The Syracuse Orange didn’t complete a comeback against the N.C. State Wolfpack, but things came close. And it would’ve been even closer if not for an uneven effort from one half to the next. Still, the second half rewatch was enjoyable as Syracuse continues to show glimmers of what can be for this offense.
Let’s jump into this week’s play-calling:
|8:01||1st and 10||SYR 25||Run||Strickland||Dive R||3 Yard Gain|
|7:37||2nd and 7||SYR 28||Pass||Dungey||Deep L||Interception|
|4:47||1st and 10||SYR 25||Pass||Dungey||Short R||Incomplete (Ishmael)|
|4:42||2nd and 10||SYR 25||Run||Strickland||Dive R||3 Yard Loss|
|4:11||3rd and 13||SYR 22||Pass||Philips||Deep M||22 Yard Gain|
|3:57||1st and 10||SYR 44||Pass||Dungey||Short L||Incomplete (Riley)|
|3:51||2nd and 10||SYR 44||Run||Strickland||Dive R||8 Yard Gain|
|3:35||3rd and 2||NCSU 48||Run||Strickland||Dive L||3 Yard Gain|
|3:15||1st and 10||NCSU 45||Run||Strickland||Dive R||3 Yard Gain|
|2:51||2nd and 7||NCSU 42||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Dungey||Off Tackle R||11 Yard Gain|
|2:57||1st and 10||NCSU 31||Play Action; Pass||Dungey||Short R||Incomplete|
|2:32||2nd and 10||NCSU 31||Run||Strickland||Dive R||3 Yard Gain|
|2:09||3rd and 7||NCSU 28||Run||Dungey||Dive R||2 Yard Loss|
|1:32||4th and 9||NCSU 30||Field Goal||Murphy||N/A||FG is No Good|
|0:25||1st and 10||SYR 25||Run||Elmore||Dive R||3 Yard Gain|
|0:05||2nd an 7||SYR 28||Play Action; Pass||Philips||Deep L||37 Yard Gain|
Play-Call Breakdown: 7 called passes, 8 called runs
Another early Eric Dungey interception puts Syracuse behind the eight-ball early as the junior lobs one up behind Devin C. Butler in single coverage. He recovers, but mixing in too many runs on drive No. 2 seem to derail things after big plays look to be setting up the Orange for a touchdown (they settle for a field goal). At least the quarter ends with a beautiful deep ball from Dungey to Ervin Philips — who emerged as a better downfield option than what we’ve seen from him in the past.
|15:00||1st and 10||NCSU 35||Pass; Sack||Dungey||N/A||4 Yard Loss|
|14:26||2nd and 14||NCSU 39||Run||Elmore||Dive R||6 Yard Gain|
|13:51||3rd and 8||NCSU 33||Pass||Dungey||Deep M||Incomplete (Ishmael)|
|13:46||4th and 8||NCSU 33||Pass||Philips||Short M||9 Yard Gain|
|13:26||1st and 10||NCSU 24||Pass||Philips||Short L||3 Yard Gain|
|12:55||2nd and 7||NCSU 21||Pass||Philips||Short R||4 Yard Gain|
|12:35||3rd and 3||NCSU 17||Pass||Philips||Short L||10 Yard Gain|
|12:18||1st and Goal||NCSU 7||Run||Dungey||End L||7 Yard Gain; TD|
|9:44||1st and 10||SYR 29||Run||Dungey||End L||2 Yard Loss|
|9:23||2nd and 12||SYR 27||Pass||Neal||Deep L||47 Yard Gain|
|9:01||1st and 10||NCSU 26||Run||Neal||Dive L||0 Yard Gain|
|8:38||2nd and 10||NCSU 26||Pass||Dungey||Deep M||Incomplete (Philips)|
|8:31||3rd and 10||NCSU 26||Run||Dungey||Off Tackle R||9 Yard Gain|
|7:52||4th and 1||NCSU 17||Run||Dungey||Dive L||0 Yard Gain|
|2:17||1st and 10||SYR 32||Pass||Philips||Short L||5 Yard Gain|
