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Syracuse football: Breaking down offensive play-calling vs. Central Michigan

Hey, lots of positives to take from the middle of this game!

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange got back on track this past Saturday, earning a 41-17 victory over the Central Michigan Chippewas. While the defense was crucial there, the run game also took its turn as unlikely star, too. The game was still slightly uneven (including a very puzzling first quarter). But Dino Babers got the Orange back on track in the second quarter, making for an enjoyable rewatch.

Let’s jump in:

First Quarter

DRIVE 1




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:54 1st and 10 SYR 42 Run Strickland Dive L 2 Yard Gain
14:27 2nd and 8 SYR 44 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey End R 5 Yard Gain
14:00 3rd and 3 SYR 49 Run Strickland Dive L 4 Yard Gain
13:44 1st and 10 CMU 47 Pass Ishmael Mid Range R 17 Yard Gain
13:23 1st and 10 CMU 30 PENALTY (Holding) Pierce N/A 10 Yard Loss
13:23 1st and 20 CMU 40 Pass Ishmael Screen R 3 Yard Gain
13:04 2nd and 17 CMU 37 Pass Dungey Short M Incomplete (Philips)
13:00 3rd and 17 CMU 37 Play Action; Pass Ishmael Mid Range R 14 Yard Gain
12:19 4th and 3 CMU 23 Field Goal Murphy N/A FG is Good
DRIVE 2




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
10:39 1st and 10 SYR 16 Run Dungey Off Tackle L 3 Yard Gain
10:14 2nd and 7 SYR 19 Run Neal Dive R 3 Yard Gain
9:39 3rd and 4 SYR 22 Pass Philips Short M 10 Yard Gain
9:22 1st and 10 SYR 32 Run Neal Dive R 4 Yard Gain
9:01 2nd and 6 SYR 36 Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete (Ishmael)
8:52 3rd and 6 SYR 36 Pass Dungey Short L Incomplete (Philips)
DRIVE 3




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
6:58 1st and 10 SYR 48 Run Neal Dive L 1 Yard Gain
6:39 2nd and 9 SYR 49 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey End R 7 Yard Gain
6:13 3rd and 2 CMU 44 Run Pierre Dive R 0 Yard Gain; Fumble
DRIVE 4




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:24 1st and 10 SYR 23 Run Dungey Dive R 2 Yard Gain
4:56 2nd and 8 SYR 25 Pass Dungey Short R Interception
DRIVE 5




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:29 1st and 10 SYR 36 PENALTY (Illegal Motion) Pierce N/A 5 Yard Loss
2:22 1st and 15 SYR 31 Play Action; Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete (Ishmael)
2:06 2nd and 15 SYR 31 Run Strickland End R 6 Yard Gain
1:47 3rd and 9 SYR 37 Pass Dungey Mid Range R Incomplete

Play-Call Breakdown: 12 called passes, 9 called runs

Right away, you saw the offense trying to generate bigger gains, and if not for a holding call, SU would’ve scored an early touchdown too. A long passing play to Sean Riley was also eliminated via penalty. Also notable: Eric Dungey continued to roll right when flushed out of the pocket. That speaks to the better protection on that side of the line. SU coming away with just three points in this quarter was immensely frustrating.

Second Quarter

DRIVE 6




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:46 1st and 10 SYR 19 Play Action; Pass Riley Screen L 6 Yard Gain
14:32 2nd and 4 SYR 25 Play Action; Pass Pierce Short R 2 Yard Gain
14:12 3rd and 2 SYR 27 Run Strickland Dive L 2 Yard Gain
13:54 1st and 10 SYR 29 Run Strickland End L 2 Yard Gain
13:27 2nd and 8 SYR 31 Play Action; Pass Dungey Deep M Incomplete (Ishmael)
13:19 3rd and 8 SYR 31 Pass Philips Short M 9 Yard Gain
12:55 1st and 10 SYR 40 PENALTY (Sub. Infraction) TEAM N/A 5 Yard Gain
12:55 1st and 5 SYR 45 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete (Neal)
12:46 2nd and 5 SYR 45 Pass Dungey Screen L Incomplete (Neal)
12:41 3rd and 5 SYR 45 Run Neal Dive L 2 Yard Gain
DRIVE 7




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
7:42 1st and 10 CMU 32 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 4 Yard Loss
7:11 2nd and 14 CMU 36 Pass Philips Short L 13 Yard Gain
6:44 3rd and 1 CMU 23 Play Action; Pass Strickland Screen R 0 Yard Gain
6:13 4th and 1 CMU 23 Run Dungey End R 2 Yard Gain
5:52 1st and 10 CMU 21 Run Strickland End R 3 Yard Gain
5:27 2nd and 7 CMU 18 Pass Strickland Screen L 18 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 8




