The Syracuse Orange (2-3, 0-1) suffered a disappointing loss in their ACC opener against the N.C. State Wolfpack (4-1, 2-0). While the offense showed glimpses of their potential, the defense stumbled in the run game; a facet they have shined in recently.
Run defense was putrid
For perhaps the first time this season, the front seven looked porous. N.C. State consistently found open gaps in the defense and exploited them for 254 rushing yards, along with three touchdowns. For a team that ran for 144 yards against Marshall, the Wolfpack offensive line was perhaps the different maker.
Junior Nyheim Hines, who had never rushed for over 100 yards, ran amok, totaling 114 yards on just 19 carries, including a one-yard touchdown that perhaps pushed the game out of reach for the Orange.
While this was somewhat surprising considering last week’s display against LSU, it can be directly attributed to Kendal Coleman’s health. Coleman was not with the team for this trip (injury and his grandmother’s funeral this weekend), nor was Josh Black.
Ervin Philips and Steve Ishmael were dominant
Perhaps the lone bright spots, the two star wide receivers stretched out the Wolfpack defense and practically kept the Orange in the game on their own. Philips lead the way with 17 catches for 188 yards. Though he came in among the top-20 pass-catchers in the country, the record-setting day should put him into the top five or so (in terms of receptions). Ishmael, to his credit, also had six catches for 120 yards and a score.
While they only accounted for one touchdown, this is an incredibly positive sign for the remainder of the season. The two seniors are perhaps the only solid options for Eric Dungey and the passing game, but today they showed they can compete at a high level against solid defenses. With Clemson, Miami, and Florida State approaching, Orange fans have at least one reason to be hopeful against the ACC elite.
Mistakes and lack of a run game cost Syracuse the game
Perhaps the most uneasy observation was that Syracuse screwed themselves over. They had opportunities to win this game. Mistakes through penalties, missed defensive lapses, called back touchdowns, and interceptions were definitely not a help. While Dungey was very good all day long, the mistakes were just too much.
Also, Syracuse could not generate any movement on the ground. For yet another game, Dungey was their leading rusher with only 44 yards. He had twice as many carries as Dontae Strickland and Moe Neal combined and is the leading rusher for the Orange on the season by 100 yards.
For this offense to reach another level, they need something to click on the ground. They are not going to have any chance at making a bowl game if they continue to be a pass only team. Hopefully, this abysmal performance will spark a fire under the offensive line.