You remember these, of course. But now, they’re a whole lot more fun -- for me, and hopefully for you, too. In year one of the Dino Babers era, we’ll be looking at the Syracuse Orange’s play-calling each week for trends, strengths, weaknesses and more while marveling at an offense that can actually function. No, SU may not always win. But the offense promises to bring some intrigue each week just the same.
So how’d things go against Colgate last Friday? Pretty damn well, actually.
|8:52||1st and 10||SYR 21||Play Action; Pass||Philips||Short R||9 Yard Gain|
|8:23||2nd and 1||SYR 30||Pass||Philips||Short R||12 Yard Gain|
|8:07||1st and 10||SYR 42||Pass||Philips||Screen R||6 Yard Gain|
|7:51||2nd and 4||SYR 48||Play Action; Run||Strickland||Dive L||1 Yard Gain|
|7:37||3rd and 3||SYR 49||Pass||Philips||Screen L||8 Yard Gain|
|7:22||1st and 10||GATE 43||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Deep L||43 Yard Gain; TD|
|5:32||1st and 10||SYR 13||Play Action; Pass||Philips||Mid Range L||11 Yard Gain|
|5:17||1st and 10||SYR 24||Run||Strickland||Dive R||1 Yard Gain|
|4:55||2nd and 9||SYR 25||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Mid Range L||8 Yard Gain|
|4:47||3rd and 1||SYR 33||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||8 Yard Gain|
|4:31||1st and 10||SYR 41||Pass||Estime||Short R||2 Yard Gain|
|4:02||2nd and 8||SYR 43||Bad Snap; Run||Dungey||Off Tackle L||2 Yard Gain|
|3:39||3rd and 6||SYR 45||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Dungey||Off Tackle L||5 Yard Gain|
|3:23||4th and 1||GATE 50||Run||Dungey||Off Tackle L||4 Yard Gain|
|3:10||1st and 10||GATE 46||Play Action; Pass||Ishmael||Mid Range R||11 Yard Gain|
|2:51||1st and 10||GATE 35||Play Action; Pass; Sack||Dungey||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|2:04||2nd and 15||GATE 40||Pass||Philips||Short M||6 Yard Gain|
|1:35||3rd and 9||GATE 34||Play Action; Run||Dungey||Dive L||12 Yard Gain|
|1:15||1st and 10||GATE 22||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||6 Yard Gain|
|0:57||2nd and 4||GATE 16||Pass||Philips||Short L||8 Yard Gain|
|0:31||1st and Goal||GATE 8||Run||Strickland||Dive L||0 Yard Gain|
|0:13||2nd and Goal||GATE 8||Run||Dungey||Off Tackle R||2 Yard Loss|
Play-Call Breakdown: 15 passes, 7 runs
It looked like Babers wanted to showcase the differences in this offense right away, so the team came out firing — passing the ball twice as much as it ran (a theme of the night). You’ll notice that the offense doesn’t take a ton of deep shots (just one in this quarter). Rather, it’s a lot of dink-and-dunk, quick reads and screen passes to the Orange’s collection of speedy wideouts. Eric Dungey quickly found a groove with Ervin Philips and road that on the first drive. Despite his fairly recent arrival, Amba Etta-Tawo was also a quick favorite. The run game wasn’t working very well early with Dontae Strickland as the primary ball-carrier.
