CFN Take: Syracuse punchy in 2 OT win
2014 Syracuse Orange ... Head Coach: Scott Shafer
Aug. 29 at Syracuse 27, Villanova 26 2OT
2014 Schedule |
Aug. 30 Villanova
W 27-26 2OT
Sep. 6 OPEN DATE
Sep. 13 at Central Michigan
Sep. 20 Maryland
Sep. 27 Notre Dame (in NJ)
Oct. 3 Louisville
Oct. 11 Florida State
Oct. 18 at Wake Forest
Oct. 25 at Clemson
Nov. 1 NC State
Nov. 8 Duke
Nov. 15 OPEN DATE
Nov. 22 at Pitt
Nov. 29 at Boston College
And You Care Because … In the second overtime, John Robertson
pulled Villanova within one on a nine-yard touchdown pass to Gary Underwood, but
the quarterback sneak for a possible two-point conversion was stuffed and
Syracuse survived with a tough win. The two teams traded field goals in the
first overtime, but holder Riley Dixon got the Orange in the end zone on a one-yard touchdown pass in the second overtime
off a fake field goal.
What Else? Villanova controlled the game and the clock, keeping the ball for a whopping 37:48 – Syracuse couldn’t get off the field. Third down stops were almost non-existent, but there was just enough of a pass rush to pick up the slack. However, not being able to stop dual-threat QB John Robertson – at least until the final play – was a problem.
- Syracuse, welcome to Austin Dixon. Terrel Hunt completed 10-of-17 passes for 89 yards, and ran for 25 yards, but was booted for throwing a punch. The offense struggled to go anywhere without him.
- Prince-Tyson Gulley tore off an early 65-yard touchdown run, but the ground game managed just 71 rushing yards the rest of the way.
- The SU D might have struggled, but LB Cameron Lynch had a huge game making 15 tackles with a sack and a broken up pass.
Game Rating: B
Decent start in the ACC, Orange, but will 7-6 be as good as it gets?
Syracuse exceeded expectations by rising above .500 with an upset of Boston College and a Texas Bowl win over Minnesota. But where do Scott Shafer and his program go from here? The Orange proved it can compete in the ACC, but Shafer isn’t content with simply remaining competitive or filling the voids in the league’s second-tier bowl openings. The coach has made eight wins a priority this season, a rigorous challenge in the face of a thorny schedule.
Syracuse will have a critical edge this year over much of the conference—a quarterback with starting experience. Junior Terrel Hunt had a rocky debut, but he never left the lineup after taking over in September. And he’s had a solid offseason so far, locking down the starting gig for a second straight year. Keeping the job, though, will require Hunt to become a more efficient thrower.
The Orange will be productive on the ground behind Hunt and backs Prince-Tyson Gulley, George Morris and Devante McFarlane. Running the ball has not been an issue at Syracuse the past few years. Still, the program needs to achieve balance, which is why Hunt’s development inside the pocket is such an integral component of the 2014 squad’s success.
The D is in pretty good shape, especially the back seven, entering the quiet months of the offseason. Syracuse houses all-league contenders in SS Durell Eskridge and linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch. The line, though, is a major concern now that DT Jay Bromley has moved on. The Orange will not only be more vulnerable on running plays, but it’ll need a defensive end, such as Robert Welsh or Ron Thompson, to bring the heat on a more consistent basis.
Finishing with a winning record in a year that the team entered a much tougher league with a green coach and quarterback was an underrated achievement for Syracuse. Now, the program is out to prove that 2013 was the beginning of a trend, rather than some one-year anomaly. If the Orange is going to bowl in 2014, it’ll have to be expeditious and detail-oriented between now and the Aug. 29 visit from Villanova. The team has holes to fill and young players that must mature to adequately navigate a wicked slate littered with ACC landmines.
What to watch for on offense: Estime issues. Sophomore Brisly Estime is the exception to the rule suggesting Syracuse won’t stretch opposing defenses with speed. The 5-9, 172-pound receiver from Delray Beach, Fla. is a burner, with the jets to equip the Orange with new options in 2014. Estime debuted a year ago with 28 receptions for 257 yards and a score. He has the extra gear needed to get behind a secondary, and to pick up yards after the catch. And the staff has hinted Estime has become significantly faster since the end of last season.
