My Take | Syracusefan.com

My Take

sutomcat

No recent Cali or Iggy awards; Mr Irrelevant
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The night started out badly, as I ran into a rare traffic jam driving to the game on I-481. Accident on I-81 that inconvenienced 30K or so. Nice.

By the time I arrived at the Fine Lot, things were in full swing. Lots of good things to eat...broccoli rape?, a split pea? soup, Gianelli sausage sandwiches, etc., etc. It was cold and very windy. CuseRegular said it the weather made it the toughest setup he ever has had for his canopy.

I brought a new grill, dubbed the Devante McFarland and grilled up some coneys and cheeseburgers on it. Worked well and provided a little badly needed heat as we awaited kickoff.

USF brought their usual 7 fans to the game. 5 if you don't count the AD and his wife. The crowd was announced at 41K. I think there were about 32K actually in the seats. The fans that came made noise and supported the team well. The students had a good turnout and stayed for a long time. Good for them.

As STO alertly notified me, the band was down to 8 tubas. UConn had 16 last week. Coincidence? I think not.

Visited friends at halftime so I missed the SUMB show.

Regarding the game, it was pretty clear USF watched film of the SU-UConn game. They used the 2 plays that McCummings ran so successfully last week extensively, built their whole gameplan around them and it worked beautifully for them. We had no answer for this again...though I will say at least this week USF attempted an occasional pass to keep our defense honest. It looks to me as though our DL is getting dominated, physically abused, not occupying blockers well and not shielding the LBs almost at all. Way too many plays where there was a big hole in the middle of the line with no LBs free to fill in the gap. The last couple of games our undersized LBs have been exposed, they are not fending off blocks well and are not tackling well. We do relatively well stringing out plays run wide, but do not defend runs up the middle well at all.

Given that UC has a mobile QB and a fine RB, this issue does not bode well for the next game. Hopefully we can find some way to counter this. Hard to watch.

USF had guys open all day long when they wanted to pass as well. We played zone most of the game, a very soft zone, and their WRs were open in the flat whenever they wanted to go to them. We left huge pass coverage gaps underneath all game long as well, so a short dump to a RB was good for a 10 yard gain before the RB was even touched. It looked like we did not try and pressure Daniels. The pass rush was very restrained. But we didn't do a good job containing him either. He got outside the pocket whenever he wanted and was able to run for a first down on passing plays up the middle at will as well. Heck, he had someone wide open long when they went long as well.

Thomas at least had a few nice aggressive plays. Jones had a couple of plays where he put pressure on BJ. MM continues to wear down and deteriorate as the season continues. The hard hits are largely gone from this unit now and the gang tackling so prevalent early in the season has disappeared.

USF basically was able to do anything they wanted. This ranks as one of the worst performances for the SU defenee since Shafer has been the DC. I remain mystified as to what the strategy actually was. I guess he wanted to let him throw short passes, contain him and stop their power run game. In any event, it failed completely. Daniels, as usual, did not throw the ball particularly well and that was really the only thing that led to punts for USF.

On offense, another ugly game where it looked like we tried hard to establish the run and just were not able to do it. The sad truth is that this offensive unit is not going to overwhelm anyone with a power run game. We have an undersized OL, mobile but not powerful. And we have a small RB with average speed and little ability to move a pile or break a tackle. This line would probably be well suited for blocking for an option based or even a spread type pass based offense. But even with 2 TEs and a FB, we aren't moving anyone off the ball. Not recently anyway.

The passing game had more success. I thought Nassib had one of his best games. Made good decisions, took care of the ball, ran when it made sense, passed the ball well, stepped up against pressure well, made a number of first downs on blown up plays by himself. Other than one wayward pass in the 4th quarter that should have been intercepted, and the one long pass he threw (that was predictably overthrown), he was very accurate.

Lemon had another nice game. He is clearly our best WR... the only one we have that gets open consistently, catches it consistently and make the catch on that pattern over the middle that seems to be Nassib's favorite go to play. It is unfortunate the refs didn't call the PI on the play in the east endzone when he was clearly hit before the ball arrived. Surprised he wasn't able to hold on to the ball over the middle that he caught in mid air as he was got popped from behind. Was the call that he trapped a pass in the first pass that got reviewed and not overturned a good one? I couldn't tell from my seat.

