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Syracuse football: Breaking down offensive play-calling vs. LSU

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This was an enjoyable rewatch despite the loss.

Syracuse v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange failed to pull off the upset win over the LSU Tigers on Saturday. But in the process of losing, SU also managed to present some of its most inspired play-calling under Dino Babers. That made this a pretty fun rewatch, and one that could also provide hints of more to come as the team continues to open up the playbook.

Let’s jump in:

First Quarter

DRIVE 1




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
15:00 1st and 10 SYR 25 Pass Dungey Short R Interception
DRIVE 2




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:51 1st and 10 SYR 25 Pass Philips Short M 5 Yard Gain
14:26 2nd and 5 SYR 30 Pass Dungey Mid Range R Incomplete
14:19 3rd and 5 SYR 30 Pass Ishmael Short R 6 Yard Gain
14:08 1st and 10 SYR 36 Pass Ishmael Screen R 1 Yard Loss
13:38 2nd and 11 SYR 35 Pass Philips Mid Range M 10 Yard Gain
13:16 3rd and 1 SYR 45 Play Action; Pass Ishmael Screen R 12 Yard Gain
12:58 1st and 10 LSU 43 Play Action; Pass Ishmael Screen R 3 Yard Gain
12:34 2nd and 7 LSU 40 Pass Philips Screen L 5 Yard Gain
12:13 3rd and 2 LSU 35 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Off Tackle L 5 Yard Gain
11:49 1st and 10 LSU 30 Run Strickland Off Tackle R 1 Yard Gain
11:17 2nd and 9 LSU 29 Play Action; Pass Philips Screen M 2 Yard Loss
10:46 3rd and 11 LSU 31 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey End R 8 Yard Gain
10:00 4th and 3 LSU 23 Reverse; Run Butler End R 6 Yard Gain
9:42 1st and 10 LSU 17 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 5 Yard Loss
9:11 2nd and 15 LSU 22 PENALTY (False Start) Pierce N/A 4 Yard Loss
8:51 2nd and 19 LSU 26 Pass Philips Short M 3 Yard Gain
8:12 3rd and 16 LSU 23 Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete (Ishmael)
8:03 4th and 16 LSU 23 Field Goal Murphy N/A FG is Good
DRIVE 3




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
6:15 1st and 10 SYR 34 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete (Philips)
6:11 2nd and 10 SYR 34 Run Neal Dive L 3 Yard Gain
5:40 3rd and 7 SYR 37 Option; Run Dungey Off Tackle R 6 Yard Gain
DRIVE 4




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
2:01 1st and 10 SYR 35 Pass Philips Mid Range R 15 Yard Gain
1:43 1st and 10 LSU 50 Pass Ishmael Screen R 7 Yard Gain
1:30 2nd and 3 LSU 43 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 8 Yard Loss
0:56 3rd and 11 SYR 49 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete (Philips)

Play-Call Breakdown: 20 called passes, 4 called runs

After a run-centric game vs. CMU, this was the opposite. Syracuse’s first 11 play-calls were passes, and following a costly pick on the first play, they were moving the ball pretty effectively through the air. Eric Dungey has been rolling out almost exclusively to the right to buy himself time and it’s worked incredibly well these past couple games. We also saw some well-executed bubble screens in the first (and more later as well).

Second Quarter

DRIVE 5




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
11:19 1st and 10 SYR 37 Play Action; Pass Butler Screen L 11 Yard Gain
11:06 1st and 10 SYR 48 Pass Dungey Mid Range M Incomplete (Butler)
11:01 2nd and 10 SYR 48 Play Action; Pass Strickland Screen R 1 Yard Loss
10:35 3rd and 11 SYR 47 Run Strickland Dive L 15 Yard Gain; Fumble
10:09 1st and 10 LSU 38 Pass Ishmael Screen R 6 Yard Gain
9:58 2nd and 4 LSU 32 PENALTY (Holding) Butler N/A 10 Yard Loss
9:34 2nd and 14 LSU 42 PENALTY (False Start) Pierce N/A 5 Yard Loss
9:28 2nd and 19 LSU 47 Run Neal Dive L 2 Yard Gain
8:53 3rd and 17 LSU 45 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Riley)
DRIVE 6




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
4:19 1st and 10 SYR 13 Pass Ishmael Mid Range R 17 Yard Gain
3:57 1st and 10 SYR 30 Run Neal Dive L 2 Yard Gain
3:34 2nd and 8 SYR 32 Pass Dungey Mid Range M Incomplete (Philips)
3:29 3rd and 8 SYR 32 Pass Philips Screen M 3 Yard Gain
DRIVE 7