|2:00||2nd and 5||SYR 37||Pass||Philips||Mid Range M||16 Yard Gain|
|1:47||1st and 10||NCSU 47||PENALTY (Holding)||McGloster||N/A||10 Yard Loss|
|1:41||1st and 20||SYR 43||Pass; Sack||Dungey||N/A||9 Yard Loss|
|1:32||2nd and 29||SYR 34||Pass||Dungey||Short R||Incomplete|
|1:28||3rd and 29||SYR 34||Pass||Ishmael||Mid Range R||13 Yard Gain|
|0:03||1st and 10||SYR 20||PENALTY (Delay of Game)||Dungey||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|0:03||1st and 15||SYR 15||Pass||Dungey||Mid Range R||Incomplete (Philips)|
Play-Call Breakdown: 13 called passes, 6 called runs
Drive No. 3 wraps up nicely, as short passes move SU down the field quickly en route to a SPIN-O-RAMA touchdown run from Dungey. The fourth drive starts with a ton of promise following a great ball delivered to Moe Neal on a fade route for 47 yards. But then a tipped ball TD gets dropped, and SU leans too much on Dungey for a fourth and one (which he fails to convert after a nine-yard gain on third). Holding derails the fifth drive, which stalls out short of midfield.
|14:55||1st and 10||SYR 22||Pass||Ishmael||Short R||9 Yard Gain|
|14:33||2nd and 1||SYR 31||Pass||Ishmael||Mid Range R||18 Yard Gain|
|14:11||1st and 10||SYR 49||Run||Strickland||Dive R||3 Yard Loss|
|13:51||2nd and 13||SYR 46||Pass||Dungey||Screen L||Incomplete (Strickland)|
|13:46||3rd and 13||SYR 46||Pass||Philips||Short M||11 Yard Gain|
|13:02||4th and 2||NCSU 43||Play Action; Pass||Ishmael||Mid Range R||38 Yard Gain|
|12:47||1st and Goal||NCSU 5||Run||Strickland||Dive R||3 Yard Gain|
|12:28||2nd and Goal||NCSU 2||Run||Strickland||Dive R||1 Yard Gain|
|12:05||3rd and Goal||NCSU 1||Run||Dungey||Dive L||1 Yard Gain; TD|
|9:45||1st and 10||SYR 4||Pass||Dungey||Short R||Incomplete (Philips)|
|9:42||2nd and 10||SYR 4||Pass||Philips||Short R||6 Yard Gain|
|9:11||3rd and 4||SYR 10||Pass||Dungey||Short R||Incomplete (Ishmael)|
|7:32||1st and 10||SYR 11||Play Action; Pass||Pierce||Screen L||9 Yard Gain|
|7:08||2nd and 1||SYR 20||Run||Dungey||Dive L||3 Yard Gain|
|6:56||1st and 10||SYR 23||PENALTY (False Start)||Pierce||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|6:38||1st and 15||SYR 18||Pass||Philips||Short R||6 Yard Gain|
|6:19||2nd and 9||SYR 24||Run||Strickland||End R||4 Yard Loss|
|5:47||3rd and 13||SYR 20||Pass||Philips||Mid Range M||17 Yard Gain|
|5:35||1st and 10||SYR 37||Pass||Philips||Short R||7 Yard Gain|
|5:23||2nd and 3||SYR 44||Run||N. Johnson||End L||5 Yard Loss|
|4:54||3rd and 8||SYR 39||Pass||Ishmael||Deep R||32 Yard Gain|
|4:42||1st and 10||NCSU 29||Pass||N. Johnson||Screen R||8 Yard Gain|
|4:16||2nd and 2||NCSU 21||PENALTY (Personal Foul)||Chubb||N/A||10 Yard Gain|
|4:11||1st and 10||NCSU 11||Run||Elmore||Dive L||1 Yard Gain|
|3:39||2nd and 9||NCSU 10||Run||Elmore||Off Tackle R||2 Yard Gain|
|3:10||3rd and 7||NCSU 8||PENALTY (Illegal Formation)||Butler||N/A||6 Yard Loss|
|3:05||3rd and 13||NCSU 14||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Dungey||Dive L||9 Yard Gain|
|2:51||4th and 4||NCSU 5||PENALTY (Personal Foul)||Servais||N/A||15 Yard Loss|
