The Syracuse Orange went down early, were shutout in the first half and had little answer after that to the UNC onslaught, as the Tar Heels rammed through them in a 40-7 beatdown. It was an ugly game all around, but still one with a few different levels of takeaways:
‘Cuse Couldn't Catch a Break Early
There’s no doubt that the entire sequence of Denis Jaquez blocking a punt, which was then recovered by UNC’s punter and ran towards the first down marker, was mishandled. Not only was the runner clearly a full yard short of the line to gain, Dino Babers had to burn a timeout to challenge the play - which it turns out didn’t even help.
Please take a sec to read his full statement:
It’s very rare that I’ll speak out against officiating... but allegedly not having the camera angle that the ESPN broadcast kept replaying... that CLEARLY showed a different result than what was called... is completely unacceptable. And it gives some (appropriate) ammo to all the folks who want out of the ACC and back to a true Northeast conference.
Congrats, Jim Phillips. You've got an entire fan base that is convinced your officials are biased against Syracuse and there's really nothing I can or will say to convince them otherwise. If they aren't biased, they are incompetent. So well done there, pal. #GoACC— Brent Axe (@BrentAxeMedia) October 7, 2023
I am done with @theACC. I want out of this mickey mouse conference. I am tired of it. I hope Clemson and FSU leave and it dies. I'll gladly take a future in a small 2nd tier northeastern football conference where Syracuse is given a fair chance to compete with officials.— Ⓙⓔⓕⓕ Ⓐⓑⓡⓐⓜⓞ (@JeffAbramo) October 7, 2023
This was a game-changing moment. Argue with a brick wall otherwise. I’m not saying that the Orange would’ve suddenly done a 180 and shut down Drake Maye - with the way he played today, it’s obvious this is just practice until he moves onto shredding NFL defenses - but the difference between the ‘Cuse offense being in position to put up points only down three, versus already being down two scores before getting back on the field, stopped them from having any chance.
Shrader Struggles... so does Everyone Else
While one QB dominated, the other hasn’t looked anything like his usual self.
Garrett Shrader has his flaws - namely, the lack of a consistent deep ball or sideline accuracy - but his mobility combined with great over-the-middle passing has been successful against several big opponents the past two years.
So where has that been lately?
Shrader was extremely hesitant to run in this one, letting the pocket collapse around him instead of taking off or just throwing the ball away. Since the hard hit he took against Clemson, Garrett has not been his aggressive self on the ground.
Even in RPO situations, it seems like he made the wrong read more often than the right one, meaning neither he nor LeQuint Allen could get much going on those designed plays.
Whatever the case is with Shrader (injury concerns, a mental block, or a bit of both), SU has to get it sorted out asap if they want the offense to function. Garrett will not succeed acting like a pocket passer in this system - just ask Tommy DeVito how well it went for him.
They are who we thought they were
UNC wasn't ranked #14 in the country for no reason. Maye isn’t considered a Top-2 QB prospect in the upcoming Draft for no reason. They’re a damn good football team and changing expectations on a whim won’t affect that.
Likewise, Syracuse is without their top offensive weapon, their top offensive lineman, and several others who should’ve had a positive impact on a team without much experienced depth. We knew before the season even began that this game would be part of an absolutely brutal stretch of three games, and that losses in all three were expected - so I kindly ask that we don’t start moving the goalposts when it’s convenient to.
The only big difference is that Clemson was the “upset candidate” of the bunch, while UNC has taken their place as the likely candidate to face Florida State in the ACC Championship.
I get how frustrating these stretches are, truly I do. And I know how torturous it can be to have so many “close calls”, “could’ve beens”, “if onlys”, or other choice phrase. You’re reading a piece from a Phillies fan who sat through an entire decade of agonizing baseball, where it seemed like, after watching so long, they just had to be inventing new ways to lose.
I promise you, that’s not the case.
Settling for 7/8 regular season wins is not the worst thing in the world. Not when the University is putting the most attention and effort into football since the McNabb years. Not when facilities are finally catching up to standards and will be more attractive to recruits. And especially not when coaching understands how to use the transfer portal effectively to replace lost talent.
Dino is probably staying beyond this season. Rooting for the team to fail just so he’s let go is not the right approach. You can criticize some of his decisions (as I have) and still hope that he is able to get the best out of his players.
Get through one more week of this, catch your breath during the bye, and get ready for five more weeks of winnable SU football after that.