SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- George McDonald has taken his share of flak over his first season as Syracuse's offensive coordinator. Both the system and his play calling have been the subject of scorn from both fans and the media alike. While McDonald's confidence never waivered, he put in his best performance as the Orange's lead offensive man on Saturday.
Syracuse put up 480-yards of total offense in what was easily their best performance in conference play. The much maligned passing attack connected for 270-yards through the air, including catches by nine different Orange players (10 if you count Hunt catching his own deflected pass).
The Orange offensive attack was balanced (51 runs versus 43 passes), creative, and perfectly executed. This against a Boston College defense that gave up only 24 points against the vaunted Clemson offense.
"Did I mention how proud I am of George McDonald, too?" head coach Scott Shafer said. He has pieced this thing together and he's made some great calls. I thought coach McDonald kept them off balance all day long. People say, ‘let's run it on them.' Well he changed it up.
"We went empty backfield the first three plays I think. He changed it up, hew as creative, he's a bright young coach. He's learning a lot about the game as he moves forward. He had a lot of criticism and I couldn't be prouder of George."
Well deserved high praise from McDonald's boss. All season, McDonald was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Stuck between running a wide open, four and five wide receiver type of offense that throws the ball all over the field and the power offense his personnel is more suited to run.
If he was going to bring in the receiving talent through recruiting in order to run that system more effectively, he would have to show glimpses of what that would entail. But he also had to rely on the ground game, which was the strength of the Syracuse offense.
On Saturday, he found the perfect balance. Terrel Hunt was efficient, decisive and made great throws down the field in tight windows. The Orange spread the field with four or five wide receivers on multiple occasions, clearly confusing the Eagles defense.
They used bunch formations, single wide power formations, trips in the backfield, used tight ends and running backs in the slot, and other creative offensive looks.
Alvin Cornelius, Josh Parris, Ashton Broyld, Brisly Estime, Chris Clark, Quinta Funderburk, Durell Eskridge, Jeremiah Kobena and Jerome Smith all caught passes. They rotated in and out beautifully, spreading the field and the wealth as they gave Syracuse a legitimate passing attack for the first time in conference play.
On the last play he would call, Syracuse's game winning touchdown, he showed clear understanding of what he was seeing on the field. Noticing a trend from the Boston College defense when Hunt would roll out to one side, he called a tight end throwback which worked to perfection. It was a gutsy play call, and a brilliant one.
McDonald is a young coach with a very bright future. As he comes into his own as a play caller, the sky is the limit of the Orange offense.