The Syracuse Orange took a surprising loss today, by a score of 30-23 to Middle Tennessee. It wasn’t pleasant, but there are still things to glean from what was a frustrating afternoon for both the team and fans.
Dungey still needs to learn how to take care of himself
Throughout the entire game, whether legal or not, Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey was the subject of bone rattling hits. In particular, late in the second quarter, he opted to take an option himself instead of pitching out to a wide open Dontae Strickland on the edge.
Dungey could never get out of the way of the Blue Raider linebackers. Whether on designed runs, options, or drop back passes, the Orange junior quarterback was sacked five times. Against C-USA opposition, that simply is unacceptable. LSU, Clemson, and Florida State defensive linemen must be licking their chops watching these highlights.
This is not completely his fault. The offensive line struggled to hold back the Middle Tennessee state front seven for the most of the game and the Orange really couldn't get a run game going to help keep their quarterback on his feet. Yet, even when Dungey slid or got rid of the ball, he still mainly ended up on the turf. To be a consistent and elite ACC quarterback, he needs to find more ways to stay on his feet.
Red zone offense and drops made matters worse
Too often did the offense build momentum on either option runs, short passes, shovel passes, etc. and have it killed by a dropped pass. Solid football teams can't drop easy or wide open balls five or six times and expect to win. Especially in close games, the technical aspects of the game become so much more important.
As well, the offense simply did not perform well enough in the red zone. In their five trips, they converted four into points (the lone failure being a fourth down conversion that could have been offside or DPI). Yet, three out of the other four times, poor play calling, a failure of the offensive line to create any push, or just miscommunications resulted in negative or stand still plays.
The lone touchdown came on a fourth down where Dontae Strickland stretched across the goal line on a second effort. Entering ACC play, the offense needs to be more efficient if they want to find any success against bigger, faster, and more talented defenses.
Front seven looked much improved
For the majority of the game, the Syracuse defensive line and linebackers controlled the line of scrimmage. They contained outside runs, stopped big plays on the ground from Stockstill and kept the MTSU skill players running east to west instead of north-south. While there were a few instances later in the game where either Stockstill or Tyrone Lee were able to break out, they were mainly stopped.
Zaire Franklin looked dominant, recording seven tackles and one for a loss. Jonathan Thomas also tallied six as well as an interception that set up the Orange inside the five yard line. Basically, they were not the problem today. (though the secondary is another story...)