0 Comments Published on 9.18.2011 by John Brennan
Credit to Frank Ordonez at the Post-Standard
Syracuse was a big underdog going into this game. Hell, I even picked Syracuse to lose. But, as fans, we all hold out for that however-slight possibility that things will go our way and we'll pull the big upset. And that seemed plausible with Syracuse jumping out to an early 3-0 lead and quarterback Ryan Nassib having 11 straight completions to start the game. Unfortunately, that upset didn't happen for the Orange on Saturday night as they lost to Southern California 38-17.
Ryan Nassib once again had a pretty solid game (25/37 for 230 yards, 1TD, 0INT). However, when you take away the 11 straight completions in the first quarter, he finishes out the game 14/26, a 14% drop in completion rate. He was hurried, he was hit, and he was sacked four times. Especially later in the game, the pocket would just collapse in on him. His receivers, however, were doing a good job of getting open; the ball was spread to six different receivers, with Nick Provo and Alec Lemon being Nassib's favorite targets. You also have to give credit to Nassib, Lemon, and Chew for executing that trick play in the second half -- it wasn't a pretty throw from Lemon, but Chew adjusted, kept with it, and brought it down in the end zone. Also, welcome back to the offense Antwon Bailey. Sort of. 11 carries for 47 yards, plus five catches for 40 yards. This was once again a pass-first gameplan, but Bailey did what he could to find the open lanes and pick up yardage. But the offense here gets a C for only converting 8 of 15 on 3rd downs, not allowing much of a run game, and only managing 17 points.
Really this should be an F, but nearly 24 hours removed from the game has softened me a bit. I mean, USC is a pretty good team after all, and Matt Barkley is a damn good quarterback. This defense allowed 501 total yards: 326 passing, 175 rushing. They also allowed USC to continue drives with 10-14 third down conversions, and a few dumb penalties (some which were NOT really penalties... more on that later). The guys up front did their best playing their second game without Chandler Jones, but it's obvious that he's missed out there -- both for his gameplay and his leadership. That said, the secondary was horrific. More soft coverage and poor tackling, reminiscent of the Greg Robinson Era. This has got to stop. Scott Shafer really needs to pick it up with these kids if Syracuse wants a chance to stay in games against quality opponents.
Sadly, Shane Raupers took a big step back from his great game last week against Rhode Island. He wasn't getting much power behind the ball, averaging only 31 yards on his three kicks. He was replaced later by Jonathan Fisher who, on his two kicks, averaged a more respectable 43.5 yards. It will be interesting to watch whether the punting job is back up for grabs. Ross Krautman had a perfect day, hitting a 23-yard field goal to cap off the first drive of the game, and 2-2 on extra point attempts. The return teams weren't exactly lighting up the stat sheets; Syracuse did not attempt to return either of USC's two punts, and averaged 14 yards on the seven kick-offs. Overall a less than average day for the Special Teams.
While still an overall conservative gameplan, Head Coach Doug Marrone took a few gutsy chances in this one, so we have to give credit where credit's due. Most notably were the decision to go for it 4th and 10 near the end of the first half (didn't work), and the Nassib-to-Lemon-to-Chew touchdown trickery in the third quarter. You love it when the playbook gets opened up like that, and you love it even more when it works. But overall, I think the coaches could have done a better job preparing the team for the level of competition they'd be seeing. I thought the defense, particularly the secondary, was vastly under-prepared to deal with the likes of Barkley, and otherwise typical SoCal surfer-dude type.
In the end, I guess you can say that Syracuse played exactly like we expected them to play. Not outstanding, not pitiful, but nothing to write home about. The offense needs to find a way to get Bailey more touches, especially when there are open lanes. The line needs to do a better job to holding their ground and giving Nassib time and room to let a play develop. Given that time and room, Nassib is throwing great balls, and the receivers are usually doing what they need to do to catch them. I guess it's OK to have a performance like this against a greatly superior team, but not against the teams in the Big East; unless losing is the goal.
F to the officiating crew which, of course, was from the Big East. I am thinking of two specific times when a bad call (an incomplete pass ruled complete, and a phantom pass interference call) extended USC drives which eventually led to scores. A little gamesmanship for the ACC thing perhaps?
F to the USC band for doing what they do. I'm pretty sure you're the only ones who like you, so, there's that.
A to Gus Johnson. He loved Syracuse's touchdown pass in the third quarter and wanted everyone to know it! Though he couldn't bring his usual "Gus Johnson Upset Special" to this game, I thought he called a good one.
B+ to the FX production crew. The slow-motion shots returning from commercials were interesting, especially when they involved cheerleaders. Nice touch.
I'm looking forward to this matchup next year, when USC travels east to play Syracuse at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands. I expect Syracuse to be a better team by then, Matt Barkley will be in the NFL, and there should be a huge orange contingent. But for now, we look ahead to Toledo this coming Saturday, back in the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome. Keep it here for our usual coverage, as well as more analysis on Syracuse moving to the ACC.