Thought the TE struggled some. Have to catch the ball better. Have to block better. West, Graham, same thing. The drops were a big problem...thought the one Stephens missed over the middle was a major turning point in the game.

Another was the disasterous kickoff Raupers had that bounced out of bounds (crazy good bounce followed by a crazy bad bounce) with the penalty that followed. We had just scored a TD, gotten back in the game and then our special teams practically hand them a TD right back. We have no kickers capable of kicking a D1 deep kickoff. Why not just kick a low line drive down the middle that lands around the 20 yard line? With the rule change where kickoffs are made from the 30 yard line, you have to have a big leg on the team to get the ball into the endzone, or at least close to it, with some significant hand time so the coverage team has a chance to get down the field. I know DM plans on addressing this for next year. It is a shame it wasn't address a year or two ago.

Rene had another game with 0 return yards returning punts. It is amazing how little yardage we are getting returning punts. To his credit, he still hasn't dropped one.

So I am really disappointed with special teams. Really disappointed. Really disappointed with the defense. Really disappointed. And really disappointed with the offense. Really disappointed.

I still believe in Doug Marrone. I believe in Scott Shafer. I worry some about what the long term plan is for the offense (is there a long term plan for the offense). I am not worried about DM's ability to recruit. The talent level and depth has improved markedly each season since he came on board and there is every indication this trend will continue in the future.

I hope Syracuse fans will stay with the program, continue going to games, continue to support the program monetarily, and be patient. The team next season will be a solid one, the best of the DM era, and the future after that looks very promising.

This season, in my opinion, was going to be a tough one from day one. Not a lot of seniors, not a lot of experience in some key positions. That changes next year. Stay with the program, better days are coming.
 
Thanks Tom...this year a is a bit of a trap year player-wise. Disappointed sure that we let a couple of games get away, but I trust your take on talent moving forward.
 
Tom

Very good post. I don't understand why Shafer didn't use the same D he used against WVU. You are looking at the same time of QB and we let Daniels do whatever he wanted to. It was really ugly.

Agree about ST too. So PO'd after we get the TD then the crap kickoff and dumb penalty.

Not sure if anyone was thinking the same thing when it was 2nd and goal down 23-10, that Hackett would run the same play he did against WVU. Have Nassib fake the handoff to Bailey and he keep it. You swear if you were an OC that you would use that play again sometime soon and that was the right time to do that.
 
Thanks for the report, Tom. I hesitated to read it because the game was just so disappointing in so many ways. A few random thoughts to tag on...

- The USF WRs did a great job on the blocks on the outside. Not just holding blocks, they routinely took their defenders off of their feet.

- Lemon was the lone highlight. I've been thinking all season that he reminds me of another receiver from back in the 80s, and the only one I could associate with him is Deval Glover. THough I think Lemon is more physically solid than Glover. Very athletic, Glover was of course a baseball player too.

- USF had Provo's number last night. The other TEs struggled.

- USF running a no-huddle with 9 minutes left, up by 13 was a little difficult to take. I'm not saying they shouldn't have. But they obviously felt that they could get points, and didn't need to milk the clock. They were right.

- I was more than a little surprised that Loeb didn't get a couple of snaps at the end of the 4th quarter.

- Lots of newbies in the Dome last night. It's a shame they couldn't have seen a better game.
 
Nice job, Tomcat!

Perhaps last season's success gave us unrealistic expectations for this season.
The key is to continue to support the program and remain patient. Better days have to be coming.
 
Amen.
I am exactly with you on this, Tomcat. Yes, watching SU play is tough to stomach right now, but we'll be better next year and after that.
Hard to understand this board today. We are in the 3rd year of a coaching change, which came about because the previous coach made SU into one of the worst teams in the nation. Sure, SU was 8-3 in year 2 under CDM (with a relatively soft schedule and with a NFL quality senior RB). But every sane observer of CFB will tell you it takes a good 5 years to weed out bad things and to see what the new coach can do.
Looking at the schedule pre-season, it was clear--to me and many others--that another 8-3 year would not be in the cards. I picked 5-7. Hope I'm wrong and they go 7-5, but unlikely. Talent isn't there or experienced enough.

