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Syracuse football: Coming apart at the seams

Things are not well in the Salt City after a third straight loss

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange were unable to do much of anything on offense against the Pitt Panthers, and a severely depleted Mob defense could only battle for so long in a 19-9 final. SU’s third straight loss threatens to further snowball a season that got off to a great start but has stalled out amidst tough competition and an ever-growing list of injuries.

First, the positive things. The ‘Cuse defense, even without several of its biggest pieces, still looks pretty good. Ja’Had Carter had a pick for the third straight game, bringing him up to four total turnovers on the year. Isaiah Johnson also had an interception on a botched trick play, along with a pass breakup. There were stretches where the Pitt offense was slowly moving the ball, but for the most part, Tony White’s guys fought tooth and nail to keep the game within reach.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The problem is the Orange offense did them exactly ZERO favors. There’s a lot to unpack here, but first and foremost is the offensive line.

They played bad. Really bad.

When your QB gets sacked six times and the only place Sean Tucker could run was straight into his linemen’s backs, it’s pretty obvious that blocking was the main issue. Many fans were clamoring for #34 to be used more, but this was not the same situation as Clemson. Of his ten runs, Tucker didn’t get past the line of scrimmage four times. Add in the usual false start woes to keep Syracuse one of the most penalized teams in college football, and it’s no wonder why the ground game never got going.

I know this is a recycled talking point, but yet again I have to ask: just how much did this unit depend on Chris Elmore? Sure Rhino is a stud, but they’ve had so long to adjust to his absence and keep making the same mistakes anyway. Bringing in Enrique Cruz at RT and shifting Dakota Davis over to LG didn’t seem to help matters either.

But even with those struggles, the Orange were in this game for a long time and had three opportunities where they failed to find the end zone. Late in the 1st, SU was sitting on a 3rd and Goal with barely a yard to go when Sean Tucker was pitched the ball on the short side. For the life of me, I will never understand why anyone would run a toss play on the goal line - you’re starting off three yards in the backfield and the defense is too cluttered to make anything happen. That’s on the play caller.

The second came off an absolute gift from the Pitt. What was probably the worst punt attempt I’ve ever seen only traveled two yards and started ‘Cuse in points territory. But they lost a yard on 1st down and, after two incompletions, had to settle for the field goal with time ticking down in the 4th.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, on another 4th quarter drive, Carlos Del Rio-Wilson had a wide-open Oronde Gadsden who probably could’ve made it to the end zone, or at minimum inside the 10, but his pass sailed high above Gadsden’s head. That was probably SU’s last chance to get back into the game. It also meant that Oronde was completely held off the scoresheet.

CDRW started off the day 6/10 but had an abysmal second half due to a combination of the Pitt pressure and his aforementioned overthrows. All that said, it’s one game and he has three years of control left after this season. Not one soul should act like that he’s a disappointment.

Likewise, I know that a lot of people are going to turn around and call this whole season a disappointment. Before that happens, let’s pump the breaks just a bit.

Yes, this game was ugly. No, the Orange don’t have the depth to replace this many key injuries - and you saw how lost NC State looked when their backup QB was forced into service for his first start.

Yes, three losses in a row are a tough pill to swallow after the 6-0 start. No, those first six wins weren’t a fluke; they happened because a relatively healthy team played up to its potential against the easier opponents on its schedule.

Yes, the first four games after the bye week were supposed to be very difficult, as we’ve discussed since the schedule came out. No, the next two weeks aren’t going to be easy either, but you have to play the games.

Yes, there are still legitimate complaints about coaching. No, Syracuse won’t clean house this offseason after making a bowl game.

I know the last 20 years haven’t treated you kindly, but there is finally progress being made. The University is actually investing in football again. There’s been a raucous environment at every home game including the BACK-TO-BACK SELLOUTS. Seriously, when was the last time that happened here? So while it seems like the team is falling apart right now, I implore the fanbase not to fall apart too.