What to watch for on defense: Putting the cornerbacks under the microscope. The Orange feels good about its situation at safety, thanks to Durell Eskridge, Ritchy Desir and Darius Kelly. But who mans the corners now that Keon Lyn and Ri’Shard Anderson are gone from a unit that was No. 9 in ACC pass defense in 2013? The pressure will be on senior Brandon Reddish and junior Julian Whigham to raise the level of their play. If they can’t deliver, Syracuse will once again be a middling pass defense.
The team will be far better if… the passing attack is more threatening than it was in 2013. Last year, Syracuse was fourth in the ACC on the ground, yet only 12th through the air. Because of the lack of balance, opponents quickly figured out that RB Jerome Smith could be slowed by stacking the box. While the Orange is never going to be Clemson over the top, it still needs to find ways to spread the field in an effort to creating more space for a deep and talented collection of runners.
The Schedule: The Orange start out building up to a nasty run, but there’s only one trip outside of New York – fine, so the Notre Dame game is in East Rutherford, NJ – until late October. The downside is that there aren’t any layups after the trip to Central Michigan with Maryland – who’s loaded with experience, Notre Dame, Louisville and Florida State in a brutal run. Throw in road games at Wake Forest and Clemson, and it’s going to be a rough first two months. There’s a week off in mid-November, but the season closes out on the road at Pitt and BC – there aren’t any home games after November 8th against Duke.
Best offensive player: Senior LT Sean Hickey. Hickey flirted with the possibility of leaving school early for the 2014 NFL Draft. He’ll finish his career with the Orange instead, great news for the entire offense, specifically QB Terrel Hunt. Hickey is the prototype in a college left tackle, athletic, powerful and long-limbed. Hunt will have plenty on his mind this fall, as he attempts to take his game to a different level. Absorbing contact from his backside, though, will not be one of the young quarterback’s worries when he drops back to throw in 2014.
Best defensive player: Junior SS Durell Eskridge. The Orange is in the market for a new defensive star now that DT Jay Bromley has exhausted his eligibility. Linebackers Dyshawn Davis and Cameron Lynch are candidates, but neither is a thoroughbred like Eskridge. The Miami native enjoyed a breakout sophomore season, parlaying his ideal size and athleticism into an All-ACC first year as a starter. Eskridge will not only attack the run like a linebacker, but he has the length and the ball skills to pick pockets in pass defense. He’s a budding defensive star for Syracuse.
Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Terrel Hunt. It’s your team, Terrel. Now go out and make Syracuse your town this fall. Hunt is busting with untapped physical potential, the likes of which this campus hasn’t seen in many years. He has a strong arm, he’ll make things happen with his feet and now he has a season as the starter in the vault. If the game slows down for Hunt, he’s surrounded by just enough skill position talent for the Orange to average 30 points a game, a significant hike from 2013.
The season will be a success if ... the Orange matches last season’s seven-win total. Yeah, Scott Shafer is targeting eight victories, which is a bit of stretch against a schedule that includes games with Notre Dame, Louisville, Florida State, Clemson and Duke. Syracuse wants to build both a foundation and momentum as a member of the ACC. Returning to the postseason and finishing above .500 for a second straight year would accomplish multiple goals for the players, the coaching staff and the fans.
Key game: Sept. 27 vs. Notre Dame. It’s not often that Syracuse gets a high-profile crack at the Irish. In fact, the schools have only met six times in football. For the Orange, the neutral site meeting at MetLife Stadium represents an opportunity to make a splash that reverberates far outside the Northeast region. Beating ND in the shadow of New York City would be a very big deal. To become bowl-eligible, Syracuse will need to win a game it shouldn’t in 2014. And taking down the Irish would serve purposes that go far beyond qualifying for the postseason.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Penalty yards Syracuse 804 – Opponents 437
- Touchdown passes: Syracuse 13 – Opponents 22
- Rushing yards per game: Syracuse 194.8 - Opponents 137.4
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