The night started out badly, as I ran into a rare traffic jam driving to the game on I-481. Accident on I-81 that inconvenienced 30K or so. Nice.

By the time I arrived at the Fine Lot, things were in full swing. Lots of good things to eat...broccoli rape?, a split pea? soup, Gianelli sausage sandwiches, etc., etc. It was cold and very windy. CuseRegular said it the weather made it the toughest setup he ever has had for his canopy.

I brought a new grill, dubbed the Devante McFarland and grilled up some coneys and cheeseburgers on it. Worked well and provided a little badly needed heat as we awaited kickoff.

USF brought their usual 7 fans to the game. 5 if you don't count the AD and his wife. The crowd was announced at 41K. I think there were about 32K actually in the seats. The fans that came made noise and supported the team well. The students had a good turnout and stayed for a long time. Good for them.

As STO alertly notified me, the band was down to 8 tubas. UConn had 16 last week. Coincidence? I think not.

Visited friends at halftime so I missed the SUMB show.

Regarding the game, it was pretty clear USF watched film of the SU-UConn game. They used the 2 plays that McCummings ran so successfully last week extensively, built their whole gameplan around them and it worked beautifully for them. We had no answer for this again...though I will say at least this week USF attempted an occasional pass to keep our defense honest. It looks to me as though our DL is getting dominated, physically abused, not occupying blockers well and not shielding the LBs almost at all. Way too many plays where there was a big hole in the middle of the line with no LBs free to fill in the gap. The last couple of games our undersized LBs have been exposed, they are not fending off blocks well and are not tackling well. We do relatively well stringing out plays run wide, but do not defend runs up the middle well at all.

Given that UC has a mobile QB and a fine RB, this issue does not bode well for the next game. Hopefully we can find some way to counter this. Hard to watch.

USF had guys open all day long when they wanted to pass as well. We played zone most of the game, a very soft zone, and their WRs were open in the flat whenever they wanted to go to them. We left huge pass coverage gaps underneath all game long as well, so a short dump to a RB was good for a 10 yard gain before the RB was even touched. It looked like we did not try and pressure Daniels. The pass rush was very restrained. But we didn't do a good job containing him either. He got outside the pocket whenever he wanted and was able to run for a first down on passing plays up the middle at will as well. Heck, he had someone wide open long when they went long as well.

Thomas at least had a few nice aggressive plays. Jones had a couple of plays where he put pressure on BJ. MM continues to wear down and deteriorate as the season continues. The hard hits are largely gone from this unit now and the gang tackling so prevalent early in the season has disappeared.

USF basically was able to do anything they wanted. This ranks as one of the worst performances for the SU defenee since Shafer has been the DC. I remain mystified as to what the strategy actually was. I guess he wanted to let him throw short passes, contain him and stop their power run game. In any event, it failed completely. Daniels, as usual, did not throw the ball particularly well and that was really the only thing that led to punts for USF.

On offense, another ugly game where it looked like we tried hard to establish the run and just were not able to do it. The sad truth is that this offensive unit is not going to overwhelm anyone with a power run game. We have an undersized OL, mobile but not powerful. And we have a small RB with average speed and little ability to move a pile or break a tackle. This line would probably be well suited for blocking for an option based or even a spread type pass based offense. But even with 2 TEs and a FB, we aren't moving anyone off the ball. Not recently anyway.

The passing game had more success. I thought Nassib had one of his best games. Made good decisions, took care of the ball, ran when it made sense, passed the ball well, stepped up against pressure well, made a number of first downs on blown up plays by himself. Other than one wayward pass in the 4th quarter that should have been intercepted, and the one long pass he threw (that was predictably overthrown), he was very accurate.

