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Monday Morning Quarterback 10/11/10

Our little guy is growing up!

A lot can be said about Syracuse's 13-9 victory over the Bulls of South Florida. It wasn't pretty. A win is a win. A Big East win. A win on the road. A win over a program Syracuse has never beaten. A turning point in the program. A marquee win that puts the Orange at 4-1 overall, 1-0 atop the Big East standings.

How did we get there?

Well, it wasn't by outstanding quarterback play. I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer here, but Ryan Nassib had what can only be described as, at best, a pedestrian performance. His stats don't jump out at you: 12 completions on 22 attempts (55%) for 129 yards, 1 touchdown (more on that coming up), no interceptions but he was sacked 4 times. A couple of the incompletions can be blamed on drops (looking your way, Alec Lemon and Nick Provo). The rest, well, that was Ryan Nassib not being accurate. We saw flashes of this a few weeks ago, and I wasn't overly concerned at that time. Nor am I overly concerned now. But it's noteworthy and needs to be monitored. The most common inaccuracy I saw was over throwing his receivers.

However, Nassib can't take all the blame there. Blame timing. More importantly, blame the offensive line's constant collapse for throwing off the timing. Time and again, Ryan Nassib was hurried by the South Florida rush, which just wasn't being contained very well by the Syracuse front men. Nassib had to do a lot of scrambling, and often times was forced to throw the ball before he wanted. He's young, so I assume he wasn't accounting for the earlier timing but rather still making the planned on throw, meaning he was throwing to the right spot, but the receiver wasn't there yet. I don't know, just a guess. But the o-line is a good scapegoat on this one.

Receiving-wise, Nassib spread the ball to six different players, with Van Chew once again being his favorite (four catches for 59 yards). Also getting in on the action were Antwon Bailey, Nick Provo, Alec Lemon, Beckett Wales, and the cap of an awesome drive, Marcus Sales.

So let me set the stage on that for you. The 4th quarter has just began. USF punts into Syracuse territory and pins the ball at the 2 yard line at the 13:49 mark. I tweet "Ok Ryan Nassib, 98 yards. Let's see what you can do." Heeding my call to prove himself as the leader of this squad, Ryan Nassib methodically and deliberately led the team down the field on the following 14 play, impressive 98-yard drive ending with a touchdown:
  • Harris runs for 6 yards
  • Bailey runs for 5 yards
  • Carter runs for 2 yards
  • Nassib pass complete to Lemon for 6 yards
  • Carter runs for 4 yards
  • Nassib pass complete to Provo for 6 yards
  • Carter runs for 8 yards
  • Bailey runs for 31 yards
  • Nassib pass complete to Chew for 4 yards
  • Nassib pass complete to Bailey for 12 yards
  • Carter runs for 8 yards
  • Carter runs for 1 yard
  • Carter runs for 2 yards
  • Nassib pass complete to Sales for 3 yards and a touchdown
Somewhere near the end of that drive, before Syracuse found itself in the end zone, I tweeted "This is by far the best offensive drive for either team all day." Not only the best drive, but the importance of the drive in the course of the game, and, of the season for Syracuse. For the game, that proved to be the game-winning drive, putting Syracuse on top 13-9, where the score would remain. It also ran 6 minutes 34 seconds off the game clock, which is absolutely huge in the 4th quarter of a tight game that was otherwise lacking on offense from both teams.

But in terms of that drive being important for Syracuse's season, consider this: on a day when Ryan Nassib didn't have the greatest stuff, he pulled the entire offense together to have a perfect series of plays to function as one whole unit, move the ball down the field, and put it in the end zone. Everything worked perfect. The play calling from the sidelines provided the perfect mix of run and pass. Blocks were made. Holes were opened. Rushers waited for plays to develop. Everyone fought forward. Of the 14 plays, Nassib passed on 5 of them for a total of 31 yards. Not in and of itself impressive, but he was a perfect 5 for 5, and to 5 different receivers. That must be frustrating for a defensive player. Add into that the fact that each Syracuse rush provided positive gains, and you call that the perfect drive.

Someone much wiser than me, I believe Head Coach Doug Marrone, said that Ryan Nassib grew up on that drive. I didn't quite realize it when it happened, but looking back at just how impressive it was, I totally agree. With the help of his coaching staff, Ryan Nassib took command of his offense, and used each one of its strengths to march down the field and give Syracuse the lead. A less mature QB may have passed more. A less mature QB may have gotten excited and freaked out. Let's not forget, this was a Syracuse team playing on a hot field, down 9-6 in the 4th quarter, in front of 41,000+ mostly hostile fans, against a team who had never lost to Syracuse. Daunting if you think about it. But that's what separates us from Nassib. Clearly, he didn't think about it. Or if he did, he quickly disregarded it and got done what needed to get done. And for that, we all thank him.

Meanwhile, another minute of gameplay later saw a very frustrated USF quarterback BJ Daniels yell "fuck!" very clearly on TV after being thrown out of bounds. Yes, BJ, fuck, indeed.

The mantra from practically day one this season has been that anything can happen in this Big East. We're seeing it unfold before our eyes. Coming up this Saturday is a noon matchup against preseason Big East favorite Pittsburgh. My how things have changed! I fully expect to see 45,000+ Syracuse fans wearing orange in the Dome on Saturday for Homecoming, knowing that this offense and this team have turned the corner and knowing that what was surely a loss when everyone looked at the schedule in August is a very winnable game. And we can all know that if Ryan Nassib doesn't exactly have his stuff with him on Saturday, he at least has the confidence of his teammates, his coaches, and his fans to make something happen.

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