The Syracuse Orange marched into West Lafayette and passed their first real test of the season with a 35-20 road victory over the Purdue Boilermakers. Syracuse proved that its performances in its two warmup contests weren’t a fluke. The Orange, much like last season, now have a big early season win that they can use as momentum to springboard into conference play.
But with ACC competition still two weeks away, let’s take a look back at Syracuse’s game against Purdue and go over the grades.
If it weren’t for a couple of inaccurate throws, Garrett Shrader would’ve earned an A+ grade.
The Syracuse offense started and ended with Shrader. The mobile QB didn’t need to utilize his legs in the first two games of the season. However, against Purdue, Shrader unleashed his greatest weapon: his legs. This is the type of mobility that was missing from his game towards the end of last season when he was dealing with a lower body injury. The majority of his option-reads were spot on and confused the Boilermaker defense. When Shrader had to air out the football, many of his passes were at the very least on target.
But the story of the Orange offense this game was Shrader’s legs. This is the Shrader that many Syracuse fans grew to love. He commands respect from the defense who have to gameplan specifically for him. And Purdue wasn’t ready for Syracuse’s dynamic playmaker.
Running Backs: B+
I didn’t expect LeQuint Allen’s greatest utility to come in goal line situations, but here we are. Allen didn’t produce the same effectiveness that Shrader did on designed run plays, but the option and goal line situations is where he shined. I still think there’s more to come from him, especially as a receiver. However, his rushing has been good but not great this season. It’s hard following up what Sean Tucker did for the program, but Allen is slowing growing more comfortable.
Wide Receivers: D+
It’s remarkable what one injury can do.
With Oronde Gadsden out for the season, someone needed to step up in the receiving game to replace the preseason All-American’s production. We assumed that would be Isaiah Jones, but he was limited in the Purdue game with only 19 snaps played. What we saw from the rest of the wideouts was a hoard of dropped passes and a lack of separation from defenders. There wasn’t much creativity either from the wideouts in terms of making themselves available for Shrader as a bailout option during scramble situations. The Orange need to figure out the receiving game quickly or else the offense becomes very one-dimensional.
Offensive Line: C
That felt like an inconsistent game at best. At times, the line did a great job at opening clear lanes for Shrader to burst through. At other times, the big guys up front allowed the pocket to once again collapse. The line continues to help the Orange convert goal line situations into touchdowns, an area that has plagued Syracuse in recent time. So while the line looked better, there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
Defensive Line: B+
This is one of the better defensive line performances I can remember in recent memory. The defensive line completely shut down the running game and opened up many lanes and opportunities with stunts to let the linebackers wreck havoc in the backfield. So much attention was commanded by the defensive line that Purdue almost always had to dedicate extra blockers later in the game just to keep Orange defenders out of the backfield. Now all we have to do is teach them what roughing the passer is in college these days. I get the rule is kind of weird, but it’s pretty straightforward. They’ve got to adjust.
Once again, the linebackers were the star of the show. Shoutout to Derek McDonald, who had easily his best game in an Orange uniform. Marlowe Wax reintroduced himself as one of the faces of this defense with massive hit after massive it. And where it was Leon Lowery, Stefon Thompson or Anwar Sparrow providing support, their mere presence and athleticism caused problems. The 3-3-5 knows how to make linebackers scary.
Defensive Backs: B
At this point, I should consider splitting up the cornerbacks and safeties, but I’m sticking with this path. This was an excellent game from Isaiah Johnson and especially Jeramiah Wilson. Those guys get an A. Johnson is a tenacious cover corner and always seems to stick to his defender. Wilson is showing closing speed and tackling ability close to what Orange fans saw from Duce Chestnut.
But the safeties, except for Alijah Clark, didn’t have the same impact. Yes, Syracuse played a lot of prevent zone to eliminate the threat of explosive plays. However, it always felt like the safeties were a second too late to close down an open receiver, which led to a lot of easy completions for Hudson Card over the middle. Who knows what the defensive concepts will be the rest of the season, but the Orange safeties need to identify threats quicker.
Special Teams: D
Boy, this could have been a disaster. Luckily, the Orange defense bailed the special teams teams out of some sticky situations. Jack Stonehouse had two effectively shanked punts and Brady Denaburg missed a field goal from 44 yards out. D’Marcus Adams couldn’t get anything going in the return game and there are still major penalty concerns on special teams. The Orange need to shore up this unit because tougher competition will exploit this weakness.
Now it’s your turn. What grades are you giving the Orange? Sound off in the comments below.