Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The Syracuse Orange are in the middle of its toughest stretch on the schedule, and that led to their third straight loss of the season. That came at the hands of the Pittsburgh Panthers, who read the scouting report and proceeded to run the ball all day long. That was just enough to edge out a win over a banged up Orange team.
Let’s dive into the grades.
There’s a lot of blind optimism here, because I like Carlos Del Rio-Wilson’s game a lot. He shows a lot of potential to his game which, in theory, could allow future Syracuse teams to diversify the offense at many levels. However, he is still a quarterback making his first collegiate start after sparse action over the past two years. Those struggles appeared against an aggressive defense whose aim was to make him uncomfortable.
At the very least, the problems that show up in CDRW’s game seem very fixable. He clearly likes to overthrow the ball and sticks on his first read for far too long. However, overthrows are something that Jason Beck should be capable of fixing. Also, more time with the playbook and receivers should allow CDRW to move on from his first read quicker. However, it was a tough first assignment for a green quarterback.
Running Backs: D
I never thought I’d reach this grade with Sean Tucker, as even his worst games are passable at best. However, Tucker’s getting no help up front, which is preventing him from exploiting one of his biggest strengths of gaining extra yards after first contact. The quarterback change didn’t help him in the passing game as CDRW was focused on trying to make the first option work instead of taking a safe check-down with Tucker. Syracuse’s star RB is better than this, and his recent struggles are worrying but not all his fault. Besides, remember the last three defenses that he’s faced.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: D
Still a couple of drops from the receivers, but this still reveals another issue from the receivers. If CDRW is going to tunnel in on his first read, it’s that receiver’s responsibility to create separation quickly. We’ve only really seen Oronde Gadsden do that all season and he hasn’t developed the chemistry with CDRW that he did with Shrader yet. They looked disconnected all game long, and with Syracuse’s best receiving threat offline, the others haven’t stepped up to pick up the slack.
Offensive Line: F
Boy, I don’t know what to say anymore. Did Mike Schimdt’s scheme get figured out? Is the talent just not there? Are opponents just that more physical than Syracuse’s offensive line? Is it some combination of the three? Whatever the problem, the Orange need to get this figured out quickly. The offensive line needs to protect the pocket and open holes for Tucker. They haven’t done that over this stretch.
Defensive Line: C-
Honestly, the run defense wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. It was distinctively average as Pitt only averaged 3.4 yards per rush. It showed that the defense shored up the lines when they needed to the most. It’s been the motto of the defense for the longest time - bend, don’t break. While Syracuse needs to stop some of these early runs to avoid third and short situations, the Orange are getting better at stopping the buck when it matters.
Marlowe Wax was everywhere. He’s continuing to develop into a Sunday prospect. The linebackers are still at times allowing running backs to gain an extra yard or two after contact, which the Orange run defense can’t afford. You’d like more impact in the pass rush from the linebackers as well, but with the defensive line struggling to make a big impact, the linebacker’s are affected since the offensive line can focus on them. A solid performance, but room for improvement.
Defensive Backs: B-
Soft coverage still drives me nuts, but the defensive backs are preventing a large majority of big, game changing plays. There haven’t been many wide receivers over this losing streak that look capable of taking over a game like Charlie Jones did for Purdue. However, tackles from the defensive backs are getting easily shed more often than is comfortable and the routes that some of the DBs take to ball carriers are less than ideal. But the primary job of covering receivers is going well.
Special Teams: C
Another mixed bag from special teams. Andre Szmyt hit three of four field goals, and it seems like the wind caught him out on the missed FG. Max Von Marburg had another inconsistent game and the tackling didn’t help him out on his longer punts. Trebor Pena still has some questionable decisions, but the field position battle didn’t hurt the Orange as much as it could’ve.
Now it’s your turn. What grades are you giving out?