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Syracuse football’s 1st down offense vs. Wake Forest

We also look at the full 2019 season

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

All season long we’ve been tracking the Syracuse Orange first-down offense and an area that has been a problem has suddenly become a strength as the season comes to a close. With Clayton Welch handling most of the snaps at quarterback against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons the Orange leaned on the running game in this one.

It was a solid farewell for Moe Neal as he and Jarveon Howard did most of the damage for Syracuse. As we’ve seen the last three games, the running game was a lot more successful than it had been for most of 2019. Keeping this going in 2020 will be one of the keys for the Syracuse offense because it’s easier to move the ball when you’re in 2nd and short situations.

Syracuse vs Wake Forest

1st half Run or Pass Yards 2nd Half Run or Pass Yards
1st half Run or Pass Yards 2nd Half Run or Pass Yards
Pass (Incomplete) 0 Run (Howard) 3
Run (Welch) 5 Run (Howard) 10
Run (Neal) 15 Run (Howard) 8
Run (Neal) 12 Run (Howard) 0
Pass (Jackson) 6 Run (Neal) 2
Pass (Incomplete) 0 Pass (Jackson) 10
Pass (Jackson) 12 (TD) Pass (Harris) 5
Run (Howard) 4 Run (Howard) 11
Run (Neal) 7 Run (Howard) 11
Run (Harris) 10 Run (Howard) -18
Pass (Incomplete) 0 Pass (Incomplete) 0
Pass (Harris) -1 Run (Neal) 4
Run (Howard) -2 Run (Neal) 13 (TD)
Run (Welch) 8 Run (Neal) 4
Run (Neal) 3 Run (Neal) 0
Run (Neal) 9 Pass (Harris) 33
Run (Neal) 1 Run (Neal) 9
Run (Welch) -2
Run 12 70 yards 5.83 yds per play Run 13
Pass 6 17 yards 2.83 yds per play Pass 4
18 87 yards 4.83 yds per play 17
Run 25 124 yards 4.96 yds per play
Pass 10 65 yards 6.5 yds per play
35 189 yards 9.8 yds per play

Credit to Welch for making enough plays through the air to keep Wake Forest honest. It was also the third straight game the Orange scored multiple touchdowns on first down plays. With the struggles the offense has had in the red zone that’s a big bonus.

Here’s what the full season numbers look like for Syracuse’s first-down offense. Look at the difference in the rushing offense and while some of that can certainly be attributed to the defenses they faced it does show improvement in the offensive line’s play down the stretch.

2019 Syracuse 1st Down Offense

Opponent Rush Attempts Rush Yards Pass Attempts Pass Yards
Opponent Rush Attempts Rush Yards Pass Attempts Pass Yards
Liberty 17 63 11 63
Maryland 10 50 19 159
Clemson 12 21 15 47
Western Michigan 21 86 12 79
Holy Cross 13 59 16 139
NC State 12 15 18 94
Pittsburgh 11 29 19 58
Florida State 21 76 10 11
Boston College 16 87 15 85
Duke 22 173 4 4
Louisville 24 177 10 156
Wake Forest 25 124 10 65
Total 204 960 159 960
Overall 363 1,920 5.3 yards per play

It’s interesting that the Orange gained the same yardage running on first down as they did passing on first down but with the season we just watched it’s certainly not the craziest part of 2019. As we look ahead to 2020 we hope that Syracuse can maintain the success they found over the last three games. We know Dino Babers hopes that rushing attack can be sustained next season.