In anticipation of Friday night’s ACC contest, CardinalAuthority.com CuseNation.com reached out to CuseNation.com Publisher Mike McAllister to answer five questions about the Orange.
Q: The Orange created a lot of turnovers against the Irish and are tied for the ACC lead in turnover margin. What is it about the Syracuse defense that is creating so many opportunities?
Mike McAllister: It is their attacking style. Defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough loves to bring a lot of pressure. He will blitz multiple linebackers, bring safeties, corners, etc on any given play. The goal is to create confusion within the opposing team’s offensive line and create free rushers on the quarterback.
That style has worked to perfection this season. Even against Maryland, where they did not force a turnover, they dropped four easy interceptions that in every other game they would have converted. While the added rushers puts pressure on their secondary to stay with opposing receivers, it also speeds up the read and react time of the quarterback.
That forced Everett Golson last week into some rushed throws and big hits which caused fumbles. Syracuse will continue to be an aggressive, attacking, blitzing defense in hopes that they will have even more turnover opportunities.
Q: The Syracuse offense has struggled to score. What has been the biggest cause?
Mike McAllister: It has mostly been self-inflicted. Penalties in the red zone have been a big culprit. Turning a third and two into a third and seven. Or a third and eight into a third and 23. When the team gets into enemy territory, the offense stalls. This has been a baffling component of the Syracuse offense this season.
They have done a good job racking up yards, especially against Maryland where they nearly hit the 600-yard mark. Combine that with turnovers in the red zone and it has been a rough go of it the closer Syracuse gets to the end zone.
You get the feeling they are close to putting it together, but they have to get out of their own way. Cutting down on mental mistakes, stupid penalties, and red zone interceptions would certainly help as the Orange look to put up more points on the scoreboard.
Q: Syracuse is one of the few programs that returned an experienced quarterback in Terrel Hunt. When intangibles does he bring to the offense?
Mike McAllister: Hunt is a leader who has a good feel for the game. The rest of the team really looks to him in times of crisis. He has a calm demeanor and makes plays during crunch time.
Specifically, when to take off and run to make a play versus when to stay in the pocket and find an open receiver. Hunt has struggled with his accuracy this season, but he is by far and away the best quarterback on the roster right now.
He is still developing, but his leadership skills and work ethic are the biggest reasons why many Orange fans expect the offense to right the ship.
Q: The dome has often proved a difficult place to play for opponents. What type of environment should be expected for a rare Friday night game?
Mike McAllister: It really depends on how many fans show up. Over the last few years, the home Syracuse crowds have not been spectacular by any means. But when you get over 40,000 fans in that building, it can be quite loud. It is called the loud house for a reason.
Syracuse is trying to make Friday night an “Orange out.” Given the last two home performances and the fact that Syracuse is on a two game losing streak, fans need a reason to come out. This may be a good reason combined with the prime time atmosphere.
Expecting a crowd around 40-42 thousand is reasonable. That crowd should be rowdy to start. How loud they stay will depend on how the game goes.
Q: As a fellow Big East turned ACC program, what has been the most notable changes in the move as it pertains to the football program?
Mike McAllister: The biggest challenge is adjusting to the top of the league. Syracuse can compete with the middle to lower tier of the ACC. The upper tier, programs like Florida State and Clemson, have proven that there is still a large talent gap that the Orange has to overcome.
Recruiting is picking up, but there is still a long ways to go.
That gap has also led to the attendance challenge mentioned previously. There are still a lot of fans that cannot get the Greg Robinson era out of their minds. While Syracuse is putting a better product on the field, many fans have not come back.