This is gonna be weird, so let’s strap in.
The Syracuse Orange turned around a lethargic first half performance into a 29-16 victory over the Army Black Knights. The Orange squad we saw in the first half was nowhere close to the Orange squad we saw in the second half. As you could probably imagine, trying to attribute grades for a game-wide performance is difficult.
With that being said, let’s give it the old college try:
This was a different looking Garrett Shrader than last week. It shows what happens when teams, or Shrader himself, turn the Syracuse QB into a passer rather than a runner. Shrader grew more comfortable and settled into a rhythm, but his accuracy continues to be all over the place. He also needs to diversify how much he runs versus how much he throws once he escapes the pocket. It seems like it’s always one or the other in games, which makes him predictable. Against Army the decision was to pass more, which ended up working in the second half. But this was one of his shakier performances.
Running Backs: A
This was a game that showed what can happen when LeQuint Allen gets space and gets blocking. Most Syracuse fans are familiar with his talent, especially after the 2022 Pinstripe Bowl. He’s gotten off to a slow start in the open field this season, but this was a game where he started to come into his own. There’s an explosiveness to his running that is just waiting to be unleashed, and once he’s given the opportunity, Allen’s natural athleticism does the rest.
Wide Receivers: B-
Damien Alford can only do so much. His natural athleticism is doing a lot for the Orange right now, and it’s hard for the other wide receivers to match his productivity. Alford’s clearly the alpha outside wide receiver, but Shrader isn’t Eric Dungey. Shrader can’t hit the sideline the same way Dungey could. The other wideouts need to help Shrader by developing routes over the middle. At the very least, they need to create separation to make the sideline throws that the Orange QB struggles with easier to complete. Without Oronde Gadsden and Isaiah Jones, someone needs to step up and become a threat.
Offensive Line: B
This was one of the first games where the offensive line didn’t feel like too much of a liability, which is a massive step in the right direction. The blocking in both the run and passing game is not in top shape yet. However, it didn’t feel like there was no space for Allen to run and it didn’t feel like Shrader’s pocket was collapsing on every single throw. Hopefully the line can take another step in the right direction in time for the scary brunt of the ACC schedule.
Defensive Line: B
I’m going to let Josh Black explain this one:
I'm not even gonna lie, I'd absolutely HATE to play against Army's offense as a DL you're basically getting doubled every single play— Joshua Black (@jnblack85) September 23, 2023
Considering how the defense responded after the two long drives, I’d say the defensive line did a good job responding to the constant double team blocking. Once the line got a bit of rest, they started to power through their matchups to nullify the running game. This was always going to be a rough matchup for a three man defensive front, and they did the best they could.
I get that run defense and football in general is easier said than done, but it seemed like the linebackers during the long drives had a tough time reading and attacking where the running lanes were opening up. Now maybe that was due to fatigue, but eventually the linebackers found their way to the backfield and delivered the pad-crunching hits that we know and love them for. As Black also said on Twitter, running the 3-3-5 was a matchup problem for Syracuse so I doubt we’ll see this again in the next games.
Defensive Backs: A-
No one is confusing Army’s passing attack with the Kansas City Chiefs, so it’s not surprising that the DBs weren’t tested all that much throughout the game. When called upon, the DBs usually did their job save for a couple of chunk plays. There’s not much to be gained from this game in terms of making evaluations in the secondary.
Special Teams: B-
Jack Stonehouse got back on track after a rough week at Purdue. Brady Denaburg missed another field goal and the jury is still out on his overall accuracy. Finally, it was very nice to see Trebor Pena back returning punts. I don’t think D’Marcus Adams is the guy right now to return punts or kicks. We already saw that with Destin Hawkins back to return kicks, so I’d expect Pena to get more run as he gets healthier.
Now it’s your turn. What are your grades? Sound off in the comments below.