For the second consecutive game, the story was the Orange getting dominated at the face-off X. After going 8-of-32 against Duke, SU went 9-of-32 (28 percent) today against the Irish. As you would expect, they also got beaten badly in the ground ball game, getting more than doubled up, 45-20.
Put those together and you have a recipe for Notre Dame controlling 66 percent of the possession, a disaster for a Syracuse team that has the talent on offense but needs the ball in order to do anything about it.
The Orange tried a trio of face-off specialists on the day, all of whom struggled to varying degrees against Irish FOGOs Kyle Gallagher (15-of-22) and Charlie Leonard (8-of-10). Jacob Phaup started the game and stood no chance, going a putrid 1-of-8 before being taken out for Danny Varello (2-of-7). Varello has slightly more success before coach Desko turned to his true freshman specialist seeing his first action of his career. In a tough spot, Jack Savage had the best day of the three, but still struggled to a 6-of-17 day.
It’s going to be very interesting to see how Desko deploys his FOGOs moving forward. The last two games have yielded an almost unbelievable 17-of-64 (26.6 percent) performance on re-starts, so clearly a lot needs to change for this team. Does Desko go to Savage more after he had the best day today? Phaup has been the least successful the past two weeks, so does he continue to get rolled out as the starter or will the status quo get altered?
However you slice it, there are many questions to be answered for this team at the moment, and most of them rely around the X.
Jamie Trimboli got the scoring started early with a nice dodge down the left alley, scoring on a tough angle. Owen Seebold followed with a gorgeous back-handed, wrap-around goal. After Notre Dame scored with Brendan Curry caught on defense, Stephen Rehfuss sniped home back-to-back beautiful goals after dodging from X. A beautiful connection closed out the first quarter at 5-2, as Owen Hiltz found Chase Scanlan on a diagonal pass that Scanlan finished in lacrosse’s version of a slap-shot.
Curry started the second quarter with a goal off the invert, where he’s made a living this season, to put SU up 6-2. That lead was short-lived, however, as the impact of the Irish face-off unit started to be felt with ND playing make-it-take-it and going on a quick 5-0 run to take a 7-6 lead. After Peter Dearth and Curry scored (on a gorgeous, through-the-defense feed by Hiltz), the Irish scored the final four goals of the half to take the 11-8 lead at the break.
The run continued in the third quarter, as the ND face-off domination continued to fuel the scoring barrage. The Irish scored the first three goals of the third, including their second goal directly off a face-off of the game, to take a 14-8 lead and complete a 12-2 run. The Orange fought back and scored three in a row to close out the third quarter 14-11.
The fourth quarter was all Notre Dame as they scored all four goals to reach the final 18-11 margin.
Well, the takeaway is that if this team doesn’t learn how to win face-offs, this season is going to collapse on itself.
The Syracuse offense is talented enough to compete with anybody, but the possession disparity created by the face-off issues is too much to overcome.
Today, the Irish had 13 more possessions than the Orange. Last week, Duke had 8 more possessions. These numbers will destroy Syracuse’s season if they don't figure out how to stop the bleeding.
The Syracuse defense isn’t good enough to play as much as there are being forced to play. Drake Porter can only do so much when he faces this much pressure.
With the offenses across the ACC, possession is as good as gold. If one team can dominate possession and give themselves that many more chances, that team is going to win barring something crazy.
A team playing at the kind of possession disadvantage that Syracuse is playing with has no chance.
The Orange have been knocked down. How will they respond? We’ll see...
The Orange will try to end the skid in a mid-week clash with the Albany Great Danes, this coming Thursday, April 8 at 5 PM on the ACC Network.
We’ll see you then. Go [figure out how to win face-offs] Orange!