The season is underway as the Orange take on Northwestern in the Dome. Here’s some thoughts on the the first half with Northwestern leading 21-13:
- Great start to the game for SU, having awesome pursuit on running plays and getting on the board early in their first few possessions. However, as has been a recurring problem like most for the Orange, they can’t finish very well in the red zone. Would have been nice to punch at least one of those drives in for 6.
- Syracuse haven’t let versatile QB Kain Colter run all over then. While they certainly aren’t shutting him down, they’ve only allowed him 32 yards on 11 rushes, as well as forcing a huge fumble late in the 2nd.
- I really like the 2-back look of Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith. Gulley had a few great catch-and-runs, while Smith is an absolute bruiser that’s more than capable of breaking off 10 or 15 yard runs. I’d like to see more straight hand-offs rather than so many misdirection plays that take a while to develop.
- Ryan Nassib is doing a lot of Ryan Nassib things, namely his accurate short passes but not much from deep. I really think this is more of a proponent of play calling, but it wouldn’t hurt to take some shots down field once in a while. Still, better to have Nassib make smart decisions and not force things than have him turn the ball over. That’s what you expect from a senior QB.
- Aside from the obvious mishap on the interception, nice return game for Marcus Sales. He’s got 5 receptions for 43 yards and looks to have picked right back up with Nassib from his 2010 Pinstripe Bowl. It would be great if they could turn some of these looks into deep balls down the field in the 2nd half, though.
- Syracuse’s punt coverage pertaining to Venric Mark was terrible. He took one back 82 yards for a touchdown and one about 50 yards deep into Syracuse territory. This obviously has to improve, because Syracuse is looking at a lead had it not been for these plays.
- Nassib’s interception on that flukey out-pass to Sales obviously hurt, but there’s nothing you can do about that one. You see plays like that maybe once or twice a year, so hopefully that takes care of Syracuse’s fix this season.
- Northwestern’s points can all be traced back to three big plays, which have always been a problem for Syracuse to stop: Mark’s 82 yard punt return for a TD, the Nassib interception that led to a Colter TD pass to Mark the next play, and a Mark long punt return that set up another Colter TD pass.
While it’s nice that you can pinpoint each play, and assume Syracuse can try to correct the problems, this has been a trend for the past 5+ years/ SU plays fairly good against teams for much of the game, but ends up losing anyways because of dumb mistakes. Turnovers at horrible times, blow coverages, poor specialty teams play, etc. Syracuse does it all, and it needs to be corrected to have a shot at winning games against good opponents.
While they started to sputter in the end of the 2nd quarter, overall not a bad start to the season at all. Aside from the aforementioned three big plays from Northwestern, Syracuse was in control for much of the 1st half. As long as Nassib just got the wind knocked out of him and can play, the Orange can most certainly come back in the 2nd half and get a victory.
It’s all going to depend on the ability to stop the Colter/Mark duo, so we’ll see if the defense can keep up their inspired play, and find out if the offense can work out their red zone woes.
- Kevin Cartini