The Syracuse Orange fell 27-24 to the Florida State Seminoles in a game we probably should’ve won on the road. That hurts, for a variety of reasons -- most notably, the missed field goal as time expired.
But what did we learn from this one, other than pain? Three takeaways:
1. Maybe the run defense isn’t as good as we thought?
Going into this one, Syracuse was allowing just 130 yards per game on the ground. But Florida State finished the game with 207, including 199 from Cam Akers on just 22 carries. Now, Akers is a very talented running back, so perhaps the outburst was just a product of his own skill level. However, SU really did struggle to put a stop to his gains until later in the contest. It was quite a surprise, considering FSU’s issues running the ball coming in, plus the offensive line issues that have ravaged the team’s abilities to move the ball.
The lone exception to this remark is clearly on third down, though. Florida State was just 1-of-13 on third, continuing the Orange’s ridiculous string of games absolutely shutting down opponents. SU went into Saturday allowing the second-lowest conversion rate in the country. Depending on how Michigan (the No. 1 team) fares, Syracuse may take the lead.
2. Live by the risk, die by the risk
There will be a significant amount of attention paid to the decision to go for it on fourth down at the end of the first half, instead of going for a field goal -- especially given the final score and Dino Babers’s defense of the move at halftime with “we’re not going to beat these guys kicking field goals.” And while it’s fair to question the decision, Syracuse still missed two field goals. That probably had more to do with the loss than the decision to go for it.
Going for it on fourth down also directly led to a touchdown in the first half. On a fourth-and-three, Dungey caught Jamal Custis wide open behind the Seminoles’ defense for a 47-yard score (SU’s first of the day). So it’s tough to critique the overall strategy too much given the positive results aggressive play also yielded.
(though yes, probably better to take the points down seven in the first half)
3. Eric Dungey’s not exactly healthy, which could come back to hurt us
A couple weeks ago, Dungey hurt his shin. He’s seen his hand banged up, he’s taken a ton of hits and literally needed to be carried around the field against Miami. In this one, he sustained an early ankle injury and later, what looked like a knee issue, while also getting pounded by the opposing defense once again.
The stats don’t necessarily indicate it, but he’s definitely hurting at this point. He might be able to run for over 100 yards on a bum leg (which he did today), but eventually that’s just adrenaline and the physical pain takes its toll. The quarterback is the most important part of this offense and this is the longest he’s ever been relatively healthy for Syracuse.
There are still three more games, however. And given the Dungey-centric play-calling (and increased role rushing the football), the likelihood of him being able to complete this season is starting to look lower than we though a few weeks ago.
What else did you take from the game? Share your own thoughts below.