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Perfect weather at MetLife Stadium for a late September game

This was the much anticipated dreaded unveiling of Syracuse's platinum uniforms. It went about as well as you figured it would: awful. But enough about that, there was a football game against #8 Notre Dame. We knew that the Irish defense would be difficult to crack, and points would probably be at a premium. The biggest question would be how well the Syracuse defense would hold a potent Irish offense. Surprisingly through the first quarter neither team scored. But then that changed. Ultimately, Notre Dame was too tough and dug the Orange into too deep a hole for them to climb out of, and was victorious 31-15.

Offense
B
First let me reiterate what I said above: Notre Dame plays a really tough defense. So that said, the B grade is a bit on a curve. A lot of credit goes to Terrel Hunt, who seemed to throw best when he had designed plays to throw the ball 10+ yards. The opening drives of each half started that way, with deep completions to Orange receivers. He had some errant throws, sure, but overall I think had a good game passing. The running game wasn't so lucky; the Irish defensive line was essentially a brick wall. What Notre Dame could execute on its offensive bubble screens, Syracuse lacked the necessary blocking to get any more than a yard or two each toss. Oh, and the longest offense rush was by -- who else -- punter Riley Dixon on a fake. I should probably downgrade the B because of more red zone woes, but, then I'd have to scroll back up.

Defense
B
I originally had this as a C+ but then I rethought it and there were two factors that made me change the grade: Notre Dame is really good, and this defensive unit created what, five turnovers? A big thing I noticed both live from section 336, and when watching the replay on DVR, is that Syracuse defenders had trouble shaking off blocks during offensive plays. The Irish offensive blockers, particularly the wide-outs, were so engaged that their defenders couldn't swarm toward the ball. This, as much as anything, led to the effectiveness of Notre Dame on the screens and short passes.

Special Teams
D
Honestly, the only reason this isn't a fail is because of the Riley Dixon fake punt. Otherwise, here's what we're looking at: 1-2 on field goals, 0-1 on extra point attempts. Why Syracuse, which plays at least six games in a DOME every season can't recruit the best kickers in the country, well, that doesn't make any sense to me.

Coaching
C
I'm not gonna rag on the coaching staff too awful much about its game plan or its play calling. In fact, I was real happy to see George McDonald let Hunt air the ball out, even in the absence of Ashton Broyld. In the days since the game, McDonald has been quoted as calling some of his plays the "fuck it" offense. I'm all for taking chances and opening things up, as long as they're smart about it. I'm still really weary about the discipline of the team -- way too many boneheaded penalties that had huge effects on drives, momentum, and field position. You can't say Syracuse wins without those penalties, but, you know Syracuse lost with them.

GPA
C+ (2.25)
I think this is pretty much the grade an average team should get against a good top 10 team. Look at the Orange stats -- turnover margin, offensive production -- you'd have thought Syracuse won. And if they had, it would have been a well earned win. But that's not how it worked out. But I think it's important to look at this game and realize that Syracuse played decently well in some areas of the game that gave the team a chance to win -- while at the same time realizing that there are areas that need improvement and until those things are fixed, teams will exploit them and that'll be what leads to future Syracuse losses.

It's unfortunate the schedule is what it is -- an NC State or a Wake Forest would be a great opponent right now. This Syracuse team could beat those teams. Instead, the Orange gets a gauntlet of Louisville and Florida State. Louisville is vulnerable, and Syracuse tends to get big time wins on Friday nights in the Dome (*cough* Villanova excluded *cough*). A win over the Cardinals would do great things to the morale of this team, which has played well enough the last two times out to earn a win, without the W to show for it.

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