The raw numbers don't look too bad. Putting up 418 yards of offense against a defense that had been one of the stingiest in the country is certainly a solid showing. Ryan Nassib threw for 356 yards, and Marcus Sales had another 100-yard receiving day.
But the numbers don't tell the whole story. A deeper look is needed to see where Syracuse fell short.
The Passing Game
The pass protection was solid for most of the game. They gave Nassib time to survey the field and make a few reads. It was rare to see a Rutgers defender come in untouched and pressure Nassib immediately.
Between the 20's, Ryan Nassib and the passing game clicked. It was a short passing gameplan that worked in that area of the field.
Ryan Nassib made poor decisions all game. For some reason, he will not throw the ball away. He often takes sacks that he should not take. There is no feel for when pressure is around him, or an internal clock as to when to get rid of the ball. If a receiver is not open when they should be, he panics. This directly led to two fumbles, and multiple sacks. A couple of those pushed Syracuse out of field goal range.
Last year, drops were a big problem for the wide receivers. This year, that has not really been an issue. Against Rutgers, it hurt. Alec Lemon dropped what would have been a touchdown pass late in the game, and there were other critical drops as well which stalled drives.
Both interceptions from Nassib were inexcusable. Deep in Rutgers territory mid-way through the 4th quarter, he tried to hit Lemon on a quick slant. However, Khaseem Greene stepped in front of it for the interception. Originally, Greene lined up close to the line of scrimmage as if he was going to blitz. But he took a couple steps back into coverage and Nassib threw it right to him. Ryan has to do a better job at recognizing things like that. The second interception was a ball over the middle that was late and behind the intended receiver.
Early on, Syracuse showed that they were successful running the ball between the tackles. Then, for some reason, they abandoned that and went pass-heavy. This backfired and stalled a few drives.
The Running Game
Jerome Smith ran very well, especially up the middle. He had 67 yards on 15 carries. Between the tackles, he found running lanes and showed power in the hole.
The tank package was utilized correctly on Syracuse's first touchdown late in the second quarter. Adonis Ameen-Moore rumbled in from three yards out. It was well blocked, and Moore powered in despite contact early in the play.
Why did Jerome Smith not get the ball more? Especially given the redzone troubles they were having and his success on inside runs.
Prince Tyson-Gulley continues to become less and less affective. He only had four total yards on seven carries. With Smith running the ball as well as he was, it was shocking to see Gulley take touches away from him.
For the second straight game, Ashton Broyld was nowhere to be found. With an offense searching desperately for a playmaker in the redzone, it is surprising he isn't given a chance there.
The play calling was horrible in this game. With Smith being successful up the middle, they run a stretch play with him. Other times, they would run Gulley up the middle. It seems there isn't a basic understanding of the strengths of the running backs.
In the fourth quarter, Syracuse had first and goal at the two. They threw two incomplete passes, and then brought in the tank package on third down. That was strange to say the least. A run on first or second down makes much more sense. On third down, a run out of a spread formation or a Nassib roll-out with a run/pass option makes more sense.
Penalties again bite the Orange at the worst times. Seemingly every offensive lineman had a false start in the game, save Macky MacPherson. It is confusing how these can continue to happen.
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. An early fumble, that Syracuse recovered, forced Syracuse out of field goal range. Another fumble gave Rutgers the ball at midfield. A third fumble by Steve Rene (he did look down on the replay, however) gave Rutgers their final score which ended up being the decisive score. Nassib's interceptions killed Syracuse drives as well. For a team that moves the ball so well and racks up yardage, they continue to make mistakes and turn the ball over.
Ross Krautman had a day to forget. He missed a 50-yarder, but that was probably out of his range. Then, he had a short field goal blocked on Syracuse's first possession of the second half. Not only was it blocked, but it was returned for a touchdown. The ball never got very high off the ground and Syracuse allowing a defender to split the gap up the middle changed the momentum of the game. Instead of going up 10-7 and taking control, the Orange were trailing 14-7 and seemed deflated.
Redzone problems continue to plague the Orange. Syracuse had six trips inside the Rutgers 35. Those six drives resulted in one touchdown, one punt, one missed field goal, one blocked field goal, one interception, and a turnover on downs. There seems to be confusion as to what plays to run once deep in enemy territory. Suddenly, Smith is running stretch plays, Nassib is throwing quick slants into coverage, or Nassib is being sacked.
Jerome Smith should be utilized in those situations more. They use him to get into Rutgers territory, then take him out and the offense stalls.
The Syracuse offense seems to have one major problem each week. The yardage is there, and they move the ball well. But they don't put up points. Turnovers, penalties, and other mistakes are killing this team.
The Orange will look to correct things as Paul Pasqualoni returns to the Carrier Dome for a Friday night affair.