|2:39||4th and 19||NCSU 19||Field Goal||Hofrichter||N/A||FG is Good|
|0:58||1st and 10||SYR 25||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Dungey||End R||9 Yard Gain|
|0:39||2nd and 1||SYR 34||Run||Elmore||Dive L||2 Yard Gain|
|0:14||1st and 10||SYR 36||Pass; Sack||Dungey||N/A||11 Yard Loss|
|0:09||2nd and 21||SYR 25||Play Action; Pass||Dungey||Short R||Incomplete (Ishmael)|
|0:04||3rd and 21||SYR 25||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Dungey||End L||0 Yard Gain|
Play-Call Breakdown: 19 called passes, 10 called runs
Syracuse has scored 59 of its 165 points this season in the third quarter, and the team’s strong showing in that period continued on Saturday. The Orange led off the second half with a touchdown for the fourth time in five weeks, but in some ways, it was a disappointment overall. SU had just 10 points, though did close the gap with NC State to single-digits. Tempo was established early, but penalties derailed later. Syracuse had a touchdown nullified by an illegal formation call, and Airon Servais’s personal foul prevented a potential fourth down try from inside the five. Yes, I’m aware that Bradley Chubb’s acting job was heinous as well.
|9:47||1st and 10||SYR 45||Pass||Philips||Short L||12 Yard Gain|
|9:33||1st and 10||NCSU 43||Pass||Philips||Short R||5 Yard Gain|
|9:07||2nd and 5||NCSU 38||PENALTY (False Start)||Servais||N/A||5 Yard Loss|
|8:50||2nd and 10||NCSU 43||Pocket Breakdown; Run||Dungey||End R||1 Yard Gain|
|8:24||3rd and 9||NCSU 42||PENALTY (Offside)||Jones||N/A||5 Yard Gain|
|8:17||3rd and 4||NCSU 37||Pass||Dungey||Short M||Incomplete (Philips)|
|8:13||4th and 4||NCSU 37||Run||Dungey||Dive L||22 Yard Gain|
|7:49||1st and 10||NCSU 15||Play Action; Pass||Dungey||Screen L||Incomplete (Butler)|
|7:44||2nd and 10||NCSU 15||Pass||Dungey||Short M||Incomplete (Neal)|
|7:39||3rd and 10||NCSU 15||Pass||Dungey||Mid Range R||Incomplete (Ishmael)|
|7:35||4th and 10||NCSU 15||Reverse; Pass||Butler||Incomplete (Pierce)|
|5:42||1st and 10||NCSU 33||Pass||Philips||Screen M||8 Yard Gain|
|5:23||2nd and 2||NCSU 25||Pass||Philips||Short L||10 Yard Gain|
|5:06||1st and 10||NCSU 15||Pass||Strickland||Short R||5 Yard Gain|
|4:47||2nd and 5||NCSU 10||Pass||Dungey||Short L||Incomplete (Riley)|
|4:44||3rd and 5||NCSU 10||Pass||Ishmael||Mid Range R||10 Yard Gain; TD|
Play-Call Breakdown: 13 called passes, 1 called run
Both fourth quarter drives were excellent, even if only one resulted in points. Drive No. 12 made quick work of a short field, allowing Dungey to take advantage of Steve Ishmael’s size in the end zone. The 11th drive was set up well by a 22-yard run by Dungey, but the team couldn’t punch it in from there. On fourth down, there was an excuse for that, however: Ravian Pierce was blatantly held in the end zone as he lunged to grab a would-be touchdown. But of course, there was no call. That could’ve pulled the game to within eight points earlier, making Ishmael’s later TD a tying score.
