Syracuse fell 38-20 to Florida State on Saturday, but the Orange learned a lot about themselves in the process. One of the most positive things to come out of the game was the freshmen connection of A.J. Long to Steve Ishmael. The pair got off to a strong start on their second possession, hooking up for a 36-yard gain, which set up the first field goal for Cole Murphy.
It is third and six, and Syracuse is initially just trying to pick up enough yardage for a first down. Long sets up in the shotgun with Prince-Tyson Gulley to his side. Florida State brings just a four man rush, dropping everyone else into coverage. Ben Lewis and Jarrod West are at the top of the picture above. Lewis is stacked behind West, and runs a comeback route. West runs a square-in just past the marker. Ishmael is at the bottom of the picture and faces press coverage.
Long initially has a perfect pocket from which to pass. Sean Hickey has the end contained at the top while Palmer has his stonewalled from the right tackle position. Rob Trudo and John Miller double team the FSU guard while Nick Robinson is responsible for the other tackle. Robinson blocks his man initially, but as the play develops, loses the tackle breaks free and puts pressure on Long right up the middle. Long sprints to his right to buy some time.
Long, circled above, has escaped the pocket and the pressure. Gulley is trying to get open but his defender is also looking back at Long in case A.J. decides to try to run for the first down. Instead, Long does a great job of keeping his eyes down field and Ishmael running down the sideline with man coverage. His route took a while to develop because of the press coverage executed beautifully by FSU. But as Long scrambles, Ishmael gets free down field.
FSU corner P.J. Williams has good coverage on Ishmael. Safety Tyler Hunter is coming over to help, but is just a step too late. With Williams’ strong coverage, Long has to be pinpoint accurate with his pass. The ball has to placed to the outside shoulder of Ishmael and dropped over Williams and under Hunter.
That is exactly where the ball is placed and Ishmael does a nice job of snatching the ball out of the air at the perfect time, while back peddling. It was a great play for the Orange that gave them first and goal. It was the first of three big connections between Long and Ishmael Saturday afternoon. The other two resulted in touchdowns.