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

These again? YEAHHHHHHHHHHH

Central Connecticut State v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange had a pretty nice offensive game to start this season, as to be expected when you face a team like Central Connecticut. As always, we’ll dive in below to see just how effective things were, certain areas for improvement and other trends that I’m sure a few people beyond myself will find interesting.

Dino Babers Play-Calling Season 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO is upon us. Let’s goooooo!

First Quarter

DRIVE 1




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:54 1st and 10 SYR 30 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Gain
14:31 2nd and 9 SYR 31 Play Action; Pass Ishmael Deep R 34 Yard Gain
14:10 1st and 10 CCSU 35 Pass Custis Screen L 5 Yard Gain
13:52 2nd and 5 CCSU 30 Play Action; Pass RIley Screen L 8 Yard Gain
13:39 1st and 10 CCSU 22 Play Action; Pass Custis Mid Range L 6 Yard Gain
13:04 2nd and 4 CCSU 16 Run Strickland Off Tackle L 2 Yard Gain
12:43 3rd and 2 CCSU 14 Run Strickland Dive L 3 Yard Gain
12:14 1st and 10 CCSU 11 Run Dungey End L 11 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 2




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
10:35 1st and 10 CCSU 50 Pass Ishmael Short R 7 Yard Gain
10:21 2nd and 3 CCSU 43 Pass Philips Screen L 8 Yard Gain
10:09 1st and 10 CCSU 35 Play Action; Pass Custis Deep L 29 Yard Gain
9:42 1st and Goal CCSU 6 Run Strickland Dive R 6 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 3




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:34 1st and 10 SYR 14 Pass Ishmael Short R 6 Yard Gain
5:17 2nd and 4 SYR 20 Run Neal Counter L 1 Yard Gain
4:39 3rd and 3 SYR 21 Option; Run Neal End R 3 Yard Gain
4:29 1st and 10 SYR 24 Pass Ishmael Screen R 15 Yard Gain
4:20 1st and 10 SYR 39 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Laguerre N/A 15 Yard Gain
4:16 1st and 10 CCSU 46 Play Action; Pass Ishmael Screen R 13 Yard Gain
3:59 1st and 10 CCSU 33 Play Action; Pass Ishmael Screen R 14 Yard Gain
3:42 1st and 10 CCSU 19 Run Neal Dive R 0 Yard Gain
3:02 2nd and 10 CCSU 19 Run Neal Dive L 5 Yard Gain
2:47 3rd and 5 CCSU 14 Pass Philips Screen L 14 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 4




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
0:38 1st and 10 SYR 28 Play Action; Pass Ishmael Screen R 8 Yard Gain
0:19 2nd and 2 SYR 36 Play Action; Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete (Ishmael)
0:12 3rd and 2 SYR 36 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Custis)

Play-Call Breakdown: 15 called passes, 9 called runs

A brutally efficient first quarter that included 13 straight completions to start. Syracuse definitely tried to establish a run game early, and even if it didn’t gain the yards they were hoping for, it did keep the defense honest. It also helped that Central Connecticut didn’t cover Steve Ishmael on the same throw repeatedly, so Dungey could just hit him in the flat for a big gain every time.

Second Quarter

DRIVE 5




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
14:01 1st and 10 SYR 24 Run Neal Dive L 4 Yard Gain
13:39 2nd and 6 SYR 28 Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Custis)
13:32 3rd and 6 SYR 28 Pass Dungey Short R Incomplete
DRIVE 6




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
12:21 1st and 10 SYR 32 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Off Tackle L 7 Yard Gain
12:01 2nd and 3 SYR 39 Pass Ishmael Screen L 8 Yard Gain
11:44 1st and 10 SYR 47 PENALTY (Offside) Puritt N/A 5 Yard Gain
11:24 1st and 5 CCSU 48 Run Strickland Dive L 1 Yard Gain
10:56 2nd and 4 CCSU 47 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey Off Tackle R 1 Yard Gain
10:21 3rd and 3 CCSU 46 Pass Philips Short M 11 Yard Gain
10:05 1st and 10 CCSU 35 PENALTY (False Start) Conway N/A 5 Yard Loss
9:50 1st and 15 CCSU 40 Run Strickland Dive R 2 Yard Gain
9:21 2nd and 13 CCSU 38 Run Dungey Off Tackle L 8 Yard Gain
9:01 3rd and 5 CCSU 30 PENATLY (Pass Interference) Morris N/A 15 Yard Gain
8:55 1st and 10 CCSU 15 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Gain
8:15 2nd and 9 CCSU 14 Play Action; Pass Dungey Mid Range R Incomplete (Ishmael)
8:11 3rd and 9 CCSU 14 Run Strickland Dive L 4 Yard Gain
7:32 4th and 5 CCSU 10 Field Goal Murphy N/A FG is Good
DRIVE 7




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:47 1st and 10 SYR 44 Play Action; Pass Dungey Deep L Incomplete (Custis)
5:42 2nd and 10 SYR 44 Run Neal Dive L 4 Yard Gain
5:05 3rd and 6 SYR 48 Pass Neal Short L 52 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 8




