Syracuse has been one of the best in the nation at stopping the run early in the 2014 season. The Orange are 26th in the nation having allowed only 313-yards while allowing only 2.72 yards per carry. Two impressive statistics.
What have the Orange done to be so successful against opposing ground attacks? Linebackers coach Clark Lea believes it is a combination of things.
”Every defense has gap responsibilities,” Lea said. “These guys have worked hard to understand what their responsibility is each snap. That sounds pretty elementary, but when you’re talking about multiple formations and different types of run plays, it becomes cumbersome and it takes a lot of studying. It takes a lot of understanding of what we’re trying to get done.
”At the end of the day, to stop the run, it takes 11 guys. Whether it’s the corners on their own. We leave them out to dry sometimes. Whether it’s using safeties in the box or d-linemen holding the point. It’s truly a team effort to stop the run. The guys have done a nice job understanding what we want to get done at the second level. But I think it’s the play at all three levels that’s been the key to our success.”
Certainly tackling well is also an important part of run defense, as missing tackles can lead to big gains. Thus far, Syracuse has avoided the long runs and have kept rushing attacks at bay.
This week, they will have another test as Notre Dame averages 4.3 yards per carry as a team, led by leading rusher Greg Bryant who is at 5.4 yards per tote. They have not had a lot of explosive, chunk plays but have been efficient this season.
The Orange will have to be disciplined to maintain those gap responsibilities that coach Lea described. The tackles holding their opposing offensive linemen at the point of attack to allow free runs by the linebackers into those gaps will be key.
Syracuse faces the Irish at 8pm Saturday night at MetLife Stadium.