Syracuse Football: Giant foes coming – Sean Tucker, OL have to get going

Syracuse football, Sean Tucker (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Syracuse football, Sean Tucker (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /

Syracuse football is 4-0 for the first time since 2018, when it went 10-3 overall, and yet All-American running back Sean Tucker isn’t off to the start that perhaps some Orange fans thought he would be.

It’s not like Tucker has proven poor with his performances to date in the 2022 campaign, and part of the dilemma here is that we have such high expectations for him after he broke the team’s single-season rushing record last year by netting nearly 1,500 yards on the ground.

But still, after watching the Orange’s 22-20 victory against Virginia (2-2) on Friday night from the JMA Wireless Dome, I did feel a bit of concern about what Sean Tucker has done over the past two games (albeit wins for the ‘Cuse). I’m also hoping that the offensive line will punch things up a bit.

Syracuse football running back Sean Tucker probably wasn’t super pleased with his output versus Virginia.

The Cavaliers’ defense is pretty solid, while the ‘Cuse defense was terrific, so I don’t want to overreact here. But in besting UVA by two points, the Orange offense accumulated 277 passing yards, which is good, but only 75 total yards on the ground, while generating just 2.0 yards per carry, according to ESPN statistics.

Tucker, against the Cavaliers, carried 21 times for 60 yards, with a long run of nine yards and a mere 2.9 yards per carry. He did haul in five catches for 45 yards, including a crucial reception late in the fourth quarter that helped Syracuse football ultimately kick a game-winning field goal with slightly more than a minute left in this Atlantic Coast Conference contest.

Plus, per SU Athletics, with his 60 rushing yards versus Virginia, Tucker passed Orange legend and Heisman Trophy winner Ernie Davis on the team’s career rushing list. Davis was No. 12 in these ‘Cuse rankings, by the way.

Let’s not completely criticize Tucker here, though. For one, he’s not having an awful season, and I could envision him busting loose for a huge performance this coming Saturday against Wagner on the Hill.

Candidly, I personally think that the Orange’s offensive line needs to get itself going a bit more as well, especially since the squad’s last seven encounters include a handful of battles with top-25 foes.

Virginia’s defense totaled six sacks and eight tackles for loss in its two-point setback on the road to Syracuse football. Tucker wasn’t great on the ground, but the team as a whole was sub-par in the run game, and that includes the offensive line.

In 2021, when the Orange went a disappointing 5-7 and lost three in a row to end that stanza, the ‘Cuse was so heavily reliant on its rushing schemes.

I’m encouraged that quarterback Garrett Shrader is putting up better numbers through the air this term, but 277 passing yards and 75 rushing yards against UVA isn’t a stellar balance, either.

Through four games, Tucker has 314 rushing yards but is only averaging 3.6 yards per carry. He’s on pace, at least for right now, to get fewer than 1,000 rushing yards in 2022, but there’s still a long way to go in the current campaign.

However, when Sean Tucker boasted 1,496 rushing yards in 2021, he collected 6.1 yards per carry. Plus, over his last two games, triumphs against Purdue and Virginia, Tucker “only” has a combined 102 rushing yards.

ESPN college football insider Andrea Adelson summed it perfectly to me in a tweet, writing in part, “If the Orange can figure out how to run the ball with Tucker consistently, they will be on to something.”

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