- Overall play-calling breakdown: 52 called passes vs. 25 called runs (last week: 63:19)
- First half play-calling: 20 passes vs. 14 runs (32:11 in second half)
- First downs: 20 total (13 passing, 6 rushing, 1 penalty; 17:6:1 last week)
- First down play selection: 22 called passes, 10 called runs (26:8 last week)
- First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 13 called passes, 7 called runs (17:7 last week)
- First down plays for five or more yards: 12, though nearly all of those were in the second half.
- Second down play selection: 16 called passes, 10 called runs (22:14 last week)
- Third down play selection: 13 called passes, 4 called runs (12:7 last week)
- Third down conversion: 7-for-17 (5 pass, 2 runs, 0 penalty; 4:3:1 last week)
- Fourth down conversion: 3-for-5
- This week, 39 of Syracuse's 77 play calls (50.6 percent) took place in NC State territory, which is actually pretty good. The issue in this game was getting the offense back onto the field, as State played a bit more ball-control early and worked on keeping SU’s defense out there.
- Syracuse was limited using play-action, but was 3-for-6 for 84 yards when they gave it a go. Rather than remove a receiver by dragging in an extra blocker on most plays, SU worried about quick releases and empty backfields (where you wouldn’t use play-action at all).
- Syracuse had eight plays that went for 15 or more yards, just like the last two weeks. Four of those went for more than 25 yards, which is a nice clip. The Orange also added seven plays that gained between 10 and 14 yards, which was a good number. However the offense actually leaned on eight- and nine-yard gains more than normal (which is also good).
- Including penalties, 15 plays went for a loss, which is even more than last week’s. That total speaks to both NC State’s pressure and the bad penalties that littered the game.
- The Orange were 4-for-6 from the red zone, with three touchdowns. While the TD-to-FG ratio’s getting better, SU is still failing to come away with points more than they’d like when inside the 20.
- Syracuse had just one three and out and one turnover, though in a tight game, both made a major impact.
NC State’s defense took away plays in that flat immediately, which altered the Orange’s normal gameplan a bit -- relying on short passes closer to the middle of the field, vs. the typical screens. Still, the short passing game did work, and that (and Dungey’s running ability) helped set up several long passing plays. We’re still not close to last year’s level of explosiveness, but results are improving there.
Since a breakout effort vs. Central Michigan two weeks ago, Sean Riley’s vanished from the gameplan. He was targeted just twice vs. NC State, and just once (the gut-wrenching drop) vs. LSU. The Orange have players with slightly redundant speed skill sets like Moe Neal and Nykeim Johnson that are getting more burn. You have to wonder what’s changed in just a couple weeks for Riley.
It’s not "offense" necessarily, but a second straight week with an onside kick left many fans puzzled. SU technically had plenty of time to go and since they ended up forcing a fourth down on the ensuing NC State drive (it was converted near mid-field). You have to wonder if things could’ve turned out differently had that possession been closer to the Pack’s own goal line. I’m fine with the call, honestly. But just curious if the risk outweighs the reward, especially given our kicking issues.
However, Syracuse wouldn’t have been in that position if not for penalties (or lack thereof). SU’s lack of discipline with unforced errors was directly responsible for the loss, wiping four or five points (at minimum) off the board in the third quarter. Referees’ inability to call the blatant interference against Pierce on the second-to-last drive complicate matters further. The Orange were outplayed for good stretches of this one, yet still could’ve won with a slight tweak here or there. This is where it gets toughest for fans.
Anything else catch your eye? Share your own takeaways below.