There was a lot to take in from this one, and the team will have plenty to work on heading into the bye week. There were some positives and even more negatives to reflect on initially.
Here's my quick take:
The Syracuse offense was able to jump out to a fast start, which is something that was stressed throughout the week. Running back Antwon Bailey notched another 100-yard game, and he and quarterback Ryan Nassib did just enough on the final drive to put the team in position for the win.
In the first half, SU had a 20-point lead at one point and looked as if it were on the way to a route. Bailey was gaining yardage by the chunks and Nassib was efficient. Dorian Ghraham was the key and the spark, notching his first two career scores on solid passes that displayed both touch and accuracy from Nassib, who made good decisions all night.
On defense, the return of Shamarko Thomas was noticed right away. He was able to deflect a pass on the first play from scrimmage and he came up with some big hits along the way. Fellow safety Phillip Thomas – despite being shaken up with an upper-body injury – was able to make some more big tackles in run support and big spots. The early blitzes worked once again, as Dan Vaugn was able to notch a strip-sack early on to get the ball back in Nassib's hands.
The most consistent phase in the win was the special teams. Jeremiah Kobena was electric as a returner, notching 176 yards on four returns. The best one was his first, which helped to swing the momentum back towards the Orange after the Green Wave took an early lead. Ross Krautman hit three field goals in as many tries, including the game-winner from 21-yards out. All of his tries looked convincing from the time the ball left his foot.
The majority of the second half. Syracuse did not notch a first down until midway through the fourth quarter against a suspect defense at best, and Nassib was as inaccurate after the break as I have ever seen him. The offensive line was guilty of several holding penalties and there seemed to be little fire from the entire team until the Green Wave's rally was nearly complete.
The cornerback play was tough to watch. Keon Lyn and Kevyn Scott gave up two long scores on seemingly routing plays – Scott lost the ball in the air and Lyn slipped while out of position. Tulane QB Ryan Griffin had his first 300-yard game of the season, and he was able to complete 13 straight passes at one point. The holes in the zone were just plain unacceptable.
Up front, there was little push against the pass. Griffin sat in the pocket for most of the night without duress. Granted Tulane threw out plenty of trick plays and gadgets forcing SU's defenders to stay honest, but there was still too inconsistent of a rush against a C-USA line.
Overall, there was not as much fire in the eyes of players who were coming off of an emotional loss to a rival. I expected passion from whistle to whistle, but it was lacking throughout the game. Even when the sloppy win was over on a last-second kick, there was minimal celebration.