|15:00||3rd and Goal||GATE 10||PENALTY (False Start)||Emerich||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|15:00||3rd and Goal||GATE 15||Pass||Dungey||Mid Range M||Incomplete (Philips)|
|14:55||4th and Goal||GATE 15||Field Goal||Murphy||N/A||FG is Good|
|12:40||1st and 10||GATE 49||Run||Neal||Off Tackle L||49 Yard Gain; TD|
|6:10||1st and 10||SYR 13||Run||Neal||Off Tackle R||3 Yard Gain|
|5:50||2nd and 7||SYR 16||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Short R||6 Yard Gain|
|5:14||3rd and 1||SYR 22||Run||Strickland||Dive R||7 Yard Gain|
|5:01||1st and 10||SYR 29||Run||Strickland||Dive R||5 Yard Gain|
|4:37||2nd and 5||SYR 34||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Deep R||37 Yard Gain|
|4:15||1st and 10||GATE 29||Run||Strickland||Off Tackle R||0 Yard Gain|
|3:54||2nd and 10||GATE 29||Run||Neal||Dive L||2 Yard Loss|
|3:34||3rd and 12||GATE 31||Pass||Ishmael||Short R||7 Yard Gain|
|2:51||4th and 5||GATE 24||Field Goal||Murphy||N/A||FG is Good|
|1:18||1st and 10||SYR 36||Pass||Dungey||Short R||Incomplete (Ishmael)|
|1:13||2nd and 10||SYR 36||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Dungey||End L||1 Yard Gain|
|1:04||3rd and 9||SYR 37||Pass||Philips||Short M||4 Yard Gain|
|0:17||4th and 5||SYR 41||PENALTY (Delay of Game)||Hofrichter||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
Play-Call Breakdown: 7 passes, 6 runs
After a pass-heavy first quarter, Babers tries to course-correct to more balance in the second and largely succeeds. Moe Neal’s 49-yard touchdown run becomes a nice table-setter to pull the defense inside on the ensuing drive, and that creates the necessary space outside to hit Etta-Tawo deep. Again, one huge passing play (a 37-yarder to Etta-Tawo), and other than that, it’s very quick (and efficient) calls to pick up significant chunks of yardage. The eight-play fourth drive took just over three game minutes to travel over 50 yards and kick a field goal. Not bad at all.
|14:55||1st and 10||SYR 21||Pass||Ishmael||Screen R||7 Yard Gain|
|14:37||2nd and 3||SYR 28||Pass||Philips||Screen R||4 Yard Gain|
|14:29||1st and 10||SYR 32||PENALTY (Personal Foul)||Ishmael||N/A||15 Yard Loss|
|14:23||1st and 10||SYR 17||Run||Neal||Dive L||3 Yard Gain|
|13:58||2nd and 7||SYR 20||Play Action; Pass; Sack||Dungey||N/A||2 Yard Loss|
|13:18||3rd and 9||SYR 18||Pass||Philips||Screen L||8 Yard Gain|
|12:40||4th and 1||SYR 26||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Mid Range L||14 Yard Gain|
|12:26||1st and 10||SYR 40||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Dungey||Off Tackle L||1 Yard Loss|
|11:50||2nd and 11||SYR 39||PENALTY (Pass Interference)||Castillo||N/A||15 Yard Gain|
|11:44||1st and 10||GATE 46||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Deep R||28 Yard Gain|
|11:11||1st and 10||GATE 18||Run||Strickland||Dive R||4 Yard Gain|
|10:44||2nd and 6||GATE 14||Pass||Ishmael||Screen R||4 Yard Gain|
|10:14||3rd and 2||GATE 10||PENALTY (Holding)||Palmer||N/A||10 Yard Loss|
|9:38||3rd and 12||GATE 20||Pass||Philips||Short L||5 Yard Gain|
|9:05||4th and 7||GATE 15||Field Goal||Murphy||N/A||FG is Good|
|8:04||1st and 10||SYR 37||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Deep R||40 Yard Gain|
|7:51||1st and 10||GATE 23||Pass||Ishmael||Short R||4 Yard Gain|
|7:37||2nd and 6||GATE 19||Run||Fredericks||Sweep R||4 Yard Gain|
|7:14||3rd and 2||GATE 15||Play Action; Pass||Philips||Screen L||1 Yard Loss|
|6:29||4th and 3||GATE 16||Field Goal||Murphy||FG is Good|
|4:48||1st and 10||SYR 27||Run||Neal||Dive L||9 Yard Gain|
|4:31||2nd and 1||SYR 36||Play Action; Pass||Dungey||Short R||Incomplete (Ishmael)|
|4:26||3rd and 1||SYR 36||Run||Strickland||Off Tackle R||1 Yard Loss|
|1:48||1st and 10||SYR 48||Run||Neal||Dive L||1 Yard Loss|
|1:26||2nd and 11||SYR 47||Pass||Dungey||Mid Range L||Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)|
|1:21||3rd and 11||SYR 47||Pass||Estime||Mid Range L||20 Yard Gain|
|0:59||1st and 10||GATE 33||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||3 Yard Gain|
|0:36||2nd and 7||GATE 30||Pass||Neal||Short R||5 Yard Gain|
|0:05||3rd and 2||GATE 25||Run||Fredericks||Dive R||1 Yard Gain|
Play-Call Breakdown: 16 passes, 8 runs
In the third, Syracuse fails to put Colgate away on the scoreboard (damn red zone troubles return), but keeping up the pace continues to exhaust the Raiders defense. While Dungey seemed to lean very heavily on his two primary targets, Philips and Etta-Tawo, in the first half, you start to see him mix it up here. Steve Ishmael appears doomed to be underutilized just by way of coverage on him, yet still makes his mark. Jordan Fredericks also makes his first appearance, which is surprising considering how few run plays were working with other ball carriers out there.
