For the second straight year, the Syracuse football team stayed home during bowl season. That means no extra practices for a team with scads of first and second year players, no extra television exposure, and no recruiting tool of playing in a bowl game to pitch to potential recruits. Coach Dino Babers has been tasked with fixing that conundrum. So with the dawning of January, it’s time to set some New Year’s Resolutions for the football team.
Note: All stats refer to ACC play only. If Syracuse is going to win more games, these are the teams it needs to beat.
What was the strength of the team under Scott Shafer’s first two seasons became an albatross this past season. If it seemed liked the defense was gashed for too many points and could never get off the field, well, that’s because it was and it couldn’t. Here are three resolutions the defense needs to make in order to hang more crooked numbers in the W column.
Cut Down on Scoring
Points were a plenty against the Orange defense as Syracuse allowed the second most touchdowns (33), the most points (266) and had the worst scoring average against (33.2 PPG). Keeping opponents out of the end zone will put less pressure on the offense to feel as though it has to get points on every possession.
Decrease Yards Allowed
To paraphrase a historical slogan, it was one if by ground, two if by air against the defense. Syracuse gave up the most total yards in league play (3,713), the third most rushing yards (1,539) and the second most passing yards (2,174). It allowed a league-high 464.1 total YPG. The longer the defense is on the field, the less chance the offense has to score and the fresher the opponent’s defense stays.
Get Off the Field
In losses to Virginia and Pitt, Syracuse allowed a 19-play drive in the fourth quarter that allowed the Cavaliers to force overtime and the Panthers to kick the game winning field goal as time expired. Syracuse wasn’t that bad on allowing third down conversions. It finished seventh allowing teams to convert 38.4 percent on third downs. Fourth down was another story as Syracuse was the only team in the league not get a single stop on fourth down having failed on all ten opportunities. The Orange needs to do a better job of getting timely stops in crucial situations. A key stop against either Virginia or Pitt and those games might’ve been won.
After last year’s debacle on offense that included the in-season demotion of George McDonald from Offensive Coordinator, the team showed promise this year as true freshman Eric Dungey took the reins once Terrel Hunt was lost for the year in the season opener. The big play was rediscovered and there are a handful of exciting young players for Coach Babers and his staff to work with. But there’s still a ways to go before fans can feel comfortable that the offense can drop five touchdowns on Florida State. Here are three resolutions the offense needs to make in order to hang more crooked numbers in the W column.
Score More Points
Before you comment at the bottom of the page with a “duh”, hear me out. Yes, the team who scores more wins the game but it’s not that simple. There are going to be some games where the opponent is too good offensively so Syracuse’s offense will need to win a shootout. Plus, scoring more points usually means more time on the field. That translates into more rest for the defense. And that just might lead to getting those crucial stops with the game on the line or getting the ball back for the offense when trailing late in the game. That being said, Syracuse was third to last in scoring with 20 touchdowns. Only Wake Forest and Boston College, the two teams SU beat in league play, found the end zone fewer times than SU.
Improved Aerial Attack
This is where the offense can really make strides. Syracuse averaged 152.5 YPG through the air. Only Georgia Tech and Boston College passed for fewer yards per game. It only attempted 197 passes on the year. Again, only Georgia Tech and BC threw the ball less. And SU’s ten TD passes were more than only Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and BC.
Move the Chains
Having a stout defense isn’t the only way to keep teams off the scoreboard. If the opponent never gets the ball, it probably won’t score as much. One way to accomplish that is by time-consuming drives. Simply put; get more first downs. Syracuse was second to last in the league with 127 first downs on the year. Seventeen of those were from opponent penalties. Only BC converted fewer first downs.