-Written by Justin Lasher
In this space I will be providing you my thoughts following each Syracuse Football game. I will cover the positives and also the opportunities for growth. This will not be a complete game recap. For a complete game recap hop over to our Twitter feed, @avergsportsguys.
I thought the Orange looked pretty good overall, for their debut under Dino Babers. They put up what seemed like an easy 33 points and the defense only allowed 7, and that could have zero if there wasn’t a silly roughing the kicker to keep the drive alive.
Let’s jump right into my positives for The Orange in this one.
1. Cole Murphy – Murphy was perfect kicking the ball Friday night. He went 3 for 3 on extra points. Murphy also went 4 for 4 on field goals, kicking them from a respectable 32, 41, 32, and 33 yards out. I have to give Murphy credit as i have been one to be hard on him throughout his career.
2. Eric Dungey had great touch on the deep ball. This was a great sign, as Syracuse will need to have the deep threat against better competition as the season goes on. Dungey was able to connect repeatedly with Etta-Tawo. I mentioned during the game that i had some flashbacks to the McNabb to Marvin Harrison connection of years ago.
3. Zero turnovers from the starters. Outside of a fumbled snap from Zach Mahoney, Syracuse didnt turn the ball over. This will be a trend they will want to continue to keep themselves in games and give themselves a chance to compete. I was very pleased to see what seemed to be a much more disciplined team out on the field.
4. 6 different receivers caught at least one pass against Colgate. Syracuse will need to continue to spread the ball around going forward. I thought it was a great sign that Steve Ishmael, who is in my opinion, their best option, was the third best option against Colgate. This will force defenses to have to pay attention to multiple options and not be able to focus on just one guy.
5. Sterling Hofrichter had a great night in his debut replacing beloved Riley Dixon. The freshman had a very respectable average of 45.3 yards per punt across 3 punts with a long of 47 yards. I think it is safe to say we will be just fine in Sterling Hofrichter.
Next up is my list of opportunities for growth.
1. Third down coversions. The Orange must continue to improve their third down conversions. Against Colgate, they went a dismal 8 for 18 on third down. That equates to only 44% conversion rate. They need to do a better job on third down to keep the defense off the field and to prolong their drives.
2. Run game. Syracuse must be able to establish a run game. Outside of Moe Neal’s 49 yard touchdown run, The Orange were only able to muster 68 yards on 34 attempts. That is a poor average of 2 yards per carry. That will not cut it, and both Dino Babers and Omari Palmer stated as much after the game.
3. Attendance. Yes, i felt the eye roll and heard the groan, however we as fans must do a better job of showing up and supporting this team. It’s time to stop making excuses, and just go. We managed a measly 31,336 on Friday night, setting a record for lowest attendance for a head coaching debut. I know the school is promoting an increase in season ticket sales and a 90% retention rate on existing season tickets, but come on, where in the world was ever body. We can, and must do better. I hope this number will grow drastically, starting this week against a ranked Louisville team on Friday night.
4. Dungey’s legs. I know last year we praised Eric Dungey for his ability to escape pressure and run for positive yards making plays. However, we saw the effect it can have, as we were left grasping for air each time he took a jarring hit. This offense needs Dungey to stay in the pocket and run through his progressions. I felt Dungey still was thinking run first when the pocket started to collapse or he didn’t see anything open quick. Dungey needs to wait for the play to develop. I’d rather see him throw it away and satyr on the field, then take off for a few yards and then get hurt.
5. The defensive line needs to be more disruptive. Chris Slayton looked pretty good, but outside of him, Jake Melville had time all night to run his progressions and then if needed to take off and run. This defensive line needs to be disruptive to be successful and must show drastic improvement with a dual threat quarterback coming to town this week in Lamar Jackson.
With that week one is complete. We have a lot to be excited about, and some things to work on, but overall, I have a smile on my face after one week.