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
3:05 1st and 10 SYR 47 Run Strickland End L 0 Yard Gain
2:39 2nd and 10 SYR 47 Pass Riley Deep R 44 Gain
2:19 1st and Goal CMU 9 Run Strickland Dive R 9 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 9




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
1:15 1st and 10 SYR 15 Pass Dungey Deep M Incomplete (Philips)
1:10 2nd and 10 SYR 15 Run Strickland Dive L 1 Yard Gain
0:57 3rd and 9 SYR 16 Run Strickland Off Tackle R 2 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 12 called passes, 9 called runs

By the time we hit drive No. 6, the nerves were setting in. The Orange went empty backfield on two straight plays with five yards to go, then give the ball to Moe Neal on third and five. Things turned up quickly after, however. Ervin Philips (with a nice run after catch) and Dontae Strickland did the leg work with a short field for one TD. Strickland grabbed the second score of the quarter too, but only after a gorgeous 44-yard connection from Dungey to Riley. NFL scouts were talking about that throw on Twitter afterward, and with good reason.

Third Quarter

DRIVE 10




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
13:16 1st and 10 SYR 10 Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete
13:09 2nd and 10 SYR 10 Run Neal Dive R 71 Yard Gain
12:52 1st and 10 CMU 19 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Gain
12:23 2nd and 9 CMU 18 Pass Ishmael Mid Range L 17 Yard Gain
12:16 1st and Goal CMU 1 Run Dungey Dive R 1 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 11




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
9:57 1st and 10 SYR 19 Run Strickland Off Tackle R 4 Yard Gain
9:36 2nd and 6 SYR 23 Run Strickland End R 5 Yard Gain
9:16 3rd and 1 SYR 28 Run Strickland Dive L 2 Yard Gain
9:11 1st and 10 SYR 30 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Pierce N/A 15 Yard Loss
9:09 1st and 10 SYR 15 PENALTY (Pass Interference) Coleman N/A 15 Yard Gain
9:03 1st and 10 SYR 30 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Off Tackle R 11 Yard Gain
8:30 1st and 10 SYR 41 Pass Ishmael Short R 6 Yard Gain
8:03 2nd and 4 SYR 47 Run Strickland End L 2 Yard Gain
7:28 3rd and 2 SYR 49 Pass Ishmael Short L 29 yard Gain; Fumble
DRIVE 12




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:56 1st and 10 SYR 20 Run Dungey Off Tackle L 74 Yard Gain
5:31 1st and Goal CMU 6 Play Action; Pass Pierce Short M 6 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 13




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
4:34 1st and 10 SYR 28 Run Riley End L 41 Yard Gain
4:14 1st and 10 CMU 31 Play Action; Pass Ishmael Mid Range R 22 Yard Gain
3:56 1st and Goal CMU 9 Run RIley Off Tackle L 0 Yard Gain
3:39 2nd and Goal CMU 9 Play Action; Pass Dungey Short M Incomplete (Ishmael)
3:34 3rd and Goal CMU 9 Run Dungey Dive L 2 Yard Gain
2:53 4th and Goal CMU 7 Field Goal Murphy N/A FG is Good
DRIVE 14




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
1:58 1st and 10 SYR 15 Play Action; Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete (Butler)
1:53 2nd and 10 SYR 15 Play Action; Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete (Ishmael)
1:47 3rd and 10 SYR 15 Play Action; Pass Riley Mid Range R 11 Yard Gain
1:24 1st and 10 SYR 26 Run Dungey Off Tackle R 2 Yard Gain
0:49 2nd and 8 SYR 28 Run Pierre Off Tackle R 4 Yard Gain
0:27 3rd and 4 SYR 32 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Riley)

Play-Call Breakdown: 12 called passes, 13 called runs

Runs on the perimeter started paying major dividends here, as it created more variance to the rushing attack. Moe Neal’s big 71-yard dash was encouraging because he let the hole develop, then burst through. Other long runs by Dungey (74 yards) and Riley (41 yards) were also excellent uses of space on the outside. The run game was still questionable in this one, but the big gains created some semblance of an effective attack in that it kept the defense worried about it.

