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Syracuse football: third down and red zone efficiency vs. Wake Forest

Time to break out your bowling shoes!

Wake Forest v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

In response to last week’s edition, yes, the Syracuse Orange football team did look rejuvenated under interim head coach Nunzio Campanile. SU’s offense exploded for 35 points in a 4-point win over Wake Forest, its most points scored since Sept. 16. Much of that success came on third downs, as the Orange converted their first eight attempts. The defense allowed a record number of trips to the red zone, but came up huge when it mattered most. Let’s dive deeper into this week’s third down and red zone report.

Offensive success

Third down and 1-3 yards: 6-for-7

Syracuse has shown all year that it can convert on the ground from this distance. LeQuint Allen and Garrett Shrader combined for all six successful attempts, highlighted by the latter’s 1-yard touchdown plunge in the second quarter. Not shockingly, the only miscue came on an incomplete pass from Shrader.

Third down and 4-6 yards: 6-for-9

Damien Alford started the Orange off with a bang after catching a pass from Shrader and taking it the distance on a third-and-4 for the game’s opening score. Shrader connected with Alford once more, along with Umari Hatcher twice and Isaiah Jones once in this zone. The gunslinger looked great even while playing through shoulder pain and will have an extended rest period before SU’s bowl game.

Third down and 7+ yards: 0-for-1

Having only one play here tells you just how effective the offense was on first and second down. An incompletion from Shrader to Jones on third-and-8 set up a missed field goal. Luckily, a personal foul on the kick by Wake set up the Orange inside the red zone to end the first half.

Defense success

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

The exact same result as last week. The Demon Deacons only compiled 121 rushing yards in the game but looked unstoppable here. Justice Ellison took a shotgun handoff and capped off a 12-play, 75-yard drive with a 2-yard rushing touchdown on third-and-goal in the third quarter.

After their only third-down stop, the Orange allowed a quarterback sneak on fourth to move the chains for Wake.

Third down and 4-6 yards: 2-for-4

Interestingly, all four attempts came in the second half. The Syracuse D held up at the goal line up by four with two minutes left, as a split sack from Kevon Darton and Caleb Okechukwu on third-and-goal led to a game-sealing interception.

Third down and 7+ yards: 3-for-3

Fantastic coverage by Jason Simmons Jr. broke up a 50-yard pass attempt in Wake’s first possession, and then pressure from Jaeden Gould forced a later incompletion. We’ll see more of the former later.

Red Zone Offense: 3 trips - 14 points

The Orange used a steady diet of runs and one pass on their first red zone touchdown drive early in the second quarter, capped by a Shrader run. A second drive led to no points after Allen made a crucial mistake getting tackled inbounds at the one as time expired in the first half. On its third trip, Shrader faked a run and found tight end Dan Villari on a streak route open in the end zone, putting SU up by 10 in the fourth quarter.

Red Zone Defense: 7 trips - 31 points

This was by far the most trips allowed by the Syracuse defense. Wake’s first five drives in the second half all got inside the 20, resulting in 21 points. But on their seventh and last red-zone drive, Simmons ended the Demon Deacons’ offensive outburst, picking off quarterback Michael Kern to help the Orange clinch a bowl game.

What did you think about SU’s performance on third and down and in the red zone? Will the Orange continue to have success against whoever they play next?