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Three takeaways from Syracuse’s 38-21 loss to Liberty

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Definitely not what anyone wanted this afternoon.

NCAA Football: Liberty at Syracuse Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

They Syracuse Orange lost to the Liberty Flames today, by a score of 38-21. There’s nothing about that statement that sounds good from a Syracuse fan’s standpoint. Syracuse gave up 520 yards of offense, including 338 on the ground.

What needed to be an improved run defense, didn’t impress.

This week was another poor showing from Tony White’s defensive scheme against the run. From the get-go, the Orange were gashed up the middle, including a 75-yard run right off the bat from Liberty’s Shedro Louis. That wasn’t the only big run on the day, and not the only big run from Louis, as Peytton Pickett and Malik Willis both had runs of over 15 yards on the day as well. The Flames kept running throughout the game, gashing the Orange for 338 yards and four scores.

A function of a few things, the Liberty line was able to get to the second level and put a body on the Syracuse linebackers repeatedly, opening huge holes. The secondary also was not reacting as quickly to the run as they need to, missing veteran bodies in Andre Cisco, Eric Coley, and through the first half, Trill Williams. Williams was out to start the game, carrying an injury, but came in through the second half. Adding him to the unit definitely gave a boost, and invigorated the run defense in a way that hadn’t been seen on the day. His ability to read and react changed how the defense looked and played against the run.

Personnel issues matter, but overall, anytime a team gives up over three hundred yards on the ground, something needs to be addressed. When they do it two weeks in a row, it’s a whole different matter.

Sterlin Gilbert has quietly improved his offensive play calling, though it may be for naught.

It was noted prior to the game that if Syracuse wanted the offense to do anything this game, they would have to tailor the game plan to work within Rex Culpepper’s skill set. Gilbert seemed to adapt and called a lot more of a mixed bag, including using the tight ends effectively early in the game, and moving the throwing lanes to the middle of the field.

Some other wrinkles included bringing Taj Harris over the middle more, including lining him up in the slot on occasion, which gets the ball in his hands quick and lets him make a man miss. Sean Tucker was also utilized intelligently, and had a decent game on the ground. His second effort and running style are exactly what the offense needed. Unfortunately they needed more than what they had out there on the day.

This is going to be a long season moving forward. There might be a chance to learn from it though.

There’s no good way to paint a loss to Liberty. There’s a ton this team has to work on. There’s a ton of injuries that need to recover. There’s plenty that won’t recover on the year. The Orange are heading to Death Valley next weekend to take on Clemson. There’s not a lot of sunshine for this Syracuse squad in the near future.

All that said, as we’ve postulated from the beginning of this year, it’s a mulligan. Maybe we get a glance at some of the young players. Maybe the Orange can create some opportunities for development in both the players and the coaches. They really are playing with house money at this point. They’ve got a lot of games left. Maybe Syracuse can find some light in the forthcoming tunnel.