Three takeaways from Syracuse’s 40-37 overtime loss against Wake Forest

Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Today, the Syracuse Orange and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons played a football game. That game finished 40-37 in overtime. In what was a crazy back and forth game, the Orange offense put up flashy numbers in the loss on 354 yards rushing, 178 from Garrett Shrader, 153 from Sean Tucker. The Orange defense came within a few plays of pitching a great game, but ultimately Syracuse moves to 3-3 (0-2) on the season as Sam Hartman and the Deacs put them away in overtime.

We’re seeing the Jekyll and Hyde of this offense.

The increased use of presnap motion added a different look to the offense that we haven’t seen. Sterlin Gilbert through the first half changed tempo and playcall in a way we haven’t seen this season. His mix of RPO and rollout, with some shifted-pocket pass calls really opened up the Wake Forest defense and gave a new level to the offense, leading to 21 first half points.

That said, that ended at the half and the offense barely adjusted to changes that the Orange had to have anticipated Wake would make coming out of the half. Shrader’s feet kept the Orange out of another three and out situation in their first drive, but overall, the pressure continued to get to him following Wake dialing up more motions and stunts against an inexperienced front, with the loss of Airon Servais mid-game and Kalan Ellis starting for Chris Bleich on the day. Shrader’s insistence on running before looking to pass on some plays can really pigeon hole a passing offense where numerous options are running wide open.

On a positive note, with his 26 carries for 153 yards this game, Sean Tucker has now moved up the charts in Orange history. His fourth consecutive and eighth career 100-yard game ties him with Bill Hurley, Jerome Smith and Malcolm Thomas for ninth place in Syracuse history. The train keeps rolling, with many of those yards coming after contact. His ability to find a hole and cut are still impressive, watching him week in and week out.

Coaching decisions can make an impact

Accepting the holding on third and 13 allowed the Wake Forest Demon Deacons a chance to convert third and 23, which they did, ultimately leading to a Wake touchdown. I don’t know if accepting the penalty was the right or wrong call, but if you’re going to accept, the play dialed up after gave Sam Hartman all day to find a matchup on linebacker Stefon Thompson and play the mismatch. Rushing three with a spy and a soft zone over let the receivers and Hartman have all the time in the world to make things happen.

Again in the fourth quarter, the staff dialed up a 3.5 man pressure on 3rd and 22 when Hartman had picked apart the Orange defense with time on the prior third and long, again being slashed for 20 yards. The staff’s decision to go for the field goal in the fourth quarter, in fourth and short with the offense rolling was questionable, and ultimately Andre Szmyt missed his 45-yard attempt.

It’s no secret that time management isn’t the forte of the coaching staff, and today was no exception. The aforementioned accepting of the penalty ended up eating a bunch of time off the clock when they converted, but that’s acceptable if they don’t convert. It’s a gamble. At the end of the game, the Orange huddled on the sideline setting up a delay of game when the team wanted to go for two and the victory in regulation. Whether or not you agree with the call to go for it, a delay of game in that situation with your team on the field is a real rough look. The timeout before the delay of game in overtime was a similar poor look.

Bend don’t break nature of the defense is tested with plays over the top.

Three of Wake’s big scoring plays were long passes dropped over the top of the Orange secondary. The first was a play that Jason Simmons Jr lost his man, the second a play that Garrett Williams got pulled inside and beat on a post route. The mixing of that with a consistent short to midrange game caused a lot of issues for the Orange defense.

The ability of the Wake Forest line to handle five man pressure, no matter how it was dialed up, allowed Sam Hartman plenty of time to throw in a lot of situations. It kept the secondary in a tough position on a few plays and also set up the weird RPO delayed handoff that Wake was running all day. They let A.T. Perry run wild on three plays, for three touchdowns, the last of which, the winner in overtime.

