0 Comments Published on 11.06.2016 by John Brennan
|Yep, all our heads hurt.|
Coming off a bye week, 4-4 Syracuse was in the best position to have the best shot at Clemson. No, I don't think any of us were insane enough to think Syracuse would beat Clemson, but conventional knowledge said Syracuse would be competitive. And that's what I was anticipating. But that's not what we got. Eric Dungey left the game early with an injury, the offense couldn't recover, the defense could never hold its own, and it was just an all-out loss: Tigers over Orange 54-0.
No matter who's taking the snaps, when you put zero points on the board, you fail. In the prior week, the Clemson defense was trigger happy on the defensive pass interference against Florida State, so this Syracuse offense had a chance to pick up big gains even without offensive efficiency. But they couldn't cash in. Sure, Dungey going down early threw a huge wrench into the gameplan, but what does it say when Austin Wilson comes in over Zack Mahoney? I won't share the awful stats with you (you can see them here) but the lack of any semblance of momentum made this shutout inevitable.
Clemson had 565 yards of total offense. 27-40 for 370 yards passing, and 195 yards on 44 rushing attempts. The Tigers were every bit the #2 team in the country in their offensive attack, and Syracuse just had no answer to it.
Syracuse had few opportunities to make this a game. But Syracuse had a couple opportunities to save some face and put up a few points to avoid the shutout. Enter Cole Murphy: with 4:31 to go in the 3rd Quarter, Murphy gets the kick attempt from 30 yards out -- and misses. Sure, his miss here had no bearing on the outcome of the game, but it had a huge bearing on the psyche of Syracuse fans; safe to say we have no confidence in the kicking game. I'll repeat what I always say: Syracuse plays half+ its games in a windless Dome, so there's no excuse to not recruit the best kickers in the country.
No doubt Dungey's early exit changed everything for the Orange. But the decision to go to Austin Wilson over Zack Mahoney is real questionable, especially considering his performance. But even before Eric went down, it just didn't seem like Syracuse had fully taken advantage of the bye week. Historically, Syracuse plays well out of thr bye, and even though Clemson happened to be the next team up and nobody expected a Syracuse win, you'd nonetheless expect Syracuse to play up to its competition. Instead, it was as if Syracuse put 11 dudes on the field and just lived with whatever happened. Hard to watch as a fan.
It sucks to give Syracuse an F on a game it had no chance of winning anyway. It also sucks to give Syracuse an F on a game in which Eric Dungey got knocked out early and the entire offensive game plan got thrown out the window. But it's the totality of circumstance in which I give this F. This was a game, much like the South Florida game, that I would have left early. Probably. Though the Orange's most recent bigger blowout -- a 56-0 drubbing at Georgia Tech -- featured me in attendance with crappy weather and I didn't leave early. So I guess you never really know. But this, this game, was a crapper.
By the time Syracuse finds itself back in the Dome for a noon:30 against NC State, it'll be four weeks since the amazeballs game against Virginia Tech. The Orange needs one win -- for sure -- and more safely two wins -- to be bowl eligible. A win against the Wolfpack is the common thought to get the Orange there (with Pittsburgh being the other). So let's see if the same Dino Babers who inspired a nation in the locker room after the VTech win can inspire his own players to win the games they need.