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
1:15 1st and 10 SYR 25 Pass Dungey Mid Range R Incomplete (Philips)
1:11 2nd and 10 SYR 25 Reverse; Pass Dungey Screen L 13 Yard Gain
0:55 1st and 10 SYR 38 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 3 Yard Loss
0:47 2nd and 13 SYR 35 Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete (Philips)
0:40 3rd and 13 SYR 35 Run Strickland Dive R 5 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 12 called passes, 4 called runs

Syracuse errors made this quarter a bit crippling to re-witness. Drive five was derailed twice by mistakes — once by a Devin C. Butler hold, and another by Sean Riley’s drop in the end zone. Dungey delivered a perfect ball on the latter, and that inability to haul in the pass probably haunts us for a bit longer now. In case you forgot, though, Butler was a quarterback in high school and Babers was happy to use that to his advantage with trick plays. Though admittedly, seeing Dungey out wide as a receiver is horrifying.

Third Quarter

DRIVE 8




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
-- 1st and 10 SYR 25 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Off Tackle L 5 Yard Gain
-- 2nd and 5 SYR 30 Pass Philips Short M 5 Yard Gain
-- 1st and 10 SYR 35 Run Dungey Dive R 1 Yard Gain
-- 2nd and 9 SYR 36 Pass Dungey Short M Incomplete ()
-- 3rd and 9 SYR 36 Pass Ishmael Deep M 28 Yard Gain
-- 1st and 10 LSU 36 PENALTY (Offside) Key N/A 5 Yard Loss
-- 1st and 5 LSU 31 Play Action; Pass Dungey Mid Range R Incomplete (Ishmael)
-- 2nd and 5 LSU 31 Play Action; Pass Pierce Screen L 1 Yard Gain
-- 3rd and 4 LSU 30 Reverse; Pass Philips Deep M 30 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 9




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
-- 1st and 10 SYR 27 Run Strickland Off Tackle R 3 Yard Gain
-- 2nd and 7 SYR 30 Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete (Ishmael)
-- 3rd and 7 SYR 30 Pass Philips Short M 6 Yard Gain
DRIVE 10




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:16 1st and 10 SYR 24 Play Action; Pass Philips Short L 13 Yard Gain
4:58 1st and 10 SYR 37 Run Neal Dive R 3 Yard Gain
4:38 2nd and 7 SYR 40 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete (Ishmael)
4:27 3rd and 7 SYR 40 Run Neal End L 1 Yard Gain
DRIVE 11




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
3:23 1st and 10 SYR 28 Pass Neal Screen L 15 Yard Gain
2:53 1st and 10 SYR 43 Pass Neal Short M 9 Yard Gain
2:20 2nd and 1 LSU 48 Pass Neal Short M 2 Yard Gain
2:02 1st and 10 LSU 46 Pass Neal Screen R 5 Yard Gain
1:24 2nd and 5 LSU 41 Pass Dungey Short L Incomplete (N. Johnson)
1:21 3rd and 5 LSU 41 Play Action; Pass Dungey Mid Range M Incomplete (Butler)
1:15 4th and 5 LSU 41 Reverse; Run Philips End L 8 Yard Gain
0:54 1st and 10 LSU 33 Pass Butler Screen L 7 Yard Gain
0:42 2nd and 3 LSU 26 Pass Pierce Mid Range L 12 Yard Gain
0:15 1st and 10 LSU 14 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey End R 14 Yard Gain; TD

Play-Call Breakdown: 20 called passes, 5 called runs

This is where momentum starts turning, and you could clearly hear the "Let’s Go Orange" chant in the stadium and on TV. Butler’s touchdown throw to Ervin Philips is near-perfect, and SU also finds creative uses for Moe Neal on this drive (and only this drive for some reason). The reverses are a fun new wrinkle that work regardless of personnel, and between those and the other short plays that started turning into bigger chunks, the Orange offense was fun and rolling in this quarter.