There will be some things that coach Tony White needs to take away from this game and will need to adjust some of his coverages and playcalls against better passing quarterbacks. That said, even with the score, the defense played well enough to come away with the win, even if they didn’t.


the penalty acceptance

was absolutely the wrong call. He said at halftime it was so their kicker wouldn’t have a chance at a long attempt because he’d made a 58 yard one. But unless SU stopped them for next to no gain, he was going to have a chance at a long kick anyway. So you decline the penalty because it almost certainly costs you nothing to do so (a long field goal either way), while accepting can cost you in several ways — they extend the drive or they get closer than a 51-yarder.

the 2-point débâcle was nonsensical. The only way you are even in the game is if you score a touchdown, so you have to assume you do so and have that decision already made at the start of the drive, not when you score. It’s ridiculous that play wasn’t already set.

going for a field goal was equally awful as
a) your nearly at the longest your kicker has made all year
b) he’s one of two from that distance
c) you’re facing a high-scoring offense that you’ve had trouble stopping this half and that will have a lot of time on the clock. If you play for the win with a 2-pt conversation at the end, you play for the win with a 4th down attempt earlier. Makes no sense

Just as bad was calling a long pass play on 2nd down. You’ve been gashing them all day on the ground, passes over ten yards are your QBs weakest facet of his game, and you should be playing for four downs at that point anyway.

this team played well enough to win this game. It’s not so often that coaching decisions so clearly cost a team a game rather than a host of variables. This one though sits directly atop the shoulders of the coaches

Dinos decisions have cost us two games

This year.

I hate rec this but it's true

Love Dino, but he cost us this game

In game coaching decisions killed us

Point #2 is the biggest point of all. Every tough decision Dino had to make ended up being the wrong one. It feels like the coordinators are doing the heavy lifting. Love dino but he’s making it difficult

Dumb game list?

No, this is another to add to Dino being a dumb coach list. What is it going to take to get him fired? My biggest worry is that he does 5-7and somehow the administration rationalizes bringing him back

That decision

would be the ultimate "belief without evidence" grift pulled yet, so I fully expect it

The grass is not always greener on the other side. Very rarely it is, in fact.

It has to be better than 4-8, 4-8, 10-3, 5-7, 1-10 and whatever this will be

That’s a similar record to the last few years under Coach P

Then we hired Gerg who cratered the program to depths we never could have imagined. Urban Meyer is not walking through the door behind Dino. The grass is absolutely not always greener.

I’d be willing to bet, if we got rid of babers, we’d go through darker times before it got better.

I've made my case

for that because I don’t think SU has a solid enough foundation for football to start back at scratch again. The facility is outdated, Ensley is meh for an indoor fb facility and it’s unclear how competitive the coaching/staff salaries are because we have added analysts but lost other spots.

However, I don’t know what we’re doing as a program. What’s the identity? Why are we seeing the same sideline errors year after year? I don’t mind playing aggressive especially at home against a ranked team but I’m bothered that the 2-pt penalty was blamed on players. I don’t like when Boeheim does that and frankly Babers should have owned up because from the broadcast there seemed to be no sideline urgency there. Maybe I’m wrong but if the plan was to go for 2 shouldn’t they have been waving the offense to get set or have talked about it before the drive started?

I like Dino. I’ve defended him and wanted him to succeed here but as good as the effort has been from the players the coaching staff has let them down. We’re seeing progress from the talent on the field and the competitiveness but the in-game decisions are not matching that

So then what are you saying?

That we hold on to Dino because we can’t do any better? That’s not the answer. I mean, if you go out to eat and you don’t like the place, are you going to keep going back because its the only sushi place in town?

The school literally invested hundreds of millions to revamp the Dome. What facility is outdated? Are you really going to tell me that every school in the ACC…Duke, BC, Pitt…..has better facilities than we do? I just don’t think that’s true and its an excuse.

If Syracuse wants to play big-boy football, then it has to make the commitment. Spend the money. If not, nobody complain when the Dome is half empty and nobody cares about the program

Your last comment is what I'm saying

I’m saying that if we fire Dino and hire another new HC with a D3 staff it’s not going to get better.

