It was bound to happen, wasn’t it?
For the first time in a while, the Syracuse Orange looked outmatched in a lot of areas of the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Notre Dame took control of the game early on and didn’t look back as the Irish cruised to a 41-24 win over the Orange. This gave Syracuse it’s second straight loss after rattling off six wins to start the season.
Here’s our grades from a shaky performance:
If the pick six to start the game didn’t set off alarms, Garrett Shrader’s play through the rest of the first half certainly did. Syracuse’s starter didn’t look like his normal self as he opted to stay in the pocket more and not make plays with his legs. It seemed like he tried to force even more balls downfield than he normally does, which is a lot to begin with. So it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise that Shrader was pulled from the game with a reported injury at halftime.
In stepped Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, and his first couple of drives gave Syracuse hope that he could pull off a comeback like the Orange did with Tommy DeVito in 2018 against UNC. However, he didn’t look like he was fully in sync with all of his wide receivers with a couple minor over and underthrows. He showed great power on downfield throws and decent scramble ability out of the pocket. It’ll be interesting to monitor his development. We’re gonna have a quarterback controversy for quite some time now.
Running Backs: B-
On the plus side, Tucker got to his normal amount of carries that we’re used to seeing. On the downside, he struggled against a bigger defense much like against Purdue and Virginia. While he still does a good job of advancing the ball and not losing yards often, he still hasn’t broken out many of the big runs we came to expect from him during his record setting 2021 campaign. Of course, fans shouldn’t expect those consistently, but his explosiveness seems off this season, which may be due to mitigating factors outside his control.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: D+
There were some shining moments from the receivers, but that was a poor game from everyone. Multiple dropped balls make the numbers look much worse than they actually are. This was the first game where we saw the receivers drop multiple balls over the course of the entire game, which is not the worst thing in the world since the wideouts have been pretty good in reeling in catches. However, with an ailing Shrader, receivers didn’t get open fast enough for the quarterback to fire the ball before the pocket collapsed. That wasn’t a great game.
Offensive Line: B
I had to double-check PFF for this grade, and the site confirmed my suspicions. The offensive line didn’t actually have a bad game. Many of the sacks taken by the quarterbacks were coverage sacks and penalties were at a considerable low considering the worrying inconsistent trend that has followed the unit this season. However, they are still getting out-muscled at the line in run blocking, which is holding back some of Tucker and, when healthy, Shrader’s running.
Defensive Line: F
I get it. The unit is vastly undersized for an average college defense, let alone a Power Five defense. That doesn’t mean the unit can allow most rushers to go untouched for the first four yards of their carry. Something different needs to be done with this group to improve the run defense. It’s the one thing that’s holding this defense from being considered one of the best. And that effort starts up front.
Usually, the linebackers are pretty good at cleaning up rushers that the defensive line miss. However, this week was a different story as the Irish pushed the ball carrier multiple times throughout the game to gain extra yards and set up short down distance to go situations. That wasn’t the strongest game from this unit that has held down the fort for so long.
Defensive Backs: B+
You only can do so much against a physical specimen like Michael Mayer. Other than him, Notre Dame’s receivers didn’t do too much in the passing game to threaten the Orange secondary. That’s partially due to the fact that the secondary continues to level up as the season goes on. A couple of soft coverage plays on third down aren’t ideal, but the secondary removed almost all options for Notre Dame to beat Syracuse through the air.
Special Teams: D
This is one of the first games where Syracuse significantly lost the special teams battle. Max Von Marburg struggled and the coverage couldn’t help flip the field. Missed tackles were plentiful and Notre Dame consistently got good field position while pinning the Orange deep. Add on a blocked punt and it was a bad day at the office for a unit that has been consistent for a large part of the season.