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Syracuse’s first down offense vs Liberty

Another Jekyll and Hyde performance

NCAA Football: Liberty at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange offense on Friday night was completely focused on the running game. It took the Liberty Flames a while to catch on to the plan and when we look at the numbers on first down you can see when they did.

I loved the first play deep shot to Damien Alford. If you go back and watch the replay, the Orange used a receiver in motion and then called play-action sending Alford and Taj Harris deep down the seam. Both receivers were open and had Garret Shrader’s throw been on the money it was a walk-in touchdown. What was clear was that the missed opportunity pushed the Syracuse staff to go all-in on the run as they kept it on the ground for all but one of the 18 remaining first-down plays.

First Down Offense vs Virginia Tech

Run or Pass- 1H Yards Run or Pass- 2H Yards
Run or Pass- 1H Yards Run or Pass- 2H Yards
Run (Tucker) 2 Run (Shrader) 3
Run (Tucker) 6 Run (Tucker) 0
Run (Tucker) 2 Pass (Queeley) 17
Run (Tucker) 7 Run (Shrader) 5
Run (Tucker) -1 Run (Tucker) 1
Run (Shrader) 2 Pass (Incomplete) 0
Pass (Cooper) 7 Run (Tucker) 3
Pass (Tucker) 1 Pass (Incomplete) 0
Run (Shrader) 9 Run (Shrader) 0
Run (Shrader) 9 TD Run (Shrader) 5
Pass (Jackson) 18 Pass (Incomplete) 0
Pass (Jackson) 12 Run (Shrader) 3 TD
Run (Shrader) 23 Run (Tucker) 0
Pass (Incomplete) 0 Run (Shrader) -3
Pass (Incomplete) 0 Pass (Jackson) 9
Run (Jackson) 12
Run (Tucker) -2
Pass (Incomplete) 0
Pass (Tucker) 13
Pass (Alford) 45 TD
1st Half Plays Yards Avg yards per play
Run 9 59 6.55
Pass 6 38 6.33
Total 15 97 6.47
2nd Half Plays Yards Avg yards per play
Run 12 27 2.25
Pass 8 84 10.5
Total 20 111 5.55
Game Total Plays Yards Avg yards per play
Run 21 86 4.1
Pass 14 122 8.71
Total 35 208

The second half was more of the same and with the lead it wasn’t an issue but once Liberty started moving the ball, the offense’s ineffectiveness nearly cost Syracuse the game. The Orange had 13 first-down opportunities in the second half and gained more than four yards on only three of them. Since they only attempted one pass (which went for 13 yards), it’s clear that running the ball wasn’t as effective. Did Liberty commit to stopping the run? Yes Was Sean Tucker tired? Probably.

Yet the Orange just kept trying to hammer the square peg into the round hole. There’s absolutely no reason to be disappointed in a win, especially one over Liberty, but there’s certainly reason for concern moving forward. Syracuse is half-way to bowl eligibility and as teams prepare to stop the run from the opening snap they will need to move the ball through the air.

Something to watch for moving forward is the ways the Orange design some pass plays to get the quarterbacks throws they can make successfully. Feeding Tucker is great but Syracuse has to make sure Taj Harris gets his healthy portion too.