|15:00||4th and 1||GATE 24||Pass||Philips||Screen L||3 Yard Gain|
|14:35||1st and 10||GATE 21||Run||Neal||Dive L||1 Yard Gain|
|14:06||2nd and 9||GATE 20||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Dungey||Off Tackle L||11 Yard Gain|
|13:35||1st and Goal||GATE 9||Run||Neal||Dive L||2 Yard Gain|
|13:00||2nd and Goal||GATE 7||Run||Strickland||Dive L||3 Yard Gain|
|12:37||3rd and Goal||GATE 4||Pass||Philips||Short R||4 Yard Gain; TD|
|10:29||1st and 10||SYR 38||Play Action; Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||13 Yard Gain|
|10:03||1st and 10||GATE 49||Run||Neal||Dive L||4 Yard Gain|
|9:46||2nd and 6||GATE 45||Pass||Etta-Tawo||Screen L||2 Yard Gain|
|9:40||2nd and 6||GATE 43||PENALTY (Personal Foul)||Philips||N/A||15 Yard Loss|
|9:33||2nd and 19||SYR 42||Pass||Dungey||Mid Range L||Incomplete (Etta-Tawo)|
|9:29||3rd and 19||SYR 42||Pass||Dungey||Mid-Range M||Incomplete (Philips)|
|5:41||1st and 10||SYR 18||Run||Fredericks||Off Tackle R||3 Yard Gain|
|5:24||2nd and 7||SYR 21||Play Action; Run||Mahoney||Off Tackle L||4 Yard Gain|
|5:02||3rd and 3||SYR 25||Pass||Riley||Deep R||27 Yard Gain|
|4:48||1st and 10||GATE 48||Pass||Ishmael||Screen R||3 Yard Gain|
|4:28||2nd and 7||GATE 45||Bad Snap; Fumble||Mahoney||N/A||2 Yard Loss; Fumble|
|2:26||1st and 10||SYR 21||Play Action; Pass||Riley||Short L||1 Yard Gain|
|1:47||2nd and 9||SYR 22||Run||Fredericks||Dive R||2 Yard Gain|
|1:04||3rd and 7||SYR 24||Pass||Riley||Short R||10 Yard Gain|
|0:56||1st and 10||SYR 34||Play Action; Pass||Enoicy||Deep R||35 Yard Gain|
|0:44||1st and 10||GATE 31||Pass; Sack||Mahoney||N/A||6 Yard Loss|
|0:16||2nd and 16||GATE 37||Pass||Riley||Short M||6 Yard Gain|
Play-Call Breakdown: 14 passes, 8 runs
The first part of the quarter sees Dungey continue his efficient effort, though with some diminishing yardage returns (and an increased Colgate blitz). Zack Mahoney enters the game for the final two drives, and the pace seems to return for him and the other reserves — fatigue is something to watch out for early on the Orange offense. Mahoney’s passing abilities do appear to have improved, throwing some nice balls to both Sean Riley and Adly Enoicy. Fredericks gets some more carries in the fourth quarter, though ‘Gate bottles him up pretty quick just as they did with most runs on the evening (Neal’s TD aside).
