A quick take on Syracuse’s 37-17 loss against South Florida:
WHAT HAPPENED: B.J. Daniels showed why he’s one of the top quarterbacks in the Big East. The junior threw for 253 yards, rushed for 117 more and added a rushing touchdown as USF won its first Big East game of the season. An early field goal and Marcus Shaw’s touchdown run in the second quarter gave USF a 10-0 lead, and the Bulls would never trail. Daniels spread the wealth around, as 10 different Bulls receivers recorded at least one catch. For the Orange, it failed to gain bowl eligibility for the third-straight game. With games against conference leader Cincinnati followed up by a trip to Pittsburgh to close the season, the opportunities are fading quickly for Syracuse.
ANALYSIS: Syracuse had a few golden opportunities that it couldn’t take advantage of. The first came with under three minutes in the second quarter. SU had the ball at the USF 11-yard line and Dorian Graham dropped a touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan Nassib that could’ve pulled SU to within three points. Instead, SU had to settle for a field goal. It happened again at the start of the fourth quarter with the Orange trailing 23-10. The Orange had the ball at the USF 3-yard line and Nassib found David Stevens in the end zone, but Stevens couldn’t haul it in. Syracuse unsuccessfully went for it on fourth down and USF held on from there. The story remained the same in the fourth quarter. This time, it was a drop on a touchdown from the normally sure-handed Alec Lemon on 4th and 13 at the USF 17 with 9:49 left in the game. Those three plays could’ve netted Syracuse 21 points. Instead, the Orange ended up with 3.
HERO: One week after catching nine passes for 157 yards and a touchdown, Lemon had 10 receptions for 179 yards (a career high) and two touchdowns. Lemon was named to the Big East honor roll for his performance last week. More of the same should happen for him this week. On defense, Philip Thomas had 14 tackles (10 solo).
ZERO: Some of the blame has to fall on the game plan from offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Hackett tried to establish the run early on and it was mostly ineffective. In Syracuse’s first three drives, the offense combined for 17 plays, 43 yards and three punts. Nassib threw just four times and completed one pass for six yards. By the time the Orange started calling more pass plays, it was down 10-0. The second half play calling wasn’t much better. Trailing 20-10 after half, SU ran two run plays for minimal gain before Nassib misfired on a pass to force another punt.