It’s six losses in their last seven games for the banged up Orange. Here is the best and the worst in all three-phases from Syracuse’s 24-17 loss to NC State on Saturday.
Top Talent: WR Jarrod West – West had arguably the best game of his career, stepping up to become a playmaker for an injury riddled offensive group. West ran crisp routes, got open down the field, made strong adjustments on the ball and caught nearly everything thrown his way. He even showed a little more burst after the catch than he has in the past.
Middle Man: QB A.J. Long – Long had his ups and down in his third start. There were moments where everything was clicking offensively. Long was escaping the pocket, throwing accurate passes downfield and helping the Orange get into the end zone. Then there was the bad, like the pick six that turned the tide of the game.
Bottom Feeder: Offensive Line – Yes the line was banged up, but you still expect some quality play. They got virtually none on Saturday. They were dominated by a Wolfpack defensive line that had struggled throughout the season. They could not protect Long, open up holes for the running game and drew penalties at the worst possible moments. It was an awful day for the offensive line.
Top Talent: LB Cameron Lynch – Once again, Lynch was a monster on defense. He led Syracuse in tackles, had a sack and was flying all over the field. He continues to be the leader for an Orange defense that has carried the team this season.
Middle Man: LB Zaire Franklin – The true freshman entered in relief of Marqez Hodge and did not disappoint. He forced a fumble, had eight tackles and showed strong play recognition. Syracuse may be losing two senior linebackers after this season, but the future at the position is bright with Franklin leading the way.
Bottom Feeder: Missed Opportunities – As good as Syracuse has been at forcing turnovers in prior games, they let three golden opportunities slip through their fingers, literally. Syracuse failed to recover two fumbles and dropped an interception. It’s hard to ask the defense to do more than it already is, but with the offense struggling, they have to take advantage of those chances.
Top Talent: PR Ritchy Desir – I have been quite critical of Desir and his frequent fair catches. However, on Saturday, he showed his worth as a returner. He made good decisions on when to return it, when to let it go and when to fair catch the ball. He averaged nearly nine yards per return on four attempts and showed some elusiveness. Desir deserves some praise this week.
Middle Man: P Riley Dixon – Dixon had a few strong punts, but largely struggled for the first time all season. He averaged less than 40-yards per kick and that includes a long of 57. Only three of his nine punts landed inside the 20. Given how good he has been this year, he can be forgiven for this performance.
Bottom Feeder: Josh Kirkland - Oh Josh. What happened? Syracuse took a 14-9 lead in the third quarter, and on the subsequent kickoff, forced a fumble. With the ball laying on the ground, Kirkland was in prime position to recover the fumble and give the ball back to Syracuse deep in enemy territory. Instead, as he was attempting a scoop and score, he did not pick up the ball cleanly and it rolled away. NC State ended up recovering it. So close to a game changing play.