Does anyone here wanna play well? Anyone?
When the Connecticut Huskies rolled into the Carrier Dome Saturday night and beat Syracuse 23-6, it was difficult to tell which was worse: losing to UConn, or the way Syracuse lost to UConn. Either way, this was a game that featured some poor play calling, some poor execution, fans booing, and the crowd justifiably leaving early. Forget about the Chipotle curse: we have a Carrier Dome curse.
Once again at the helm for the Syracuse offense was quarterback Ryan Nassib. For anyone who watched the game, you'll look at his stat line and be surprised: 20 completions on 36 attempts (56%) for 171 yards, no touchdowns, and one interception. Bear in mind, one of those completions was to himself. But then of course he had the foresight to again attempt a forward pass after catching his own, and well, that's a big no-no. I feel like a D-1A quarterback should know that. I knew that. Anyway, the no TDs thing. That not only snapped the streak of consecutive games passing for a TD (was all games this season up until UConn) but it also kept Syracuse out of this game.
Not that UConn was putting up a ton of points. But even when you're only down by two touchdowns, it can seem insurmountable when it's evident that your team can't put the ball in the end zone.
Nine players caught passes from Ryan Nassib, including, Nassib himself. Marcus Sales led the way with six for 57 yards. Van Chew, Antwon Bailey, and Jose Cruz were the only other receivers with more than one catch. The longest completed pass of the day went to Bailey for 24 yards; however, his other three catches had a net yardage of 0.
I am officially scratching my head about this offense and what can be done to fix it. There's plenty of blame to go around. Sure, it's easy to blame the offensive line for not providing the necessary protection for Nassib. They weren't great by any stretch of the imagination on Saturday night, but if I had to point my finger to one unit, it wouldn't be the line. The receivers are dropping balls and otherwise not getting open. So they could get some blame. Ultimately, I suppose it all rests with Ryan Nassib who, at the end of the day, just hasn't been executing very well. Basically since Big East play started. Look at Syracuse's first play from scrimmage on Saturday: as I recall, there may have been a bit of a play fake, then it was a bomb down the sideline. If executed well (and completed), that instantly puts the Orange in great field position to set up a score, and sets the tone for the rest of the game. Instead, the pass was bad and fell out of bounds. There were a few other pass attempts like that where the ball landed out of bounds. I'm not talking a foot or two inside the line, I'm talking about several yards. Many other throws just aren't hitting receivers: too high, too low, in front of the receiver, behind the receiver. Is the timing off? Is Nassib aiming the ball? And that one INT Nassib threw, I just have no idea what he was doing there. He had no business throwing that ball where he did, and I knew it as soon as it left his hands that it would be picked.
So what is the answer, after all of that? I heard many people calling for Charley Loeb. I'm not about to endorse that idea. Just yet, anyway. For one, we have no idea how he has looked in practice, how comfortable the team is with him in the mix. Plus, as noted above, this offense isn't working for a number of reasons, not just QB. So putting in a new QB won't necessarily solve the problem; we'll still have a sub-par line and sub-par receivers. Boston College comes to the Dome this coming Saturday to close out the regular season. Of course, Ryan Nassib will start at QB and will probably play the whole game. But after that, head coach Doug Marrone will have one whole month to prepare for the bowl game, to examine our yet-to-be-named opponent, and to put together Syracuse's best chance to win that game.