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
3:19 1st and 10 SYR 27 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey End R 6 Yard Gain
2:57 2nd and 4 SYR 33 Pass Pierce Screen L 0 Yard Gain
2:32 3rd and 4 SYR 33 Pass Perkins Mid Range M 14 Yard Gain
2:15 1st and 10 SYR 47 Play Action; Pass Butler Screen L 5 Yard Gain
1:59 2nd and 5 CCSU 48 Pass Pierce Screen R 1 Yard Loss
1:23 3rd and 6 CCSU 49 Play Action; Pass Dungey Deep R Incomplete (Philips)

Play-Call Breakdown: 15 called passes, 7 called runs

Eric Dungey started getting hit a little bit here (including the frontflip), but overall, Syracuse made a lot out of mostly smaller gains — aside from Moe Neal’s 52-yard catch and run, however. Dungey was very accurate in this game overall, but some drops/strips stopped him from having a historically on-the-money throwing day.

Third Quarter

DRIVE 9




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
11:08 1st and 10 SYR 35 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Gain
10:24 2nd and 9 SYR 36 Run Dungey End R 3 Yard Gain
9:51 3rd and 6 SYR 39 Run Strickland Dive L 8 Yard Gain
9:35 1st and 10 SYR 47 Pass Ishmael Screen R 2 Yard Gain
9:15 2nd and 8 SYR 49 Pass Ishmael Screen R 4 Yard Gain
8:51 3rd and 4 CCSU 47 Pass Philips Mid Range M 20 Yard Gain
8:33 1st and 10 CCSU 27 Play Action; Pass Philips Mid Range R 13 Yard Gain
8:21 1st and 10 CCSU 14 Run Strickland Dive R 10 Yard Gain
8:10 1st and Goal CCSU 4 Run Strickland Dive R 1 Yard Loss
7:40 2nd and Goal CCSU 5 Play Action; Pass Pierce Short M 5 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 10




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
6:13 1st and 10 SYR 39 Run Dungey Dive R 2 Yard Gain
5:49 2nd and 8 SYR 41 Play Action; Pass Dungey Mid Range L Incomplete (Custis)
5:44 3rd and 8 SYR 41 Pocket Breakdown; Run Dungey End L 11 Yard Gain
5:27 1st and 10 CCSU 48 Pass Philips Short R 5 Yard Gain
5:06 2nd and 5 CCSU 43 Pass Ishmael Mid Range R 11 Yard Gain
5:01 1st and 10 CCSU 32 PENALTY (Personal Foul) Kennedy N/A 15 Yard Gain
4:52 1st and 10 CCSU 17 Pass Ishmael Mid Range M 12 Yard Gain
4:22 1st and Goal CCSU 5 PENALTY (Pass Interference) Bagley N/A 3 Yard Gain
4:17 1st and Goal CCSU 2 Run Neal Dive R 0 Yard Gain
3:48 2nd and Goal CCSU 2 Run Dungey Off Tackle L 2 Yard Gain; TD
DRIVE 11




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
1:27 1st and 10 SYR 38 Pass Avant Screen R 12 Yard Gain
1:08 1st and 10 CCSU 50 Play Action; Pass Avant Screen R 6 Yard Gain
0:45 2nd and 4 CCSU 44 Play Action; Pass Culpepper Deep L Incomplete (Custis)
0:39 3rd and 4 CCSU 44 Run Perkins Dive R 1 Yard Gain
0:06 4th and 3 CCSU 43 Pass Avant Short L 4 Yard Gain

Play-Call Breakdown: 14 called passes, 9 called runs

Run totals creep up a bit as we’re firmly in garbage time already, but Babers does want to test out what that part of the offense can do (especially since it’s been so ineffective). The one thing I can’t figure out is why there were several called runs for Dungey in this quarter, two of which he received substantial hits on. If you’re going to keep him in late, probably best to avoid, no?

Fourth Quarter

15:00 1st and 10 CCSU 39 Play Action; Pass Culpepper Deep L Incomplete (Custis)
14:55 2nd and 10 CCSU 39 Run Perkins Dive R 1 Yard Gain
14:20 3rd and 9 CCSU 38 Run Perkins Dive R 5 Yard Gain
13:38 4th and 4 CCSU 33 Field Goal Hofrichter N/A FG is No Good
DRIVE 12




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
11:10 1st and 10 SYR 38 Play Action; Pass Butler Screen L 4 Yard Gain
10:51 2nd and 6 SYR 42 Pass Culpepper Screen R Incomplete (N. Johnson)
10:47 3rd and 6 SYR 42 Play Action; Pass Butler Deep L 42 Yard Gain
10:28 1st and 10 CCSU 16 Run Pierre Off Tackle R 7 Yard Gain
10:11 2nd and 3 CCSU 9 Play Action; Pass Culpepper Screen L Incomplete (N. Johnson)
10:06 3rd and 3 CCSU 9 Pass Culpepper Short M Incomplete (Butler)
10:02 4th and 3 CCSU 9 Field Goal Hofrichter N/A FG is Good
DRIVE 13




