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Syracuse football: A view from the trenches against Duke

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That was a much different performance than I was expecting.

NCAA Football: Duke at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

This is part of a weekly series in which I chart the line and rewatch the game with a focus on the big men on the offense for the Syracuse Orange. All of my game charts can be found here.

I said last week that it was amazing the difference a week can make for a unit. While last week it was to note what seemed like great improvement, this week, it holds true in the opposite form. While Tommy DeVito had what looked to be one of his better games of the year prior to his unfortunate injury, the offensive line was doing him no favors. While it was a tall task dealing with Chris Rumph, arguably the best edge rusher in the league, and Victor Dimukeje, another of the top talents at the position, the Orange still should have been able to put in some sort of a solid performance.

One of the biggest notes heading into the game was the epiphany that Syracuse was swapping their tackles. Airon Servais moved to the right tackle position, and Matthew Bergeron took over the left tackle spot. What the impetus for this was, I’m not sure, but it accomplished a few things. Against Duke, it put Bergeron, who has been the best overall offensive lineman on the year, across from Chris Rumph, who may be the best defensive end the Orange see all year. It also put Bergeron on DeVito’s blind side, which you don’t particularly want a potential All-American teeing off on your quarterback from.

Bergeron was mostly up to the challenge, and while Rumph tallied two sacks and two hurries, it was overall a decent day for Bergeron. He still can have a tendency to get overextended and not use his hands well enough, and he did get beat on two outside-in moves, but handled the junior in a decent manner.

Duke Line Chart - See link in Intro for full chart

Servais didn’t have his best day on the season, lined up against Victor Dimukeje and Derrick Tangelo, the former as the edge-rusher, the latter as a five technique or wider tackle. The red-shirt senior was exposed on a few things, including some issues cut blocking, which resulted in at least a sack. He was beat both outside and inside, with speed and power, and his feet just seem to stop on occasion while kick stepping to the outside, losing his hips. In general it was not a good day from Servais. While he has had a few decent games, against UNC and Georgia Tech, against top level outside rushers, like what he saw against Pitt and Duke, there are some definite issues that have arisen.

On the interior, the guards seemed to have a decent day. Chris Elmore in particular was solid in both the pass and the run and seems to be getting more comfortable with twists and stunts, though he did get pulled around Bergeron on a tackle twist where the duo should have either passed their men off, or Elmore should have dropped deep under him. Again, communication and a line inexperienced at playing together have a say in plays like this. Darius Tisdale was bullrushed a few times on the day, but overall showed what seemed to be an alright game as well.

At the center spot, Carlos Vettorello had a bit of a mixed bag as well. While I didn’t note much on the chart this week, Vettorello seems to be prone to giving up ground immediately after the snap. It doesn’t seem like his man often gets free of him, but he gets pushed a little too deep in the pocket for DeVito to be comfortable behind him.

Most if not all of this analysis this week was off of passing plays, based on information available. Of the 55 plays from scrimmage, 39 were passing plays with only 16 runs. This may have been a function of a number of RPO calls, but that’s tougher to tell without an all-22 view of the field. Also we were limited by the lack of full replay and I was stuck with the ACC condensed game. While this is likely fine and gave a decent chart, I prefer to get a look at the game as a whole. Here’s to hoping they don’t pull it down immediately next week so that we can see what happened all around.

Next week we’ll probably see a completely new look, as the Liberty Flames won’t bring the pressure anywhere near what Duke could. The talent level will be a stark contrast in the trenches and the Orange should look better as a result.