Fourth Quarter

DRIVE 12




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
10:31 1st and 10 SYR 20 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete
10:27 2nd and 10 SYR 20 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Gain
9:57 3rd and 9 SYR 21 Pass Ishmael Mid Range M 15 Yard Gain
9:42 1st and 10 SYR 36 Run Dungey Dive L 1 Yard Gain
9:14 2nd and 9 SYR 37 PENALTY (Holding) Adams N/A 10 Yard Gain
8:36 2nd and 19 SYR 27 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete (Ishmael)
8:30 3rd and 19 SYR 27 PENALTY (Roughing) Chaisson N/A 15 Yard Gain
8:26 1st and 10 SYR 42 PENALTY (Illegal Formation) Team N/A 5 Yard Gain
8:14 1st and 5 SYR 47 Run Strickland End R 2 Yard Loss
7:46 2nd and 7 SYR 45 Play Action; Pass Pierce Short R 8 Yard Gain
7:30 1st and 10 LSU 47 Run Strickland Dive L 4 Yard Gain
7:07 2nd and 6 LSU 43 Pass N. Johnson Short M 10 Yard Gain
6:47 1st and 10 LSU 33 Play Action; Pass Ishmael Screen R 8 Yard Gain
6:30 2nd and 2 LSU 25 Option; Run Dungey Off Tackle L 1 Yard Gain
6:11 3rd and 1 LSU 24 Run Dungey Dive L 2 Yard Gain
5:46 1st and 10 LSU 22 Pass Ishmael Deep R 22 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 13




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
1:52 1st and 10 SYR 25 Pass Dungey Mid Range R Incomplete (Ishmael)
1:47 2nd and 10 SYR 25 Pass; Sack Dungey N/A 3 Yard Loss
1:36 3rd and 13 SYR 22 Pass Dungey Mid Range M Incomplete (Philips)
1:31 4th and 13 SYR 22 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (N. Johnson)

Play-Call Breakdown: 11 called passes, 6 called runs

Penalties aside, drive 12 was a masterclass in what this offense should look like, albeit one that probably took a minute more than we could’ve afforded. The Orange kept LSU guessing with a mix of short plays, while working in bigger ones. Dungey and Steve Ishmael connected on two beautiful passes, including the 22-yard score to get within two. If Babers had gone for two at the end of the third quarter, a two-point conversion here would’ve tied the game at 28. Instead, we were down 28-26 and accidentally tried an onside kick.

***

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 63 called passes vs. 19 called runs (last week: 39:40)
  • First half play-calling: 32 passes vs. 8 runs (31:11 in second half)
  • First downs: 24 total (17 passing, 6 rushing, 1 penalty; 8:9:1 last week)
  • First down play selection: 26 called passes, 8 called runs (13:20 last week)
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 17 called passes, 7 called runs (8:10 last week)
  • First down plays for five or more yards: 15, which was a great way to set the tempo throughout the game
  • Second down play selection: 22 called passes, 4 called runs (15:10 last week)
  • Third down play selection: 12 called passes, 7 called runs (11:8 last week)
  • Third down conversion: 8-for-19 (4 pass, 3 runs, 1 penalty; 4:3:0 last week)
  • Fourth down conversion: 2-for-3
  • This week, just 32 of Syracuse's 82 play calls (39 percent) took place in LSU territory, which is an improvement over last week’s 27 percent, for sure. SU started at their own 25 more often than not, so getting past midfield as frequently as they did was a testament to the effort they put together.
  • Play action never really got going with a pretty one-sided attack against the Tigers. But going 9-for-11 with 57 yards off of play-action isn’t necessarily bad, either.
  • Syracuse had eight plays that went for 15 or more yards, just like last week. Of those, two went for 25 or more and both were on the same drive (drive eight). The Orange also added eight plays that gained between 10 and 14 yards, which was a staple of the offense this week.
  • Including penalties, 12 plays went for a loss, which double last week’s total (and a big reason for the tough defeat).
  • The Orange were 1-for-1 from the red zone, scoring on a 14-yard scamper by Dungey. All other points were accounted for by long passes or a field goal just outside the red zone.
  • Syracuse had just three three-and-outs, and one turnover (the first interception by Dungey). That latter mistake kills, but the rest is reasonable given the defense SU was up against.

The trick plays were obviously being held out for this LSU game, but now what happens to them? Butler’s a fun weapon to utilize in the pass game until everyone else figures out what you’re going to do with him. Still, it’s nice to see him and Moe Neal get a bit more involved in an impactful way this week. Expect more tricks going forward, as it was SU’s best chance at big plays.

I know it’s crazy to hear me say this: Bubble screens worked really well tonight, and if we can replicate that sort of blocking, its worth using them even more going forward given our personnel.

Riley’s drop, a two-point conversion try in the third quarter and the onside kick should all give you some real heartburn for weeks. If the first one doesn’t happen, Syracuse is potentially up 10-7 at the break. Or worst case, down 14-10.

Over the last three weeks, Dungey’s getting smarter about how he’s getting hit, even if he’s not stopping himself from getting hit completely. The called runs are going to bang him up a bit over time, But the bigger concern is how officials aren’t really protecting him much. You’d think after Saturday’s big in-game complaint to the refs, they’re at least paying attention now (though who knows what that could result in...).

Anyone you wanted to see more of? Or issues with the Dungey-led show on Saturday? If anything else caught your eye, go ahead and add below.