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Syracuse football: first down offense and 2nd-half breakdown vs Clemson

Numbers were actually pretty good for the game...on first down

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Syracuse at Clemson Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If the Syracuse Orange had held on to win against the Clemson Tigers I think we’d feel a lot better about the offensive game plan. That’s not to defend the lack of touches for Sean Tucker, but going back to the game log shows that the Orange kept a similar strategy in each half.

The big difference? Mistakes killed Syracuse in the second half. We’ll get into those but here are the first-down numbers for the game.

First down offense vs Clemson

Run or Pass- 1H Yards Run or Pass- 2H Yards
Run or Pass- 1H Yards Run or Pass- 2H Yards
Run (Shrader) 11 Run (Shrader) 3
Run (Shrader) 6 Pass (Pena) 5
Pass (Gadsden) 18 Run (Tucker) 23
Run (Shrader) 3 Pass (Incomplete) 0
Pass (Cooper) 25 Run (Shrader) -3
Pass (Tucker) 12 TD Pass (Pena) 5
Pass (Pena) 3 Run (Tucker) 15
Pass (Incomplete) 0 Run (Shrader) 3
Run (Tucker) 13 Run (Shrader) -3
Run (Allen) 1 Sack (Shrader) -9
Run (Shrader) 8 Pass (Gadsden) 10
Kneel 0 Pass (Tucker) 3
1st Half Plays Yards Avg yards per play
Run 6 42 7
Pass 5 58 11.6
Total 11 100 9.09
2nd Half Plays Yards Avg yards per play
Run 6 38 6.33
Pass 6 14 2.33
Total 12 52 4.33
Game Total Plays Yards Avg yards per play
Run 12 80 6.67
Pass 11 72 6.55
Total 23 152 6.61

Now back to the mistakes. After stopping Clemson’s first drive Syracuse, got the ball inside their own five. A couple of nice plays gave them some breathing room but a 2nd and 5 turned into 2nd and 15 after a holding penalty, then a 3rd and 20 after a false start.

That drive ended in a punt, but once again the defense got the ball back with a 21-10 lead. Syracuse didn’t convert a first down as a 3rd down drop by DeVaughn Cooper quickly ended that possession.

Syracuse decided to punt on 4th and 3 from the Clemson 43 while holding the 21-10 lead. Should Dino have gone for it there with the Orange looking to go up three scores? That decision can certainly be questioned as Syracuse had been killing Clemson with mis-direction runs up to that point.

Prediction models would likely call for the punt there because the Orange were ahead in the game by two scores. It’s certainly a situation that the models don’t consider the difference in talent, etc. in the statistical analysis. I feel like many Orange fans would have preferred to be aggressive in this situation but going for it and not getting it would have likely turned into a lot of anger during the game.

The right choice is never easy but that’s why the head coach makes the big money. It’s easy to look back as this being a pivtotal decision as that’s the possession that Clemson was able to cut the Syracuse lead to 21-16.

Syracuse v Clemson Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

After that score, the Orange looked to be responding as Garrett Shrader hit Oronde Gadsden II on 3rd and long to get the ball to midfield but holding on Chris Bleich negated the play. After Clemson took the lead, Syracuse again got the ball to midfield and tried to use a trick play on 3rd and 1. Shrader had the first down on a sneak but a false start on Kalan Ellis/Wes Hoeh made it 3rd and 6 and a sack led to yet another punt.

We all know how the final drive ended, but the offense was really hampered by those penalties pushing Syracuse into 3rd down passing situations where the Clemson defensive line feasted.


  • Syracuse had a similar offensive strategy in both halves
  • That strategy did not include feeding Sean Tucker enough carries
  • Mistakes were the big difference in the second half

This weekend will be another tough test from a solid Notre Dame defense. Can Syracuse clean it up and start another winning streak?