While the 0-2 start to Syracuse's 2013 season is not what the Orange had in mind when they wrapped up fall camp, there are still reasons to be optimistic going forward.
The offense, despite the turnovers, has shown flashes of having the ability to be productive. Ashton Broyld is emerging as a playmaker in the short passing game. He finished with a career high seven catches for 62-yards against Northwestern. He is someone that can make people miss when given the ball in the open field.
Chris Clark stepped up against Northwestern as a player that can step up in the intermediate passing game. Clark added six catches for 66-yards in week two.
Some of the young players showed promise in the air as well. Brisly Estime finished with four catches for 51-yards, showing the type of speed and elusiveness that is dangerous when he gets out into the open. His catches were mainly quick, short throws that got the ball to Estime in space to allow him to use his abilities. But he did make a 23-yard catch down the sideline where he showed a knack for getting open with solid route running.
Kendall Moore, thought to be a future offensive tackle and redshirt candidate in 2013, had three catches for 37-yards, including his first career touchdown. Moore was targeted a few more times as well, and appeared to be one of the only Syracuse receiving options who could get open over the middle.
While it was in mop-up duty, Quinta Funderburk came in to snag two passes. He showed the ability to get open, and may be an option going forward.
On the ground, Syracuse finished with 133-yards rushing. A sign of improvement from week one. Jerome Smith, Terrel Hunt, DeVante McFarlane and George Morris all averaged more than four yards per carry. Prince-Tyson Gulley added a touchdown run. Especially encouraging was the running of McFarlane and Morris. Both showed the type of burst and power combination that speaks well for the future at running back.
Terrel Hunt came in to lead a touchdown drive late in the game when the outcome was already decided. Still, he showed some things that Drew Allen did not. Going through his progressions, coming off his primary read to look towards his second target before taking off for a 15-yard touchdown run when both reads were covered. That one play showed the ability to go through his reads that Allen has not shown in two weeks. A move to Hunt could give the Syracuse offense the jump-start it needs.
Overall, Syracuse put up over 430-yards of total offense. That is encouraging going forward, though the Orange have to cut down on penalties and turnovers.
Defensively, some young guns stepped up here as well. Luke Arciniega and Josh Kirkland spelled Marquis Spruill and Dyshawn Davis for a couple series in the second half, forcing punts on both. Arciniega came up with a sack on a third down play, and Kirkland showed the same aggressiveness that we saw during the spring.
Ron Thompson was solid at defensive end, showing the ability to shed a block to get to the quarterback as he was able to register a sack against Northwestern. Isaiah Johnson also got into the game late and showed flashes of the potential that created buzz during fall camp.
Wayne Morgan was able to make a play in the secondary, hitting Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter to force a fumble that could have changed momentum in the first half. However, Syracuse was unable to recover the fumble.
There are still ten games left on the schedule with plenty of opportunities to turn the season around. Syracuse has the ability to build on some of these positive areas in order to put together a complete performance and get the Orange in the win column. It is far too early in 2013 to give up on this team.
Thankfully for Syracuse, Wagner and Tulane loom on the schedule which should help the Orange get back on track.