 Pass Dungey Mid Range L Incomplete (Riley)
DRIVE 14




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
3:55 1st and 10 SYR 13 Run Fredericks Dive L 8 Yard Gain
3:09 2nd and 2 SYR 21 Run Fredericks Dive R 2 Yard Gain
2:32 1st and 10 SYR 23 Play Action; Pass Mahoney Deep R Incomplete (Butler)
2:24 2nd and 10 SYR 23 Run Fredericks Dive R 2 Yard Gain
1:44 3rd and 8 SYR 25 Run Fredericks Dive R 6 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 8 runs, 7 passes

Syracuse was pretty much done at the start of the quarter, down 22 and needing a very quick touchdown to even have a shot at a comeback. Quick, effective passing actually put them in position in short order despite some bad penalties. However, Dungey tried to force a ball undernearth to Steve Ishmael, resulting in an interception. He had Amba Etta-Tawo streaking toward the end zone on that same play. Down 25 on drive 13, you had to wonder why he was still in – a question that grew louder when USF’s Kevin Bronson received his second roughing penalty for hitting Dungey well aferr releasing the ball.

***

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 58 called passes vs. 47 called runs. The Orange’s 105 plays were a school record. Also, there was much more balance than we saw in previous weeks, which is good, right?
  • First half play-calling: 32 passes vs. 29 runs (26:18 in second half)
  • First downs: 30 total (16 passing, 11 rushing, 3 penalty; 11:11:3 last week)
  • First down play selection: 18 called passes, 23 called runs (23:15 last week)
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 15 called passes, 15 called runs (14:10 last week)
  • First down plays for five or more yards: 12 — this number’s gone down each of the last two weeks (from 14 to 13 to 12), which is something to keep an eye on as the team ends up in more fourth down situations (likely) as a result.
  • Second down play selection: 16 called passes, 19 called runs (19:11 last week)
  • Third down play selection: 18 called passes; 6 called runs (18:5 last week)
  • Third down conversion: 12-for-24 (2 runs, 9 passes, 1 penalties; 5:3:2 last week)
  • Fourth down conversion: 2-for-5 (0-for-1 last week)
  • Just 39 of Syracuse's 105 play calls (37 percent) took place in USF territory, and just two were inside the red zone – those numbers need to climb if the Orange are going to score enough points to matter this year.
  • Play-action returned a bit, though there’s a caveat. Dungey was 7-for-13 off of play-action for 99 yards and a touchdown. Zack Mahoney was also 0-for-1 off of play-action. The issue we’re seeing as the game wears on, however, is two-fold. The idea of the fake is dead if SU’s down by 20 points. And Dungey’s not selling the fake all that hard as the game continues.
  • Syracuse had 11 plays of 15 or more yards (11 last week vs. Louisville as well). Five of those went for over 24 yards or more, however (vs. three such plays vs. Louisville). Another three plays gained between 10 and 14 yards. Those 13 plays accounted for 253 of the Orange’s 549 yards from scrimmage, meaning that the other 92 plays averaged a little over 3.2 yards per – not bad, to be honest, and much better than last week’s measure of 1.8 yards per on non-explosive plays.
  • Including penalties, nine plays went for a loss (a better mark than the 15 the team put up for the last two weeks). That said, seven more plays went for zero yards. Dungey wasn’t sacked much, which helped fix the negative end of things. But there were plenty of penalties to go around…
  • Zero "official" red zone trips for the Orange, outside of those two plays on the first drive at the 19 (a penalty would move them back out). The fact that 11 of the team’s 14 drives were at the Syracuse 47 or further along certainly sounds positive, however.
  • Just two three-and-outs this time, though the team also turned it over three times and allowed a punt return for a touchdown as well. So, really not doing the defense any favors there.

Running the ball was good. But running it for the sake of running it? Maybe not so much. Strickland was handed the ball whether he was effective or not, and it’s tough to say whether his 30 carries really had much impact. As mentioned above, Dungey’s efforts in terms of play-action seemed to wane, which makes Strickland’s handoffs less effective in distracting from the pass later. On top of Strickland’s high number of carries, Dungey also took off quite a bit himself, which is worth its own paragraph…

During the game, much was made of Dungey’s "run/pass option" looks. The problem we’ve seen when Syracuse is down, however, is that the sophomore quarterback will almost always take the "run" option. Additionally, he has some called runs in the cards too, some of which are safer than others. While Dungey’s not made of paper and did bulk up in the offseason, he’s still not the most strategic runner, and you’ve already seen the strides we thought we saw vanish. Between runs, sacks, ridiculous decisions to have him try to catch passes and the oddly frequent roughing situations he gets into, he’s getting hit too much to keep his effectiveness over the full course of a game.

SU took less deep shots in this one than they had previously. I don’t necessarily believe that Babers took his foot off the gas once the Orange were up by 17 in the second quarter. That said, the amount of downfield shots took a hit compared to previous weeks and the team’s big-play capabilities seemed down as it over-corrected for its poor running game to start the year.

I mentioned in the beginning that our initial feelings were more negative than things actually were, and the numbers seem to bring that to light as well. Yes, SU could’ve been sharper. And you like to see possessions in the other team’s half of the field turn into points. But for the second straight week, Syracuse was in the game against a better team late in the third quarter. And with a little more refining of this offense, they’re about to truly take off – insane when you consider the yardage numbers they’ve amassed thus far.

***

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