The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for Syracuse felt like it would never end.
The Syracuse Orange didn’t look competitive against the North Carolina Tar Heels. UNC, led by its star quarterback, dominated from opening kick and controlled the game throughout in an easy 40-7 drubbing of Syracuse. The Orange drop their second straight game, and while the level of opponent has improved, Syracuse hasn’t quite played up to the level of competition.
Here’s our grades from another disappointing loss:
Syracuse’s lone scoring drive to begin the second half is the only thing that is saving Garrett Shrader from receiving a F grade. That was the only time that the Orange offense looked somewhat like the Orange offense we saw to start the season. Shrader is falling back to old habits: inaccurate passes and happy feet that put himself in disadvantageous positions. The worrying part of this weekend’s performance was Shrader’s decision making in the option.
I know it’s easy with hindsight as the Monday Morning Quarterback to criticize these option decisions, but this is an area of the game that we haven’t seen Syracuse’s quarterback struggle with nearly as bad as he did against North Carolina. He seemingly kept on choosing the worst of the option reads to put out, significantly reducing the effectiveness of the Orange rushing attack.
Running Backs: B
When LeQuint Allen was given a natural designed run play, he seemed to pick up decent yards and generate decent momentum for Syracuse. When Allen was sent out in the option, it seemed like he had nowhere to go immediately. Part of that was because of Shrader’s decision-making on when to give Allen the ball. Part of that was because of the offensive line allowing UNC defenders into the backfield immediately. I don’t think Allen has been put in the best position to succeed and drive Syracuse forward with his natural abilities. While the stats aren’t there, my eye and gut test says that Allen is still playing good.
Wide Receivers: D+
Umari Hatcher started to show a little bit of separation from his defenders and improvisation to adjust to Shrader’s inaccurate throws. Donovan Brown showed a couple of those flashes as well. However, there were way too many instances where Shrader seemingly held on to the ball for a long time desperately looking for an option to throw to. The “coverage sack” has been a problem for Syracuse before and was a problem once again against the Tar Heels, even if sacks weren’t registered in the stats. The wide receivers need to do more to make themselves a more enticing option for Shrader to throw to.
Offensive Line: C-
In pass protection, the offensive line actually looked okay. The pocket held for a decent amount of time before Shrader decided to move away. It didn’t seem like Syracuse’s passing woes didn’t stem from the offensive line. However, with how much option the Orange runs, the offensive line seemed a bit too porous at times to allow for decent yardage to be gained. It seems that when one area improves, another one falters. There isn’t great consistent growth from this offensive line unit right now, which continues to be a point of concern as the ACC schedule continues to roll along.
Defensive Line: B
Once again the defensive line continues to show that it can hang with the big dogs in the ACC. UNC could not get anything going in terms of running the ball in between the tackles. A lot of credit goes to the defensive line for that effort. The UNC rushing attack blossomed when it when around the tackles, and that isn’t entirely on the big guys up front. The defensive line didn’t generate the same pressure it did against Cade Klubnik, but there were times that Drake Maye was forced outside of the pocket and in adverse situations. Hopefully the loss of Denis Jaquez Jr. for the season doesn’t affect the line’s performance too heavily.
When the linebackers have to pass rush, they’re really good at doing that. That is the specialty of this unit. However, the linebackers haven’t done a great job at edge contain. We saw that last week with Klubnik, and it flared up again with UNC. This time, it wasn’t just Maye’s decision making outside of the pocket. The outside rush for the Tar Heels tired out and decimated the stamina of the Syracuse defense. They could not find a solution to slow down the UNC outside running game. There’s so much space open in the middle of the field that it seems trivial for a receiver to be wide open. The linebackers need to show growth in those areas in order to facilitate getting the defense off the field.
Defensive Backs: D-
It’s hard to have a good game against the projected No. 2 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. The DB struggles however aren’t just because UNC has Drake Maye. Jayden Bellamy in his first real full time game action got beat a lot, but hopefully that was a “thrown into the frying pan” moment. The safeties except for Alijah Clark are also still struggling in all types of coverage. Receivers are finding easy soft spots in zone coverage and are creating easy separation when facing the safeties in man-to-man defense. The questions now become who do you start at the corner spot opposite Isaiah Johnson and do you decide to switch to the transfer defensive backs in Jaeden Gould and Myles Farmer, who seem to have some explosive potential in store.
Special Teams: A-
Maybe someone could’ve tracked down the punter a little faster so that the controversial first-down play after the blocked punt wasn’t as close. Maybe a couple of Jack Stonehouse’s punts could’ve gone a little farther. But otherwise there wasn’t much else that the special teams needed or could do to affect the outcome of this game.
Now it’s your turn. How are you grading Syracuse against UNC? Fire away in the comments below.