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
8:23 1st and 10 SYR 44 Run N. Johnson Reverse L 13 Yard Gain
8:08 1st and 10 CCSU 43 Pass Butler Screen L 3 Yard Gain; Fumble
DRIVE 14




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:51 1st and 10 SYR 17 Pass; Sack Culpepper N/A 7 Yard Loss; Fumble
DRIVE 15




Time Down Ball Run/Pass Player Direction Result
5:40 1st and 10 SYR 21 Pass Culpepper Short L Incomplete (Butler)
5:35 2nd and 10 SYR 21 Run Pierre Dive L 1 Yard Gain
5:07 3rd and 9 SYR 22 Play Action; Pass Gilfus Mid Range R 11 Yard Gain
4:50 1st and 10 SYR 33 Run Pierre End R 13 Yard Gain
4:33 1st and 10 SYR 46 Run Pierre End R 7 Yard Gain
4:04 2nd and 3 CCSU 47 Run Pierre Off Tackle R 3 Yard Gain
3:34 1st and 10 CCSU 44 Run Pierre Dive R 4 Yard Gain
3:14 2nd and 6 CCSU 41 Run N. Johnson Reverse L 10 Yard Gain
2:52 1st and 10 CCSU 31 Run Culpepper Dive R 8 Yard Gain
2:33 2nd and 2 CCSU 23 Pass Avant Screen L 2 Yard Gain
2:12 1st and 10 CCSU 21 Run Culpepper Dive R 2 Yard Gain
1:39 2nd and 8 CCSU 19 Option; Run Stritzinger End L 2 Yard Loss
1:09 3rd and 10 CCSU 21 Pass Culpepper Deep R Incomplete (Gilfus)
0:59 4th and 11 CCSU 21 Field Goal Murphy N/A FG is Good

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

Despite it being garbage time, we did see some nice things here as back-ups got work. Rex Culpepper was pretty accurate, with drops hurting his overall numbers. Markenzy Pierre showed some really nice vision with the ball, which helped opened up the run game a bit more. And Nykeim Johnson’s reverses were a cool fold that worked incredibly well. Culpepper ran a few times and even operated out of the option, which was strange. Perhaps he was running plays tailored to Zack Mahoney, however?

***

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 56 called passes vs. 38 called runs
  • First half play-calling: 30 passes vs. 16 runs 26:22 in second half)
  • First downs: 34 total (20 passing, 10 rushing, 4 penalty)
  • First down play selection: 24 called passes, 20 called runs
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 17 called passes, 17 called runs
  • First down plays for five or more yards: 25, which is more than any week last year (even the Pitt game)
  • Second down play selection: 18 called passes, 12 called runs
  • Third down play selection: 13 called passes, 6 called runs
  • Third down conversion: 11-for-19 (6 passes, 4 runs, 1 penalty)
  • Fourth down conversion: 1-for-1
  • This week, 52 of Syracuse's 94 play calls (55.3 percent) took place in CCSU territory. The Orange made quick work of getting into Blue Devils territory on most drives.
  • Even with minimal results in the run game until later, SU was effective out of play-action. Dungey started hot, connecting on several deeper strikes using it. Between him and Culpepper, they were a combined 14-for-21, with 181 yards and one touchdown.
  • Syracuse had just six plays that went for 15 or more yards, but four of those went for more than 25 yards. That number’s lower on the big-play scale than some games last year, but the team also had 16 plays between 10 and 14 yards, which more than makes up for it.
  • Including penalties, just five plays went for a loss, while just three gained a net zero yards.
  • Syracuse was 8-for-8 in the red zone — tied for the best rate (on the most attempts) in the country. SU was also 7-for-7 vs. Pitt in the red zone, making them 15 of their last 15. That’s impressive. Worth noting that touchdown percentage still isn’t super high, however.
  • The Orange had just three three-and-outs. Pretty solid work, gang.

While we thought Steve Ishmael could play a similar deep threat to what Amba Etta-Tawo did in last year’s offense, we were uncertain how he’d do in confined space. Ends up he’s doing exactly what Amba did there, too. Ishmael’s footwork and acceleration close to the line of scrimmage was impeccable, and led to several nice runs after the catch.

The high play count was a nice sign of things to come for Syracuse, since they hit that despite taking their foot off the gas a bit in the later stages. SU’s advantage comes from momentum and forcing teams to play at a speed they’re not comfortable with. It might just be CCSU here, but getting that practice in to force the tempo is great for the younger players especially.

Downfield blocking by the wide receivers was excellent and led to runs after the catch all around. The run game didn’t pick up much yardage after first contact, so the ability for wideouts to break tackles is going to be a big factor toward SU generating bigger plays.

We talked about it a little in the comments post-game, but Markenzy Pierre had some really nice field vision and was able to turn several of his runs into some solid gains. That’s a good sign for the future of the rushing attack, which was none too effective in week one otherwise.

***

Anything else that caught your eye above, or from watching the game yourself? Go ahead and add below.