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Syracuse football: A view from the trenches against Wake Forest

Another week analyzing line play...

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Mark Konezny-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.

The nuance of line play is that all five players on the line need to operate as one, or the whole thing falls apart pretty quickly. The need for a tackle to push to the second level off a double team; the ability for the center and guard to intrinsically know what the other will do when a tackle starts to stunt; looping away from him, an uncovered center picking up a late linebacker in pass protection. Overall, the unit itself looked improved or at least stagnated over the past few weeks. They weren’t quite to the level that held their own against Clemson, but it wasn’t a loss in the trenches.

The game against Wake Forest started off with the old three and out. Always an optimal start to the day. Through the series it was a mixed bag, with Matthew Bergeron missing a second level block and Darius Tisdale opening his hips inside on a few plays, but nothing the offense shouldn’t have been able to overcome.

The next two series brought some sustained ten and nine play drives, providing a nice pace for the offense but also including some head scratchers, like the illegal block below the waist called on Aaron Hackett. That was a backside cut block that wasn’t blind side and should have been a perfectly legal call, but resulted in another disruption to momentum. The last play of the third series was one of only two sacks on the day. This was a direct result of Wake bringing extra linebackers, combined with Bergeron whiffing on his man and Tisdale being beat inside again. Not a great look, but with extra pressure, there’s always a chance to get disrupted.

Throughout the rest of the day, it seems the matchup of Miles Fox on Tisdale didn’t end well for the Orange guard. He was repeatedly beat over his post foot and couldn’t get traction inside. The combination of Tisdale with Airon Servais also had some issues with twists on the day, notably the twist resulting in the sack of Rex Culpepper that was fumbled.

Even with what looked to be an improved statistical effort on the day, ProFootballFocus only graded out Bergeron and Chris Elmore above the Mendoza line (60.0) in the pass block. That seems odd with the Orange only giving up two sacks and not a ton of hurries. Run blocking, there wasn’t a single lineman over that mark, Carlos Vettorello being the highest with a 58.2. I’d definitely agree that the work of Cooper Lutz made the blocking look better than it performed, with a lot of missed second level efforts and other issues, specifically with mobile linebackers or stunts and twists.

The return of Dakota Davis also prompts as many questions as it does answers. He got in in the final series, with Jacobian Morgan at the helm, subbing in for Darius Tisdale. He looked a bit rust, especially on pass protection, but nothing enough to get Morgan hit, and looked fine on the three run plays that he executed. Overall, he could provide a spark to the line that’s needed down the stretch here. Either way, it’s good to see him back in pads again.