The team plays games in the Dome they spend the other 358 days in the facilities at Manley- one was built in the 90s and the other is a field and nothing else. Yes, Pitt, Duke and BC are all better. We might have a better one than Wake but that’s it. That is absolutely a factor in who you can hire. Seriously just go look at what these schools have and get back to me about where SU’s football practice/locker rooms stand among their peers.

You always bring up attendance and that is the absolute last factor. Attendance will be a result of winning (and marketing) not who they hire. No one goes to games to watch the HC- they want a winning team so if SU makes the move they need to understand that buying out Dino can’t handcuff the next HC’s staff budget.

Also keep in mind what you wish for

In the world of the transfer portal, players can leave with no penalty. Those players who are at Syracuse right now were recruited to play for Babers. If Babers leaves, they may choose to leave. Do Duce Chestnut and Sean Tucker like Syracuse enough that they will stay put regardless who the next HC is? Or do they peddle their ways and head out the door?

They may leave anyways… and they may stay regardless. But there are consequences to changes. For certain, it makes it very interesting for new HC when they come in as they have no idea what players they will have.

To answer both your points

Kevin – I disagree with your view on attendance. First, you will get a natural bump just out of curiosity about the new coach and what he brings to the table. Hell, I think even GROBs first game against WVU drew something like 42k. So, its not exactly true that fans don’t go to watch coaches. If a coach is successful, I’d argue that at this level, where players can leave whenever they want via the portal, the coaches are more important than the players. While I agree that you can’t handcuff the next coach with a small budget, at what point do you say its time to fire the coach? The last year of the contract? If Babers goes 3-9, does the administration just say "oh well. One more year and we can move on?"

OrangeRay—yes players can leave. But we’ve already lost 5 players to the portal in-season, including our best WR. Sure, more could leave, but also remember, the portal goes two ways. Let’s say you hire a coach kids want to play for, we could also bring in players. I mean, if I’m a WR, I wouldn’t have Syracuse anywhere on my list. If I’m a TE—Syracuse is even further down on my list

Im just done.

We can win or lose or tie. I’m just done.

I guess I’ll see you all next weekend.

I could never be a coach because...

I would always play to win. Two point conversion at the end… absolutely. Going for it on fourth and two in this particular game situation instead of the 45 yd fg….every time. I detest "coaching not to lose".

He's trying to desperately hold on to his job

He’s not playing to win. He’s playing to keep the losses to single digits so when he get reviewed at the end of the year he can claim that "we may have lost, but we didn’t lose by much."

My bet? We have 3 weeks until the bye. If Syracuse is 3-6, I suspect Babers will be fired that week to allow the interim coach at least a chance

I promise you that won't happen

Dino will coach the rest of the year but yeah, his time is coming to an end. Too many coaching blunders. The hardest part is guys are playing for him. I don’t feel like he lost locker room. Great ra Ra guy but just too many wrong decisions within game

You call yourself a realist

And then preach the most pessimistic and unrealistic takes about the football program. No, they won’t fire Dino mid-season. His buyout is drastically reduced AFTER the season ends so firing him mid-season would be nonsensical. It would also show a lot of poor face for a program that really doesn’t have the finances to afford that type of move.

And you know this how exactly?

Big numbers lie. Experiment should be over

GS is not a 2 dimensional QB. SU will not win another game this year with GS. He may run for a thousand yards but it won’t translate into wins.
I actually thought the delay of game was a blessing in disguise. Too bad Hartman threw a pass to 6’5" WR in the corner. Who ever tries that vs a 6’ CB ?

I disagree

We could have won both games against FSU and Wake. It wasn’t GS fault we lost. Coaching decisions were brutal and I’m not even bringing up the ridiculous hold not called on FSU. I agree GS isn’t a great passer. And he isn’t great at reading the field. But he moves the ball and is a tough as hell runner. How can you blame him. Tommy is the better passer by far but he is not the athlete GS is and he isn’t moving the team down the field like GS is. And that matters. Call it intangibles or what. But he does.

He isn't the reason we lost

but if he had literally any throwing ability at all we win both games by 10. Not going to blame him, but the fact is he is a god awful passer and it really hurts the offense at key moments

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