Syracuse at USF: Analysis of the Offense

Syracuse pulled out a huge win Saturday night with a gutsy come from behind performance. CuseNation.com breaks down the offense inside.

Syracuse put up more than 500 yards of offense again, while scoring 37 points in a comeback win over South Florida. The offense had its ups and downs throughout the game. CuseNation.com breaks it all down.

The Passing Game

Positives

Ryan Nassib really got into rhythm in the second half. Overall, he threw for 328 yards on 27-40 passing and four touchdowns. Once again, no turnovers. In that second half, he was decisive in the pocket, very accurate, and looked confident.

The offensive line held up well. While Nassib was sacked a couple of times, he had a lot of time for most of the game. Especially impressive were Justin Pugh and Sean Hickey. They controlled the USF defensive ends, and kept Nassib's pocket from collapsing.

Blitz pickup was also very good for the Orange. One particular play stood out on Syracuse's first drive of the second half. A USF blitzer came off the edge, but Jerome Smith stepped in and stonewalled him. That gave Nassib enough time to throw the ball down the field and hit Jarrod West for a touchdown.

The Syracuse wide receivers had an extremely productive night, especially in the second half. All three caught touchdowns in the half.

Marcus Sales finished with nine catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. After being seemingly absent for most of the game, he came alive in the third and fourth quarters. He made the USF secondary look foolish on a few routes, specifically to bring the Orange within 36-31 in the fourth quarter. He fake a post pattern, and then cut back to the outside for a corner route. The Bulls defender was left several yards out of the play, as Sales was wide open.

Alec Lemon continued his solid play from his monster game against Connecticut. He finished with five catches for 40 yards and a touchdown. In the third quarter, he added a rushing touchdown as well.

Jarrod West broke out in a big way Saturday night. He finished with seven catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. West seemed to be open all night, and showed strong hands with speed downfield.

The Orange were able to take advantage of South Florida's man coverage scheme. They stayed in that scheme all night, and never adjusted to slow down the Syracuse passing attack.

Negatives

In the first half, the passing game was out of sorts. Nassib was throwing behind receivers, and there were a couple drops as well. Something has to happen to get the Orange offense going a bit earlier. The execution was poor in the first half.

Sales is still having a problem with drops. One or two times per game he drops an easy reception. Given how solid his hands are, it is baffling.

Sales wasn't the only one plagued by drops, as Jerome Smith dropped an easy touchdown on Syracuse's first possession. He's not generally relied on to be a receiving threat, but that has to be caught.

The Running Game

Positives

Jerome Smith nearly matched his career-high 133 yard performance against UConn. He ran for 127 yards on 28 carries. Smith ran with explosiveness in the hole, showed patience, and power while running. He has clearly established himself as the feature back in this offense.

The offensive line was very good opening holes for the Syracuse running game. The Orange ran predominantly between the tackles, and were very successful racking up nearly 200 yards. Macky MacPherson has really impressed with his run blocking the last couple of games. Rob Trudo and Zach Chibane were also excellent, pushing the USF defenders back at the point of attack.

Prince Tyson-Gulley had his first productive game in weeks as he complimented Smith. He ran well up the middle, and showed elusiveness in the open field.

Negatives

Once again, running inside the 5-yard line was a major issue for the Orange. They tried the tank package with Jerome Smith, but it was ineffective. Part of the blame can be placed on Smith, who was too patient rather than just exploding into the line.

But the major difference this week was the offensive line. They allowed penetration up the middle and from the outside. Smith had nowhere to run. Andrew Phillips was beat a couple of times in this package.

Overall

Syracuse had a good plan in this game. They mixed the run and pass well. While the execution was lacking at times, it was another performance with a lot of yards. For the second straight week, that translated into points.

Ryan Nassib played in Raymond James Stadium twice in his career. In both matchups, he led a game winning drive late in the fourth quarter to lead Syracuse to a victory.

With his four touchdown passes, Nassib moved to second on the all-time touchdown passes list with 61. He trails only Donovan McNabb, who has 77 for his career. Nassib has four games (and a possible bowl game) to break that record.

Syracuse took advantage of opportunities in the second half. After the blocked punt, they turned it into a quick touchdown. Then, after the defense recovered a fumble, they turned that into another touchdown.

Syracuse moves to 4-4 on the season, 3-1 in Big East play. They travel to Cincinnati next week for a noon kickoff.


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