- Overall play-calling breakdown: 52 called passes vs. 29 called runs. This is a far-cry from last year’s option-heavy attack and honestly, overall numbers probably could’ve crept toward 90-95 plays without much issue.
- First half play-calling: 22 passes vs. 13 runs (30:16 in second half)
- First downs: 25 total (18 passing, 5 rushing, 2 penalty)
- First down play selection: 20 called passes, 14 called runs
- First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 15 called passes, 10 called runs
- First down plays for five or more yards: 14 — not much higher than last season’s average of around 11 or 12 such plays per game, but they’re obviously still breaking in the offense and experimenting with some things.
- Second down play selection: 17 called passes, 9 called runs
- Third down play selection: 14 called passes; 4 called runs
- Third down conversion: 8-for-18 (5 passes, 3 runs)
- Fourth down conversion: 3-for-3 (2 passes, 1 run)
- 38 of Syracuse's 81 play calls (47 percent) took place in Colgate territory. That might seem low, but it’s impacted a lot by big gains to move them deep into/near the Raiders’ red zone on just one play.
- Play action was a huge part of Dungey’s throwing game and a big reason why those longer throws were available. He was 9-for-10 for 204 yards and a score coming out of play action. Mahoney was 2-for-2 for 36 yards on play action as well. Not bad at all for the two QBs.
- Syracuse’s top four receivers (Ishmael, Philips, Estime, Etta-Tawo) were targeted 41 times out of a possible 46 throws. Doubt we’ll need much of this "four playmakers" tracker anymore in this offense.
- Syracuse had eight plays of 15 or more yards, with seven (!!!) of those going for 25 or more. Another eight plays gained between 10 and 14 yards. Those 16 plays accounted for 373 of the Orange’s 553 yards of offense. The 2.7 yards per play on the other 65 plays from scrimmage isn’t all that great, but having 20 percent of your plays go for 10 or more is still pretty commendable, so it’s not as much of a concern.
- Including penalties, 15 plays went for a loss, which... is actually not great. Some smart play early in the game gave away to some silly personal fouls. And the run game’s struggles certainly show there.
- Syracuse was four for four in the red zone, which is cool. But that only resulted in one TD, vs. three field goals. You won’t be able to settle that often and have a chance against better competition.
- The Orange had just one drive end with a turnover, and the game was already in hand at that juncture in the fourth. There were also two three-and-outs. All of this makes for a lot more offensive production than what we saw last year.
While Dungey clearly favored Philips and Etta-Tawo for large swathes of this game, Colgate’s inability to stop them from getting the ball anyway is a testament to the speed of the offense (and the obvious talent gap between the two programs). As the game wore on, involving other targets was likely a result of him getting more comfortable with the flow of the game and operating the offense. He’ll probably diversify receivers more in the early parts of subsequent contests.
The bunch formation SU trotted out a couple times after several quick succession plays was highly effective, as it caught the defense completely out of position and set up Etta-Tawo for maybe his best asset: blocking. Screens are a big part of this attack, and you saw already how well they work if blocked for correctly. Etta-Tawo was a major part of that effectiveness when he wasn’t catching the ball himself. Would expect Jamal Custis to be a factor in blocking too when he returns from his undisclosed injury.
While getting into the red zone a bunch is nice, this team’s inability to punch it in is startling as it enters a fourth straight year of this sort of futility. There are no natural backs for the "tank package" and the run game will certainly struggle against bigger teams in short yardage. They’ll need to figure out a solution within the 20. Perhaps it’s Custis/Enoicy?
The right side of the field was one to keep an eye on, and I certainly paid closer attention on the re-watch. No run play gained more than four yards to that side, and most of the zero-yard or negative rushes were to the right. Conversely, All of the team’s long completions were to the right. If we’re noticing these trends in week one, Babers certainly has as well and will address. Don’t want opposing secondaries playing heavy to the right, or lines run-blitzing that side on every handoff.
Anything else you might’ve noticed? These are largely focused on the same takeaways as last year too, so if there are other aspects of the offense (within reason) you’d like me to look at each week, I’m always happy to take suggestions into consideration.