Lemon had another nice game. He is clearly our best WR... the only one we have that gets open consistently, catches it consistently and make the catch on that pattern over the middle that seems to be Nassib's favorite go to play. It is unfortunate the refs didn't call the PI on the play in the east endzone when he was clearly hit before the ball arrived. Surprised he wasn't able to hold on to the ball over the middle that he caught in mid air as he was got popped from behind. Was the call that he trapped a pass in the first pass that got reviewed and not overturned a good one? I couldn't tell from my seat.

Thought the TE struggled some. Have to catch the ball better. Have to block better. West, Graham, same thing. The drops were a big problem...thought the one Stephens missed over the middle was a major turning point in the game.

Another was the disasterous kickoff Raupers had that bounced out of bounds (crazy good bounce followed by a crazy bad bounce) with the penalty that followed. We had just scored a TD, gotten back in the game and then our special teams practically hand them a TD right back. We have no kickers capable of kicking a D1 deep kickoff. Why not just kick a low line drive down the middle that lands around the 20 yard line? With the rule change where kickoffs are made from the 30 yard line, you have to have a big leg on the team to get the ball into the endzone, or at least close to it, with some significant hand time so the coverage team has a chance to get down the field. I know DM plans on addressing this for next year. It is a shame it wasn't address a year or two ago.

Rene had another game with 0 return yards returning punts. It is amazing how little yardage we are getting returning punts. To his credit, he still hasn't dropped one.

So I am really disappointed with special teams. Really disappointed. Really disappointed with the defense. Really disappointed. And really disappointed with the offense. Really disappointed.

I still believe in Doug Marrone. I believe in Scott Shafer. I worry some about what the long term plan is for the offense (is there a long term plan for the offense). I am not worried about DM's ability to recruit. The talent level and depth has improved markedly each season since he came on board and there is every indication this trend will continue in the future.

I hope Syracuse fans will stay with the program, continue going to games, continue to support the program monetarily, and be patient. The team next season will be a solid one, the best of the DM era, and the future after that looks very promising.

This season, in my opinion, was going to be a tough one from day one. Not a lot of seniors, not a lot of experience in some key positions. That changes next year. Stay with the program, better days are coming.
 
Schwartzwalder: 4-5, 5-5, 5-4, 7-3, 5-3-1, 4-4, 5-3
MacPherson: 4-6-1, 2-9, 6-5, 6-5, 7-5, 5-6
Marrone: 4-8, 8-5, 5-5...
 
Good post, Tom. Like you, I am confident about where recruiting's headed--although clearly we need to do a better job at the skilled positions.

I've also tried to maintain perspective on just how far the program had sunk, how long it would take to infuse better athletes into the pipeline, and replenish depth. But this year has been pretty discouraging. The optimist in me believes that we are only a couple of plays away from being 7-3 right now; if we hadn't got that roughing the kicker penalty against Rutgers, if we hadn't thrown that late INT against UConn...

Ifs and buts, I know.

But the pessimist in me concurs that I'm very disappointed in what we've seen from all three phases of the game this season. I'm not too worried about defense; Shafer is a bad ass, we lost a ton of experience last season so there was bound to be a dropoff, and I really like the depth / talent we'll be bringing back next year on that side of the ball.

But offense / ST scare me. ST's poor performance was easy to chalk up initially [justifiably, I believe] to lack of depth, and just not having enough warm bodies / quality athletes to use on ST. Then, it appeared that Casullo might be a bit of a problem. But not having a ST coach this year has resulted in demonstrably poor play in that phase, and I'm concerned that Marrone [like GRob before him] is too ingrained in the NFL view of ST, that it is throw away instead of prospectively game-changing.

I don't know what to say about offense. I've believed for several years that we're severely limited by the play of the OL. I've also believed that the lack of skilled playmakers [especially at WR] has forced the coaches to use an offense that isn't "THE offense." But now I just don't know. I'm tired of being inept on offense--I just want the team to move the ball and score some ing points. I'd love for other teams to be afraid to come play our offense, as opposed to teeing off against us and taking their chances because they know that we CAN'T make them pay for over-committing to teeing off on us.
 

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