Turnovers, mistakes, and penalties had been the theme for Syracuse in recent weeks despite gaining a lot of yards. Against Connecticut, they cut down on those issues and had their best performance since week one against Northwestern.
The Passing Game
It starts with the offense line, which was fantastic against the Huskies. Coming in, UConn was leading the conference in sacks. However, they did not muster a single one against the Orange. Justin Pugh and Sean Hickey were dominant. The UConn defense ends were rendered useless as both Syracuse tackles used excellent footwork to stay in front of their man, and strength to keep them away from Nassib. The line formed a great pocket for Nassib to work with, and rarely allowed pressure. Especially impressive was Macky MacPherson, who looked dominant for the first time this season. He was excellent at the point of attack, and drove his defender back on a number of occasions.
With that time, Ryan Nassib was extremely efficient. He finished the game 14-20 for 251 yards and two touchdowns. Even more important, zero turnovers. Nassib was accurate, decisive, and confident. His reads were spot on. On a third down in the first half after UConn had cut the lead to 13-10, Nassib took the snap and went into his drop. He looked for his first read, which wasn't there, and came to his second read which was Beckett Wales streaking across the middle. He delivered a pin-point, accurate pass to hit Wales in stride for the first down. The Orange ended that drive with a touchdown.
Alec Lemon continued his great play against the Huskies. With 8 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown, he now has 27 catches for 475 yards in four games against Connecticut. He ran fantastic routes all game, beat one on one coverage, and was even better after the catch. Lemon took a slant pass 68-yards that fell two yards short of a touchdown. That gain was the longest of his career. He also took a curl route for a big gain down to the three. Lemon joked after the game about not scoring on those plays, saying his teammates were asking him where his speed burst was.
The Connecticut corners are very good, and they could not cover Lemon on Friday. He caught everything thrown his way, and ran the best routes of any Syracuse receiver. He was quick in his cuts, and was able to make people miss in space.
Beckett Wales also had a great game with four catches for 69 yards a touchdown. Wales was able to get open on the UConn linebackers, and was left wide open on his touchdown. The Orange lined up in their tank package, but ran playaction off of it for the first time this season. When Nassib rolled out to the right, no one was near Wales, who walked in for a touchdown untouched.
It's hard to find a lot of negatives in what Syracuse did on Friday. But there were a couple of things the Orange could improve upon.
There were a couple fumbled quarterback/center exchanges that nearly halted drives in the redzone again. So while the Orange did not have any redzone turnovers, they were dangerously close to a couple. As they move forward, against better teams, that needs to be corrected.
The Running Game
Once again, it starts with the offensive line. The guards for Syracuse, specifically Zach Chibane and Rob Trudo, had their best game of the season. Against a Connecticut defense that had been among the nation's best, the Orange had their way. Chibane and Trudo opened huge holes inside, and the linebackers were engaged by Wales. The interior of the offense line were able to do anything they wanted to the Husky tackles. They overpowered them, dominated them, and the running game flourished.
Jerome Smith had the best game of his career. He rushed for 133 yards on 19 carries. While he didn't find the endzone, he was the feature back for the Orange. As the season has gone along, he has gotten better and better. Smith was excellent at finding the hole and exploding through it. Even more impressive was his ability to run downhill and power through tacklers.
Prince Tyson-Gulley had his most productive game in weeks. He finished with 38-yards on eight carries. He ran hard out of the spread, and was affective in space. His cuts seemed more precise, and he seemed more confident as a runner.
Ashton Broyld got back on the field and ended up with 58 yards on 11 carries. While all of that production was in the second half, it was good to see him back in the mix. Broyld showed the cuts, quickness, and playmaking ability from the first few games.
The tank package was useful once again, scoring its third touchdown in as many weeks as Adonis Ameen-Moore rumbled in from a yard out.
Hard to pick out many negatives here. While it would have been nice to see Broyld in the first half, that is really nit-picking.
On a couple of outside runs, Syracuse could not set the edge to give the runner room around the corner. These instances were few and far between, but still worth noting.
The playcalling mirrored what Marrone said during the week. If something works, they would stick with it. The first drive was a prime example of that, as Jerome Smith gained 49 yards.
The run/pass ratio was 53/20. This is not something you're likely to see week in and week out, as Marrone likes to throw the ball. But it was fun to see Syracuse be successful utilizing power football.
An all-around excellent performance for the Orange. Zero turnovers might be the best stat among many impressive numbers. The Orange reached 40 points for the second time this season. Nearly flawless execution was the biggest factor in the offense's success.
Syracuse will look to continue their stellar play next week on the road against South Florida.