Senior quarterback Ryan Nassib got off to a blazing start this season, and he looked to be on his way to the most efficient season in Syracuse history, but he has taken a step back over the last two weeks.
Taking a closer look
However, upon re-visiting the game tape, Nassib has been making the right decision more times than not. Still, the numbers tell us that he is not playing at the level he once was this season. He got through the first four games with nine touchdowns against just one interception, completing nearly 72 percent of his pass attempts in the process. Over the last two weeks, though, he managed just two scores against three picks while completing just over 50 percent of his throws.
The common theme that Nassib has held throughout the season is his decision making. Two of the three interceptions to his credit, all of which took place in the overtime loss to Rutgers, were not squarely on his shoulders. One was on the tail-end of a designed screen pass in which the defender (Justin Francis) made an above-average athletic play to get his hands on the ball. The second mistake not accurately credited to the signal-caller was after a tipped pass that hit WR Kyle Foster on both hands.
These are not excuses for the senior's numbers, just an alternate perspective to think about. Even then, the Rutgers game was the only true "dud" of the season. Even by the stats, it was the only game in which his quarterback rating was less than 121.3. Last week, Nassib not only accounted for three scores without committing a single turnover, but he engineered a drive to put Ross Krautman in position to kick the game-winning field goal to lift SU to victory. In the process, he continued to take big hits while somehow getting the ball to Antwon Bailey in big spots to move the chains.
Through six games, Nassib has 11 touchdown passes to his name against four interceptions, and he rushed for another score. Even with the decline in efficiency over the last two weeks, he is still completing 64.6 percent of his attempts. He has thrown for 1294 yards as well.
If you compare his current numbers from where he was last season, his TD-INT ratio remains the same. He had 11 scores and four picks through six games, even rushing for a score. But he had fewer yards to his credit (1220) and his completion percentage was well below where it is now, as it sat at just 56.6 percent. Nassib has elevated his numbers nearly across the board, and that's before you take the competition into account. In 2010, the first six opponents included Akron, Washington, Maine, Colgate, South Florida and Pittsburgh. At the halfway point in 2011, ‘Cuse one faced just one FBS school, while traveling to USC and Tulane, coupled with hosting the likes of Wake Forest, Rhode Island, Toledo and Rutgers. Not stellar opponents every week, but certainly a step up in terms of degree of difficulty.
Nassib has much work to do in order to captain an inconsistent offense against Big East competition for the rest of the season, but he is doing much better than what he is credited for at the midway point. Yes, he has shown some inaccurate tendencies and remains guilty of the very occasional bone-head interception, but the good severely outweighs the bad.
The offensive linemen have admitted in recent weeks that they need to step their game up in order to better protect Nassib -- especially on third down -- and the coaching staff will have two weeks to correct things before conference favorite West Virginia comes to town.