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Syracuse football grades vs. Boston College

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Hands up if you expected that game

NCAA Football: Boston College at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t think anyone knew what to expect heading in the Syracuse Orange vs Boston College matchup on Saturday. What we got was a much closer game than assumed, but if we’re being honest, Syracuse didn’t look like it was in a strong position to win at any point. A 16-13 scoreline doesn’t exactly detail an exciting game, and there wasn’t much to show that either team greatly deserved the win over the other.

In either case, we still have grades to give out. Let’s start, as usual, with the quarterback:

Quarterbacks: C+

At least the first half was good. JaCobian Morgan did show some impressive abilities in his starting debut for the Orange. He’s easily the best quarterback on the roster at moving out of the pocket and keeping his eyes upfield when scrambling. Morgan also showed great decision making on selecting the type of throw to employ on a given play: whether to zip the ball to his target or float the ball to his intended receiver.

However, Morgan’s accuracy and decision making started to wane as the game developed and as BC brought more pressure. It seemed like he tried too hard to force balls to his targets, which resulted in underthrown lasers or ambitious throws into coverage, which resulted in his only interception of the day. Morgan also hesitated to get rid of the ball at times, which led to sacks or a loss of yards after a scramble. Overall. I’ll rate Morgan above average, but only just.

Running Backs: C

Sean Tucker started slow, but he started to string together better runs as the game progressed. He seemed to get stuck running into a pile of Boston College players but eventually found the room to bully his way for extra yards. 4.7 is about what Tucker usually averages per game, so that total against Boston College isn’t the worst. The fumble didn’t help matters, even if the whistle was a little late.

Cooper Lutz couldn’t get anything going on the ground, but he showed why he was considered a receiver late in the fourth quarter with some nice runs after the catch on checkdowns. Lutz clearly is another Syracuse player who operates best in space and only needs to juke one defender. You’d probably expect more from both running backs than 55 yards, but I’ll get to why I think that was ok given the circumstances.

NCAA Football: Boston College at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Wide Receivers: B

These guys showed up to help Morgan find some success. I hope I’m not jinxing this, but we haven’t seen dropped passes be a big issue with the wide receivers, which is an encouraging sign. The routes seem good as the receivers are getting open. The only blips I saw were perhaps a wideout not doing enough to help Morgan on an underthrown ball or a stupid play (I don’t know how Sharod Johnson got away with a penalty).

Taj Harris returned to a bit of form as he continues to do well after the catch to create extra yards. It’s also becoming increasingly hard for opposing defenses to stop Anthony Queeley from getting space and gaining yards on slant routes. Not a bad day from these guys.

Tight Ends: C

I still want to see more from these guys, but it is hard to find receptions when Syracuse quarterbacks are averaging 15.8 completions per game this year. Coupled with the fact that the tight ends aren’t even receiving for more than two-thirds of the offensive plays this year and their tremendous potential to impact a game continues to be wasted.

Offensive Line: D+

It started well at least. It even looked better when Dakota Davis came into the game. Then he rotated out and BC turned up the pressure. Syracuse reverted to the leaky line that continuously allowed sacks at the beginning of the season. The lack of holes created for the running backs to go through also didn’t help.

Yes, Morgan’s ability to escape the pocket impressed, but ideally no quarterback should have to scramble out as many times as he did. There were also many plays in which it appeared that the pocket collapsed fairly quickly and Morgan threw the ball to a target quick enough before the pressure arrived. A step downwards from these guys compared to recent performances.

NCAA Football: Boston College at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Line: C

Unlike in previous weeks, there were some notable contributions from the defensive line. Kingsley Jonathan and McKinley Williams had five tackles each, with Williams and Cody Roscoe adding a tackle for loss each. No sacks recorded is mildly frustrating, but remember BC’s offensive line was considered one of the best in the nation in preseason polls.

Also keep in mind that the defensive line is not meant to rack up the stats. They’re meant to keep the opposing offensive line so that the linebackers can work on attacking the ball carries. Well, that’s the idea in theory…

Linebackers: D

After what seemed like two weeks where the run defense was slowly improving, David Bailey proceeded to establish long drives and momentum for Boston College. There were a couple of times where the linebackers did wrap up and stuff Bailey well, but it seemed like he routinely found five yards on every other run that kept the ball moving downfield for BC.

There were some instances where the run defense looked solid, but from my eyes this was a step back. Additional pressure from linebackers in the pass rush seemed non-existent as well, which is why this grade drops so low.

Defensive Backs: B

There was only one glaring problem I saw from the defensive backs, and it was that none of the first-year starters at safety could contain Zay Flowers. Now that’s easier said than done, especially when you expect Flowers to be covered by Ifeatu Melifonwu all game, but the BC wideout found himself in matchups with Aman Greenwood frequently. Even if help came from the other safeties, Flowers seemed to create easy separation which ultimately helped with BC’s offensive momentum.

Other than that, the defensive backs need to receive a lot of praise for holding strong in or near the red zone. The Eagles often went to the air in those situations and Phil Jurkovec couldn’t convert, even if a couple of his throws weren’t near a human in the first place. Solid day from these guys

Special Teams: B-

Wrap your mind around this for a second. Until Saturday, Andre Szmyt hadn’t attempted a field goal since the Duke game. That’s how little we’ve seen Szmyt on the field. He’s only attempted nine FGs this season. Nolan Cooney also had some nice punts, but some questionable Nykeim Johnson returns and an awful onside kick attempt bring this grade down.

NCAA Football: Boston College at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Play Calling: C-

Remember what I said about the running backs? How it was a shame that Tucker didn’t get more yards on the stat sheet? A lot of that has to be on Sterlin Gilbert, as every single set of downs seemed to progress like this: run, pass, pass. There wasn’t much variation to that pattern. Even if Tucker gained five or six yards on a carry, he didn’t press that advantage with another run. It was almost always followed up with a pass. I think more could’ve been done there.

Now it’s your turn. What grades are you handing out? Sound off in the comments below.