However, when you dig a bit deeper into the results of those conversions, it’s a pretty big positive for the Orange, even at a 62-percent rate.
ESPN’s David Hale mentioned the other day that Syracuse has more fourth down attempts (21) this season than any other school in the country. We’re also tied with Army for the most conversions at 13. But what have those fourth down conversions resulted in for Syracuse (beyond the new set of downs)? And as one Clemson fan asked us, what scoring opportunities have the failed attempts created for opponents?
At least this year, SU’s aggressive decision-making has looked pretty smart.
Syracuse has scored 55 points on drives in which we’ve gone for it on fourth down, an average of 2.62 points per attempt; or more importantly, 4.23 points per conversion. That’s seven touchdowns and two field goals, all from being a little more aggressive (largely) inside the opponent’s 40-yard line.
Better yet, the decisions also haven’t come back to bite us, either. Following a failed Orange fourth down try, opponents have scored just one touchdown and punted four times — and one of those punts was following the safety in the Middle Tennessee game. Statistically, that decision by Sterling Hofrichter to walk it a muffed snap out the back of the end zone counts as a fourth down try, even though it wasn’t.
The other failed attempts were followed up by the opponent holding the ball at the end of the game.
So that’s 55 points for Syracuse, and (actually) seven points against as a result of fourth down tries. SU’s plus-48 as a result of these decisions. That’s... pretty damn good. Even more so considering 28.6 percent of the Orange’s points this season have actually come as a result of fourth down conversions.
Beyond the points — which Dino Babers likely knows all about already — the other reason it’s easy for Syracuse to go for it on fourth down is Eric Dungey. Through six games this year, he’s 4-of-7 for 69 passing yards on fourth down, with another 32 yards on the ground in five attempts. All told, he’s accounted for eight first downs on 12 attempts.
With a success rate (66.7 percent) like that, it’s a no-brainer to give it a shot, even given Cole Murphy’s reasonably accurate year at 10-of-12 so far. He’s 3-for-5 from 40 yards or longer, however, while Syracuse has converted all but one first down from within his range (we’ll say max of 50 yards).
You already knew Babers’s increasingly frequent decisions to go for it were smart, and now you know just how smart they are. The Orange are already just five conversions away from matching last year’s total, and based on this year’s average of more than two per game, they’re on pace to shatter that mark (and score more points in the process).
Perhaps with some time this offseason, I’ll run the numbers for the entire country — or at least the Power 5 -- to see just how well SU’s points off fourth down conversions stacks up vs. the rest of the country. But I have a decent idea already that the current point total stacks up pretty well comparatively.