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Report Card: v. Buffalo

If Buffalo isn’t the worst team in Division 1-A, I pity the university that is.

The Syracuse offense got on a bit of a roll this weekend, but the actual value of those yards and points will be unknown until Virginia comes to the Dome this Saturday. Until Syracuse is able to have this kind of performance against a team with a little bit of ability, it’s difficult to believe that the output the Orange generated against Buffalo is illustrative of the actual ability of this Syracuse club.

With that said, let the evaluation begin.

Offense
Quaterbacks: B-
When asked how Perry Patterson looked against the Bulls on Saturday, illustrator extraordinaire Jeff Passetti responded with a very appropriate “fat.”

It is said that a quarterback progresses the most between his first and second seasons as the starting signal caller. Patterson, however, seems like he is hell bent against being a conformist to traditional football thinking. Against Buffalo’s pitiful defensive secondary, Patterson remained, for the most part, terrifically inaccurate and unsure of himself in the pocket. The “Pillsbury D’oh! Boy” continues to stare down receivers on just about every passing play and is seemingly opposed to delivering the ball with a quick release.

The hopes of Orange nation rest on the pudgy left arm of Patterson. If he doesn’t mature as a passer soon, the potential for redshirting Joe Fields may fizzle very rapidly.

Running backs: A-
Buffalo can’t stop the run.

Damien Rhodes can run like a madman.

With that formula, Rhodes would have to have tried pretty hard to not turn in a 200+ yard, four touchdown day. Other than Coach Mac waxing poetic about Rhodes and basically hyping him for the Heisman, listening to Rhodes run through and around Buffalo was reassuring of his talent.

Offensive Line: B+
For the most part, the offensive line managed to put together a nice performance. Patterson was rarely put in a position where he had an unmanageable period of time to deliver the football. The run blocking was superb and the stupid penalties that doomed Syracuse’s chances against West Virginia were mitigated to a manageable level.

However, everything isn’t peaches and cream.

For some reason, this offensive line has no idea how to setup a screen pass. It’s ridiculous and needs to be fixed immediately. Damien Rhodes is too valuable a pass receiver to have his talent wasted by an offensive line that can’t identify defensive pressure.

Wide Receivers: C
Is it possible for any sporting goods store in the greater Syracuse metropolitan area to stock some Fred Bilitnikoff-endorsed Stick ‘Um?

Once again, the Syracuse receiving corps did their best impression of Stephen Hawking attempting to catch passes with mittens on. It’s very difficult to believe that Lane, Williams, Lobdell, and Moss have this much trouble hauling in passes. When Patterson actually delivers a catchable ball, this receiving corps needs to catch the football. It’s that simple.

On the bright side, the receiving corps did a pretty good job of getting into positions where they could drop the ball. With improved route running and recognition of the opposition’s technique, Orange receivers did show some marked improvement in a necessary aspect of the game.

However, they really need to find a vaccine for the “dropsies.”

Defense
Defensive Line: A
Awesome. Simply awesome.

Kader Drame was a force up the middle batting down passes and eating up space for Syracuse’s linebackers to make plays.

Ryan LaCasse and James Wyche were unstoppable rushing from the outside; Jim Hofher may as well put LaCasse and Wyche on his roster as part of his Buffalo backfield.

The performance may have been against Buffalo, but Wyche’s and LaCasse’s play would have terrorized even an average offensive line on Saturday.

Linebackers: B+
Only one thing need be said: improved tackling.

If this unit continues to play with this kind of technique, there is a good chance that even the best running teams will have a hard time pounding the ball on the Orange.

Secondary: A-
Anthony Smith is becoming a certified ball hawk. Over the last two games, Smith has accumulated two interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. It’s nice to see a Syracuse senior actually live up to his potential.

The play of Tanard Jackson also merits a comment. Last week, Steve Gregory stepped up to make some big hits. This week, Jackson took on the responsibility of laying the wood to the opponent. Solid in coverage, solid in stopping the run. You couldn’t ask for much more.

Special Teams
Place Kicking: D+
Krautman?

Shadle?

Barker?

All these guys are terrible. To believe that Syracuse can’t attract a decent kicker to the Dome is mind-boggling.

Carney: A+
Carney turned in another spectacular performance logging almost a 50 yard average on his punts against Buffalo.

‘Nough said.

Coaching
Defensive: A
The aggressive mentality of Coach Robinson is paying immediate dividends. This Syracuse squad is in a prime position to be considered amongst the top 25 units in the country.

It’s really refreshing to see this kind of Bruce Lee attitude being employed on the defensive end – a constant attacking attitude that stops only when the opponent is helpless. Keep it up.

Offensive: C+
This grade should probably be about an “A-” in terms of game management. The coaching staff identified Buffalo’s weakness against the run and exploited it like crazy.

However, I was not pleased with the lack of desire to open up the passing game in what was essentially an exhibition game. Understanding that Syracuse was so inept at passing the football last week against West Virginia, it would have been reassuring to see Perry Patterson slice and dice the Bulls secondary. Against such a weak opponent, Patterson and the receiving corps could have gained some much needed confidence by putting up a big passing day.

Hopefully this was just a case of Brian Pariani wanting to play it close to the vest in order to not show Virginia too much.

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