Offense Struggles to Find Consistency

The Syracuse offense hurt itself for the second consecutive week, failing to put up points in critical situations.

The Syracuse offense struggled to consistently move the ball Saturday night against Notre Dame. There were far fewer running lanes between the tackles than in prior weeks. The Orange could not get their ground attack going, which has been their bread and butter entering their fourth game of the season.

Syracuse knew it would be a difficult task, as the Irish possess one of the better defensive units in college football. Their front four was dominant against the Orange offensive line, refusing to be pushed back all game long.

None of it was more evident than late in the third quarter, with Syracuse trailing 21-3 and trying to bet back into the game. Deep in Irish territory, Syracuse had third and one. A run up the middle by Adonis Ameen-Moore failed, largely because the offensive line could not get any push against the Notre Dame defenders.

There was simply no place for Ameen-Moore to run.

On the very next snap, Syracuse tried to catch Notre Dame off guard by getting to the line quickly and snapping it almost immediately after the ball was spotted. They were attempting a quarterback sneak needing less than a yard for the first down.

Once again, the offensive line got no push and Terrel Hunt went nowhere. Notre Dame took over on downs.

Jarron Jones was a force on Saturday, filling the gaps and plugging would-be running lanes. Outside of a 42-yard run by Riley Dixon on a fake punt, the Syracuse ground attack only yielded 3.2 yards per carry. A far cry from previous outings.

”Notre Dame plays a lot of different things up front,” head coach Scott Shafer said. “Coach (Brian) VanGorder is a great football coach. I’ve always liked that guy. He’s a damn good football coach. They changed up things. Changed the fronts up. Nice job showing pressure one way and bringing it the other. Getting in and out of things. Enough man to keep us honest. Enough zone to throw us off where our gaps are.

”A little double eagle up inside. Just kept us off balance and we didn’t do a good enough job maintaining and sustaining our blocks up front at times. They got off of their blocks. It comes down to blocking and tackling, block progression and getting off blocks. They did a hell of a job. I mean, a hell of a job now. That’s a damn good defense.”

The Orange offense did put up 429 yards of total offense, averaging 6.3 yards per play. But it felt far worse than that. The Orange tried several bubble screens, but were largely unsuccessful. They did have success throwing passes down the field, but could not capitalize subsequent to those completions.

For the second consecutive week, the offense also could not get out of its own way. Faltering in opponents territory, a turnover while closing in on a scoring opportunity, penalties at critical times and a passing attack that was too inconsistent. The offense hurting itself as much as the defense causes it problems.

”Really, just penalties,” Hunt said. “It’s just being anxious. But you have to take a step back, take a breather and just relax and realize we’re in the red zone and we have to score there.”

The Syracuse offense has shown flashes of being able to move the ball. Of improvement from last season. But to take that next step into becoming a more consistent threat, they have to cut down on the mistakes.

“They beat our rumps on that side of the ball today,” Shafer said. “Simple as that. Sometimes you have to say you just got beat.”

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