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Syracuse football: third down and red zone efficiency vs. Clemson

It ain’t all bad after SU’s first loss

Clemson v Syracuse Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

It was a tough afternoon for Syracuse Orange football against Clemson last Saturday. Despite the loss, there were still a handful of positives on both sides of the ball. Below is the latest edition of the Orange’s third-down and red zone efficiency against the Tigers.

Syracuse’s offense tallied 14 points but was actually more efficient on third downs than when it dropped 29 on Army. Garrett Shrader and LeQuint Allen excelled on the ground in short-distance situations, leading the Orange to an overall 9-for-17 on third-down conversions. The killer on defense was penalties. Two pass interference calls, a personal foul and an offsides gave Clemson four first downs while its back was against the wall. That can’t happen in games where you’re the underdog.

Offensive success

Third down and 1-3 yards: 5-for-5

This stat was by far the best in any given week so far. Shrader scampered ahead twice on third-and-1, and Allen converted two more attempts on the ground in the second half. However, Offensive Coordinator Jason Beck’s best play came on a third-and-2 late in the first quarter. Shrader dropped a dime to a wide-open Dan Villari in a zone defense, and the sophomore broke the pylon for his first collegiate score.

Third down and 4-6 yards: 3-for-5

Also an area that’s improved from last week’s 2-for-6. Shrader picked up a third-and-5 with a 12-yard rush in the second quarter, but the drive ended in a missed field goal. In back-to-back weeks, the Shrader-Allen duo connected on a pass in the game’s final quarter. SU’s gunslinger hit his running back for a 6-yard touchdown to get the Orange within 10 in the fourth.

Third down and 7+ yards: 1-for-7

Not sure if Clemson’s band was too intimidating or the play calls were off, but this is a huge step backward. I know this is the most formidable defense the ‘Cuse has faced so far, but short passes on third-and-long don’t cut it. Two completed passes wound up short of the sticks, plus a sack and two runs failed to reach the first-down marker. Changes must be made if Beck wants to rebound against the Tar Heels.

Defense success

Third down and 1-3 yards: 2-for-3

The Mob looked much better this week than against the power-running Black Knights. Running back Phil Mafah got stuffed by Justin Barron to end Clemson’s second drive. Later, quarterback Cade Klubnik converted a third-and-2 on a scramble. Down in the red zone, the ‘Cuse defense stopped halfback Will Shipley short of the goal line, then sacked Klubnik on fourth down to take the ball back.

Third down and 4-6 yards: 1-for-3

This is the second time in five games that the Syracuse defense failed to stop its opponent more than 50% of the time. Klubnik and receiver Tyler Brown connected for Clemson’s two conversions in the second quarter. SU’s one stop came in garbage time when Shipley lost a yard on a third-and-5.

Third down and 7+ yards: 5-for-10

The good news here is that the defense played well on first and second down to get Clemson in a third-and-long situation. The bad news is the Tigers converted way too many of their opportunities. It also didn’t help that on attempt No. 1, Klubnik hit receiver Troy Stellato for the game’s opening score. Clemson’s quarterback picked up a third-and-10 with his legs late in the second, and a 47-yard touchdown on the next play turned out to be a back-breaker for SU going into halftime.

Red Zone Offense: 1 trip - 7 points

While the offense converted several third downs, it only had one red zone trip early in the fourth quarter. As previously mentioned in the third-down section, Shrader found Allen in the end zone on third-and-goal, giving the ‘Cuse a chance down 10 with 12-and-change to play.

Red Zone Defense: 4 trips - 17 points allowed

The Mob fired up the crowd with a fourth-down sack and stop, but Clemson had already done enough damage. Like the Black Knights last week, the Tigers stormed right down the field and scored in their first possession. A two-play, 3-yard touchdown drive added seven more points following Allen’s fumble deep in Syracuse territory. A field goal on Clemson’s opening possession of the second half made it a 24-7 game, which proved to be insurmountable.

What do you think about these numbers? Will the SU offense continue to excel on third-and-short against North Carolina?