0 Comments Published on 9.23.2014 by John Brennan
|PTG was a workhorse, so, there's that.|
This game basically went exactly opposite the way I thought it would. Especially with the way the Syracuse offense played the week before at Central Michigan, and the way Maryland had some issues to start the season, I figured it would either be a blowout or a track meet. Instead, the Maryland offense exploited the Syracuse pass defense, and the Syracuse offense did a great job moving the ball through 80 yards of gridiron without having any luck for the final 20. At the final horn, Syracuse missed its opportunity to begin the season 3-0 for the first time since 1991, instead losing this one to Maryland 34-20.
On the one hand, I had to give a good grade to an offensive unit that put up 589 of total offensive yards. On the other hand, demerits go in for horrible red zone execution. QB Terrel Hunt was 14 of 28 on the day for 219 yards, a sack, and 156 net rushing yards himself along with two rushing TDs. He did a great job of reading coverage, checking down when necessary, or finding open scramble lanes to make something of nothing. Prince-Tyson Gulley rushed 14 times for 138 yards, giving him a 9.9 ypc average. When your offense earns 26 first downs, it's doing something right. But when it can only translate those 26 first downs and 589 yards into a measly 20 points (7 in junk time), that's a problem.
Syracuse limited Maryland to 369 yards of total offense, only 89 of which were on the ground. Considering how Syracuse moved the ball, you'd take that effort. When you further consider Syracuse held Maryland scoreless in the third quarter and only gave up a field goal in the fourth, you give the D some props. Unfortunately, the team was burned by a few big plays in the first half, translating to Maryland touchdowns. While the Terps had some electric receivers (i.e. Diggs, Ross, Leak), much of their success is attributable to Syracuse defenders not being in proper position or not catching up to the receivers. I mean, Syracuse got burned on a screen in Maryland's second possession for a 90-yard touchdown -- the same Maryland team who complained it might not be able to defend Syracuse's bubble screens. Orange pass defense has been soft for years, so why should I be expecting anything different now?
Syracuse kickers (yeah, kickers) were 2-3 on field goal attempts. Riley Dixon punted five times for 210 yards. Brisly Estime handled punt returns for 47 yards, while exciting freshman Erv Philips took the kickoffs for 117 yards. In all, a pedestrian day for the special teams unit. Nothing special.
That may be a harsh grade, but let's face it, Randy Edsall was the better coach out there. He had the better disciplined team, the better prepared team, and the team that executed better. Scott Shafer, meanwhile, had a rather vanilla game plan. Now, I like vanilla, but not for football. My biggest gripe was the conservative play calling in the second half, where offensive coordinator George McDonald seemed to almost throw in the towel. When your team's down 31-13, that might be a good time to make some big plays to try to get back in the game. McDonald didn't think so. I knew after the first or second drive of the second half that Syracuse wouldn't be winning this game. They were in too deep of a hole and stuck in a quagmire of a game plan that wouldn't be able to get them out of it.
Honestly, a better effort in the red zone, along with not giving up a couple monster plays on defense, and Syracuse is in this one all the way. Maybe that's just the way things go, it happened to be one of those days, and we still could see great things from this Orange squad. I'd like to think so, but I'm an optimist. What I do know is that it doesn't get easier from here. We're about to hit the gauntlet of the schedule, and we'll have to watch it unfold without Ashton Broyld in the mix. He suffered the dreaded "lower body injury" against Maryland with 13 seconds left in the first quarter, missed the rest of the game, and will be out the next several games. As Ashton was one of the team's more dynamic receivers and playmakers, this will put more pressure on the committee full of rushers as well as Hunt to get this offense down the field.
Syracuse next travels to its "second home," MetLife Stadium, for a Saturday primetime game against Notre Dame. National TV, the A broadcast team, the bright lights of the outer suburbs of New York City, a top-ten opponent... this has all the makings of a great upset, or, a colossal drubbing. What will it be? We'll find out, right after this.