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Three takeaways from Syracuse’s 41-17 loss against North Carolina State

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Another wonderful game against the Wolfpack...

NCAA Football: Syracuse at North Carolina State William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange had a rough one as soon as they left the team bus today, losing 41-17 to the NC State Wolfpack. Some explosive plays, including a kickoff return for a touchdown and a pick-six by Drake Thomas opened up the gap that the Orange couldn’t overcome on the day.

Sean Tucker is your single season Syracuse rushing leader.

First things first, Sean Tucker needs to get his due. Tucker broke the single season rushing record, held for 42 years by Joe Morris with ten minutes left in the second quarter. The record breaking run was a nice bounce off tackle, with a second move to miss the onrushing defensive back, much as we’ve come to expect from Tucker. He finished the day with 105 yards and a touchdown on only 13 carries, a travesty.

Beyond that, there were few bright spots for the Orange on either side of the ball. The defense gave up 399 yards, with 303 of them in the air, over the top of the Orange secondary. The offense only managed 238 of their own, including a whopping 9 of 21 passing for 66 yards and an interception. That brings up the question “Why won’t Syracuse give the ball to the best player on the field more?” The Orange, after riding him for days in the early part of the season, only gave him eight carries in the first half and thirteen total.

This team has been figured out.

I know it’s been probably obvious for a while now, but defenses have figured out what to do against this team. Let Garrett Shrader put the ball in the air, then spy him and try and contain Tucker. Tucker still is getting his, Shrader may get a little something going, but without a downfield threat, the defense can man up and break down any attempt at Shrader calling his own number out of these sets. For some reason NC State at various points stopped spying Shrader, and he made the most of it, but overall he was ineffective in the passing game (8-20, 63 yards), allowing the Wolfpack to set up on the run all day.

The past two games, there hasn’t been a single shred of offense that made it seem like the Orange knew what they were doing, outside of individual brilliance. While some of that can be attributed to Chris Elmore going down, and some injuries along the offensive line, that’s not great. It’s not sustainable and with the defense not looking as good as they have in the past, it’s basically gameplanning for a loss.

Sterlin Gilbert came out of the gates with the best running back in the country and he didn’t touch the ball until at least play eight of the script, while trying to have a quarterback who can’t throw past the yard markers take to the air in an unbalanced attack out of the gates. The 4D chess needs to be removed, or Gilbert himself does.

Defense looks fine until it doesn’t

Big shots over the top were the bane of the Syracuse defense’s existence this game. Leary dropped a few dimes in the first half, that got the Orange reeling, and those bookended an NC State kickoff return for a touchdown that immediately answered Sean Tucker’s explosive score of his own after he responded to the pick-six. The edges of the defense were exploited in the run and pass game today.

The Wolfpack offensive line took it directly to the three man line and was able to put bodies on the Orange linebacking corps, leading to the opening of these running lanes off the edge that have been showing up the last two games. The loss of Josh Black early in the game didn’t help the cause in that manner either. With his arm in a sling and him finishing the game in street clothes, the signs aren’t great for him next week either. It’s become apparent that running off the edges of this team is a recipe for disaster.

As mentioned, the secondary got hit hard along the edges, with homeruns over Jason Simmons over the top on a wide zone and Duce Chestnut over the top in one on one coverage. Eventually, the Orange were at the mercy of whatever NC State wanted to do in the game, with the Wolfpack cruising in the second half. While they didn’t give up any big over-the-top touchdowns, they gave up a good bit of chunk yardage that made a big difference.