“It must be Halloween, because here come the spooks!” This is a line from a “racist West Virginia fan” in the Hollywood blockbuster The Express. The game didn’t actually happen. Syracuse didn’t play WVU at Morgantown in 1959. And of course, as we know, there are no racists in West Virginia (nor have there ever been). But watching Syracuse play against Cincinnati in the 2010 Halloween weekend, it surely looked like the Bearcats were spooked by the Syracuse team – both sides of the ball.
You know the song & dance by now: Syracuse beat Cincinnati 31-7; Syracuse is 6-2 overall, 3-1 in the Big East; Syracuse has played in four straight Homecoming games, winning all of them except the one actually in Syracuse; and with 6 wins, Syracuse clinches a non-losing season and is on the cusp of bowl eligibility.
The Syracuse offense was once again led by sophomore quarterback Ryan Nassib. Coming off three straight “meh” games, Nassib found himself back in positive territory. His line for the day: 16 completions on 26 attempts (62%) for 125 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. While the yards gained is nothing to brag about, the completion percentage on the positive side of 50 is definitely encouraging. But Nassib’s individual stats don’t tell the whole story; more important here was the third down percentage (47%) and time of possession (35 minutes, 20 seconds).
To say Syracuse dominated this game, I guess would be an understatement. Statistically, maybe not so much, but actually, well, yeah. Cincy had the problem of not being able to finish. Much like my brother Andy. But I digress (he’ll be in the Dome with me this coming weekend against Louisville so I shouldn’t say too much).
Since this is supposed to be a QB article and not so much a recap, I’ll bring my focus back to Ryan Nassib. Like I said above, he had a much better game this go-around. He, for the most part, was finding his receivers and throwing accurately. There were a few overthrows, but no QB will be perfect on the day. I’ll let those slide. I think the one throw I was upset about (in a statistical way, not so much a game situational way) was the one interception Nassib threw on the day. In the dwindling minutes of the third quarter, Ryan Nassib on third down forced a pass toward double (or maybe triple) coverage, with what would prove to be a harmless interception. Cincinnati went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, so situationally the INT had no impact. Rather, this decision by Nassib peaked my concern of him as a decision-maker. He would have been much smarter to simply throw it away in that situation.
Still, Nassib impressed me situationally otherwise. The most prime example was the goal-line stance in the second quarter. Syracuse was facing a third-and-goal situation at the Cincy 1 yard line, when Nassib picked up a different look on the defense – particularly at middle linebacker. He motioned and yelled for the offense to pick up the difference, but with the play clock clicking down, he called the time-out. This enabled the Orangemen to draw up a play, give themselves ample time to read the defense, and hand the ball off to fullback Adam Harris for the touchdown (which, of course, he fumbled and was recovered by Ryan Bartholomew for the TD).
For as much as I want to praise the Syracuse offense for dominating the time of possession in this game, and for moving the ball down the field (only 4 punts on the day), big props have to go to the Syracuse defense for creating turnovers. Three turnovers of the ball by Cincinnati led to 17 points on the board by Syracuse. This tells me two things: 1) the Syracuse defense is a monster; and B) the Syracuse offense can capitalize on opportunities when given the chance. Big props to Ryan Nassib & company for making this happen.
The Syracuse receiving corps was good. Not great or overpowering, but good. Nick Provo and Antwon Bailey each had four catches, for 40 and 24 yards, respectively. One of those Bailey catches was a touchdown. Also in on the action was, of course Alec Lemon (2 for 27 yards), Jose Cruz (3 for 20 yards), Delone Carter (2 for 11 yards), and Van Chew (1 for 3 yards – a touchdown).
There is no doubt this Syracuse squad is being led by its defense, but the fact that Ryan Nassib can go out there and make things happen based on what his defense gives him, is, well, awesome. This is what makes a great team. When all units are clicking, great things happen. We look for this to continue this coming Saturday at noon against the Louisville Cardinals. With the Orange making a triumphant return to the Dome, I expect nothing less than what we saw on the field this past Saturday against Cincy. Big East, look out. You’re about to be recolored.