Fourth Quarter

DRIVE 15




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:12 1st and 10 SYR 19 Run Riley End L 5 Yard Gain
14:05 2nd and 5 SYR 24 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Pierce N/A 12 Yard Loss
13:59 1st and 17 SYR 12 Run Perkins Dive L 1 Yard Gain
13:15 2nd and 16 SYR 13 Play Action; Pass Ishmael Short R 9 Yard Gain
12:57 3rd and 7 SYR 22 PENALTY (Offside) Stanitzek N/A 5 Yard Gain
12:52 3rd and 2 SYR 27 Pass Riley Deep M 21 Yard Gain
12:24 1st and 10 SYR 48 Run Perkins Off Tackle R 1 Yard Gain
11:38 2nd and 9 SYR 49 Run Riley End L 1 Yard Gain
10:57 3rd and 8 CMU 50 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Butler)
DRIVE 16




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
6:37 1st and 10 SYR 20 Run Mahoney Dive L 3 Yard Gain
5:57 2nd and 7 SYR 23 Run Pierre End L 4 Yard Gain
5:11 3rd and 3 SYR 27 Run Pierre Dive R 1 Yard Loss
DRIVE 17




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
1:20 1st and 10 SYR 37 Run Pierre Dive R 5 Yard Gain
0:39 2nd and 5 SYR 42 Run Pierre End R 3 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 3 called passes, 9 called runs

Not much to take from these few drives, since it was all garbage time and both teams just wanted to get out unscathed. Dungey and RIley hooked up for another nice passing gain, though. And Devin C. Butler would’ve hauled in a touchdown catch if he’d been a half-step faster at the end of drive No. 15. Also, you probably noticed Ravian Pierce’s name a lot in the boxes above — mostly on penalties. That’s a bit unsettling given the pure volume of them in this contest.

***

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 39 called passes vs. 40 called runs (last week: 49:43)
  • First half play-calling: 24 passes vs. 18 runs (15:22 in second half)
  • First downs: 18 total (8 passing, 9 rushing, 1 penalty; 9:10:6 last week)
  • First down play selection: 13 called passes, 20 called runs (15:23 last week)
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 8 called passes, 10 called runs (11:14 last week)
  • First down plays for five or more yards: 11, which equals last week’s total
  • Second down play selection: 15 called passes, 10 called runs (19:10 last week)
  • Third down play selection: 11 called passes, 8 called runs (13:9 last week)
  • Third down conversion: 7-for-19 (4 pass, 3 runs, 0 penalty; 1:5:2 last week)
  • Fourth down conversion: 1-for-1
  • This week, just 21 of Syracuse's 79 play calls (27 percent) took place in CMU territory, which is a pretty poor rate. However, SU’s defense set it up for success a couple times with short fields. And when the Orange had the ball on the Chips’ side of the field, they seemed to make quick work of scoring (for once).
  • Play-action was reasonably accurate even if without big plays -- going 8-for-13 with 70 yards and a touchdown. A couple missed connections between Dungey and receivers could’ve pushed those numbers up. Additionally, play-action got more effective as the game wore on and the run game saw success, which isn’t surprising.
  • Syracuse had eight plays that went for 15 or more yards, which is double last week’s total. Of those, four went for 25 or more and somehow none of those went for touchdowns (though they set up points). The Orange also added five plays that gained between 10 and 14 yards, which was good but not great.
  • Including penalties, six plays went for a loss, which is nine fewer than last week’s total for this category. That’s a plus.
  • The Orange were a perfect 5-for-5 in the red zone on Saturday, and even managed to up the touchdown rate a bit in the process. Scoring points in the red zone AND making more of them touchdowns? I like the sound of this. Let’s do more of it.
  • Syracuse had four three-and-outs in the game, but also turned it over three times. Making matters worse on the latter figure, two of the turnovers were entirely avoidable (the tipped INT and Steve Ishmael’s fumble).

For the second straight game, Dungey was putting the ball on the money deep, but to little result. There were still a few drops in this one, but at least we started to see Riley emerge as a potential deep threat. His speed helps make up for the lack of size that complicates the matter of exploiting one-on-one coverage downfield (something Ishmael and Butler can both take advantage of).

Dungey threw really well on the run, avoiding hits where possible and throwing a controlled ball down the sideline. Again, that one pass to Riley was fantastic. But he made several more plays while avoiding pressure that show he’s getting smarter with his reads.

As mentioned above, running to the perimeter was a nice touch that completely changed the look of this offense. The rushing average minus big plays won’t really show it (still averaging less than three yards per carry otherwise), but exploiting the edge with our running backs (who are more suited for that than up-the-gut runs) is a very good thing. Riley’s involvement on jet sweeps was a perfect change of pace as well.

Mistakes were a big theme of this one, even in the midst of a pretty positive breakdown above. SU really only ran a capable offense for a quarter and a half, but really made the most of that time. Pierce made several big mistakes that would’ve bitten us against better opponents. Also, the turnovers were killers -- especially with the defense doing everything it could to get us the ball back.

***

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