TAKEAWAYS FROM GAME 3: vs. CENTRAL MICHIGAN
• PARTY LIKE IT’S 1991: The Orange have started 3-0 for the first time in 24 years, and I was 8 years old when it last happened! Back then Marvin Graves was throwing deep balls to “The Missile” Qadry Ismail, and cult favorite Kirby Dar Dar was seeing his first action as a freshman. The Cuse even beat Ohio State in the Hall of Fame Bowl at the end of that season. Oh how long ago those days were. The Dome used to rock then (look up the Dome Ranger). Ohio State is basically an NFL Minor League team now and the Orange are doing all they can to be relevant now, finishing that year #11 in the AP Poll. For you younger readers, there wasn’t even a BCS then, or heaven forbid a College Football Playoff. George Bush’s father was President. Yep, read my lips!
• QUARTERBACK POSITION, AGAIN!: For the third week in a row, we have major question marks at the quarterback position. That question would be: Who is actually going to be the QB versus LSU? In Week 1, we wondered if Eric Dungey could replace Terrel Hunt after he was injured for the second straight season in a row. He showed he could against Wake Forest, using both his arm and legs to pass the test. But, the gruesome hit laid on him by Mitch Staitzek left Dungey seeing stars, and the Orange faithful getting an early version of Halloween Horrors. Although Dungey’s status will not be clear until he completes a battery of tests this week, you have to hope that he can recover quickly to either play against LSU or in the first road game of the season against South Florida. Otherwise, despite the experience of Austin Wilson from last season and the recent snaps by Zack Mahoney, the Syracuse offense is basically being turned over to a couple guys with their learners permit that are trying to pass Driver’s Ed. SU needs to answer the quarterback position questions fast or the momentum gained after three straight wins could come to a screeching halt.
• GROUND JORDAN RETURNS: Jordan Fredericks made a considerable return to the backfield against Central Michigan. After rushing for 103 yards and touchdown setting records as a true freshman versus Rhode Island, he had a considerably minor role against Wake Forest amassing only 21 yards. The intent from the coaching staff seems to be a running back by committee approach, letting the player with the hot hand get the bulk of the carries. But, a humble Fredericks has to command the rock. Modesty aside, he rushed for 78 yards against Central Michigan, a stat that many pro backs rarely even see these days. He has also seen the end zone twice now, which is shared only with his backfield mate Dontae Strickland (Strickland has one rushing, one receiving). If “Ground Jordan” can become one of the consistent featured backs, even the number one option, there is a lot Orange fans can expect down the stretch of the season.
• DEFENSIVE HIGHS AND LOWS: Luke Arcineiga has four sacks for the Orange Crush defense, and captain Zaire Franklin has 21 tackles on the season thus far. These are the two names that you consistently hear over the public address system inside the Carrier Dome. Arcineiga and Franklin are pacing a defense that started this weekend’s game leading the nation in turnover margin at 3.00 and was third in fumble recoveries. So, the initial take away is that Syracuse has a defensive unit that wreaks havoc in a variety of ways. However, the stats don’t lie and there is a lot to address on this side of the ball. For the second week in a row, the Orange gave up over 370 passing yards (373 Wake Forest, 430 Central Michigan). The soft under belly of the secondary continues to give more and more chances on third down making the opposing quarterback look more like they participating in their “pro-day” than feeling pressure against coverage. This is an obvious concern with LSU coming to town, and other formidable play callers on the horizon. This was further complicated by Devon Spalding’s 88 yards rushing and 102 yards receiving for CMU, proving that dynamic backs often have free reign against the Cuse defense. I can see LSU’s Leonard Fournette taking a nap during this week’s film session saying, “Don’t worry, I got this Coach!”
OUTLOOK FOR GAME 4: vs. #8 LOUSIANA STATE (2-0 Overall, 2-0 SEC, 1 game cancelled)
• WHOA NELLY!: Legendary College Football broadcaster, Keith Jackson, would be singing the praises of the LSU Tigers heading into this very important game for Syracuse. After disposing of #25 Mississippi State in a close 21-19 victory in Week 2, LSU demolished the #18 Auburn Tigers with a convincing 45-21 win. Louisiana State is proving that they may be the most elite team in the SEC, or at least share the nod with #3 Ole Miss. If the momentum continues for the “Bayou Bengals,” we could be talking about them as one of the four teams in the College Football playoff as the season winds down. Syracuse needs to focus on the positives of the week ahead, but LSU is trying to prove that it’s not the Buckeyes, Spartans, Horned Frogs, or Rebels; they are in fact King of the Jungle.
• EARLY HEISMAN WATCH: LSU running back, Leonard Fournette, was recently listed 10th in ESPN latest Heisman Watch by its experts before Week 3. I may want to put some more of my chips forward as I rated him #2 in the Heisman rankings on Orange Game Day Live this weekend. He didn’t disappoint this week either, rushing for 228 yards on 19 carries and 3 touchdowns. Fournette now has 6 touchdowns on the season to go with 387 yards rushing. He does not appear to be a dual threat as of now with only one catch for nine yards, but the Orange defense cannot take a chance. They have to prepare aggressively for all aspects of Fournette’s game, and force others to win the game for LSU.
• HEADACHE: Not to put pressure on Eric Dungey, because so far he has been equally as great as a person as he has on the field, but if he doesn’t come back from his upper body injury then the Orange stand little chance against the Tigers. It may even behoove the coaching staff to sit Dungey out for this week depending on his condition, and get him focused for another winnable opportunity at South Florida in two weeks. The defense has its own holes to sure up, but SU will need a solid play caller and continued pressure on LSU QB Brandon Harris to secure a competitive showing. Harris has only completed 145 yards with one touchdown, so in some ways LSU’s scheme of run first plays into the hands of Syracuse’s defensive strategy thus far.
• OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN: SU Head Coach Scott Shafer has kept a great attitude all-season for his team. The concept of “winning the day, winning the play” has been a battle cry that has suited the Orange well thus far. There seems to be some magic in this ball club with their exciting play and will to win. You have to credit the players on the field, but Shafer sets the tone for the team. I can see a very competitive and even surprising showing for all of America to see this Saturday at High Noon on ESPN, because Coach Shafer has his troops prepared with the right goals in mind.
If you have any thoughts and takes to contribute look for me via Social Media:
*Follow me on Twitter: @TFergSportsNet
*Follow Orange Game Day Live on Facebook: Orange GameDay and on Twitter: @OrangeGameDay
*Watch Orange Game Day Live on Periscope prior to each SU game. Times TBA, so stay connected.