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Three takeaways from Syracuse’s 45-35 loss to Wake Forest

Having three starting offensive linemen injured is usually not an ideal way to win a football game

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Wake Forest Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

At least not hope is lost.

The Syracuse Orange started Saturday’s game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons looking strong and revitalized after four lackluster losses. However, Sam Hartman carved up the Orange secondary and a patch-job offensive line couldn’t hold back Wake Forest as the Demon Deacons defeated the Orange 45-35.

Here’s our three takeaways from a fifth straight Orange loss:

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Wake Forest Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

A return to form

The first half offense that Syracuse showcased was good. It was efficient, explosive, and took advantage of the strengths of the Orange personnel. Sean Tucker ran concepts to get him into open space. Garrett Shrader threw quick balls to receivers over the middle. It allowed the Orange to move quickly down the field and showcase a side of the offense we’ve rarely seen. All of this was done without Shrader using his mobility that much. That version of the Syracuse offense worked wonders to kickstart a unit that needed a spark.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Wake Forest Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Band-aid over bazooka blast

However, Syracuse couldn’t overcome its biggest challenge of the season - multiple injuries to the starting offensive line. Matthew Bergeron, Kalen Ellis and Chris Bleich didn’t travel, meaning that Enrique Cruz, Josh Ilaoa and Jakob Bradford all made spot starts for the Orange. While the quick passes masked the struggles of the offensive line in the first half, the line collapsed in the second half. No one could run behind the blockers and the protection slowly deteriorated. While it was a valiant effort, the makeshift line was always going to have a tough time, especially against an ACC unit.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Wake Forest Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The softer the coverage, the harder the pain

There have not been many complaints about Tony White’s defense, but one of them has been Syracuse’s soft zone coverage. The Orange routinely don’t press wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, giving opponents nearly ten yards of free space to work with to get a head start on their routes. The soft zone against an accurate and innovative quarterback like Sam Hartman was always going to be a losing battle, and Hartman made the Syracuse coverage look lackluster.