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Three takeaways from Syracuse’s 33 to 30 loss to Florida State

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NCAA Football: Syracuse at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

Today, in Tallahassee, Florida, the Syracuse Orange lost to the Florida State Seminoles 33-30. The Orange hung with the Seminoles for most of the game, making the comeback to tie it up, but coming up short, heading back to Syracuse with the loss. Garrett Shrader finished the day 13-23 for 150 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and another 137 yards and 3 TD on the ground. Unfortunately Jordan Travis of FSU matched him almost stat for stat and the Seminoles walked away victorious.

The defense found some individual points to work on, especially broken plays.

First off, Duce Chestnut is real good and he wants to show you why:

That said, individual plays, the defense could breakdown and allow for things like the 65-yard Ward run after the aforementioned QB scramble. We also saw a few plays, like Marlowe Wax late, not playing to the boundary or individuals getting burnt in coverage that were breakdowns. One of the FSU touchdowns was a screen pass that was a lateral, picked up by someone else and run in on third down when the Orange had it covered. I’m sure that’s not how it was drawn up, but playing to the whistle needs to be a thing.

After the first drive, the defense was consistently putting pressure on Jordon Travis. There were stretches that he was able to run his way out of pressure, especially late in the game, but the team was able to consistently hurry or make contact with the quarterback, even without a dedicated extra rusher. Early in the fourth quarter, the second down scramble that set up the fourth Seminole touchdown and the twenty yard run setting up the final field goal as time expired were two of the biggest plays that put the nail in the Orange coffin. Unfortunately without the spy like we were seeing last week on Malik Willis, Travis was breaking contain late in the game and keeping a tired defense on their toes.

The Syracuse offense adjusted, but still has a lot of room for improvement.

Actual play action, routes that compliment the personnel, using RPO or options when they make sense, these things all helped the Syracuse offense look better. Some things they did to adjust to Shrader’s skillset worked as well, with more rollout passes, some of the called options, and even adjusting the playcall to some of the routes he’s more likely to hit. That said, there’s plenty that didn’t work for the Orange.

The game started with seven runs through eleven plays on the first two drives, including the ill-advised fourth down call up the middle into a blitzing stacked box. The use of Tucker without mixing things up to draw people out of the box, or any Shrader passes to force the defense to play honest and not able to just key on the run game, even drawing one more man out of the box could have opened things up more. That said, Tucker still got his. He finished with 24 rushes and 102 yards on the day, his fourth game on the year over 100 yards.

While Shrader had a good statistical day running (16-137, 3TDs), one touchdown and one long run were off broken rollout plays. The third touchdown was the sneak, sniping Sean Tucker’s effort on the drive. Overall, Shrader’s legs worked on the day, but I think everyone would have liked to see a game plan that wouldn’t require the Orange to use them as much as possible.

As always, special teams matter.

Each facet of the game is important, and this week, special teams was imperative. First things first, Florida State missed their first extra point. Then automatic Andre Szmyt did as well, when his holder went laces-in and he kicked directly into them. He nailed his only field goal attempt on the day, but could have had a chip shot early to put points on the board, or a long attempt going into the half that could have swung momentum, neither of which he was lined up to take by Coach Babers, opting instead to go for it both times.

James Williams, the Syracuse starting punter did not travel, leaving the duties in the hands of Ian Hawkins a true freshman. He finished the day with a 33.2 yard average, a long of 44 and one that netted maybe ten yards. All in all, he was a true freshman starting at Doak Campbell for the first game he’s played in. It could have been worse and he held up when he needed.

A muffed punt return by Ontaria Wilson kept the Orange in the game, and a made field goal by Ryan Fitzgerald took them out of it.