SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- As expected, the Syracuse Orange picked up a win in their season opener. They defeated Colgate 33-7. Here are the positives and negatives from the performance.
- Eric Dungey was superb. He completed 34 of 40 passes for 355 yards and two touchdowns. He did not turn the ball over. Dungey was accurate, made good decisions and displayed a command of the offense. It is still early and more difficult opponents are on the horizon, but it was a strong start to the season.
- Amba Etta-Tawo had a huge game. Yes his stat line was impressive (12 receptions, 210 yards, 1 TD), but so were his hands. Coming to Syracuse, Etta-Tawo had a reputation of having the drops during his time at Maryland. It prevented him from rising up the depth chart. Those seem to be well behind him now. Not only did he snatch a couple of passes out of the air with ease, but he made a fantastic catch on a ball down the sideline with coverage on top of him. He tapped his toe to get in bounds and was able to secure the catch. Very, very strong outing for Etta-Tawo.
- Ervin Philips was prominently featured in the slot and did not disappoint. He tied a single game program record with 14 catches, and made play after play after play with his hands and feet. He could be in for a huge year.
- Moe Neal scampered for a 49-yard touchdown on his first collegiate touch. Neal burst through the line, got to the second level, ran through a tackler and sped to the end zone. That one run showed why Orange fans should be excited about his future.
- The offense showed why it can be so successful. The system clearly works and it puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. The tempo, the quick passes and the aggressiveness put defenses on their heals. As the team gets more comfortable with the scheme, it will be a major weapon.
- The offensive line was solid. No major breakdowns or mistakes. For the most part, they protected Eric Dungey in this one.
- Syracuse ran 81 plays in 30:26 Friday night. That is a tempo of 22.54 seconds per play, or nearly two seconds per play slower than what Dino's offense at Bowling Green last season.
- The Syracuse defense had a very strong debut. After giving up 75-yards on the opening drive (aided by a special teams penalty), Syracuse only gave up 68 yards on 44 plays. They also recorded three sacks, got pressure on Colgate, stuffed the run, covered well and held the Raiders to just 5-16 on third down.
- Cole Murphy won't get a lot of attention for his performance, but he should. He hit all four field goal attempts and three extra points. It was a strong debut for the Syracuse kicker.
- Sterling Hofrichter alleviated the concern about replacing Riley Dixon. He averaged 45.3 yards per punt on three attempts, including placing one inside the 20. He got decent hang time as well.
- Interesting to note some of Syracuse's personnel groupings. At times, they went five wide with a running back motioning into a wide receiver. They also lined up in a power-I set with Kenneth Ruff in the backfield as a lead blocker. Defensively, on third and long, linebacker Jonathan Thomas lined up at defensive end and Marqez Hodge at defensive tackle. Thomas was able to pick up one sack and two tackles for loss.
- Jake Pickard and Chris Slayton showed flashes. Pickard was solid against the run while Slayton got pressure multiple times.
- The tackling from the defensive unit was very strong. This was something that plagued them last season, so let's see if the improvement continues.
- A lot of freshmen got some run in this one, including a couple of nice catches by slot receiver Sean Riley.
- The Syracuse running game really, really struggled. Yes Colgate has a strong front seven for an FCS team, but it was still a bit concerning. The offensive line failed to open holes on the inside, and the Orange backs struggled to pick up yards. Take away Neal's 49 yard run and Syracuse picked up just 68-yards on 34-carries. That's just 2.0 yards per attempt. That cannot continue going forward.
- It was disappointing to see Steve Ishmael only finish with six catches for 36 yards. He did not make any mistakes, and actually blocked very well, but more targets down the field would have been preferred. That should come as the season progresses.
- The tight ends did not receive a single target on over 40 pass attempts.
- The Syracuse defense did not force a single turnover. There were opportunities. Daivon Ellison nearly made a diving interception, but the ball hit the ground. Hodge had one thrown right into his breadbasket, but he let the ball go through his hands and fall to the turf. Kielan Whitner might've had one but he went for a big hit instead. On a pass over the middle, the ball was tipped into the air and hit Whitner's helmet. Had he not been going for the hit, he might've had an interception.
- Syracuse's red zone offense needs to get better. Syracuse scored only one touchdown on four trips inside the red zone, settling for three field goals on those drives. They cannot be that inefficient in other games. A big reason for the struggles was their inability to run the ball.
- There was some shaky coverage by the Syracuse secondary at times, especially on the first drive. It largely shored up after that, but it did expose what could be a weakness going forward.
- Despite the seeming increased tempo of the offense, head coach Dino Babers sees a lot of room for improvement there. "We will never be that slow again," he said after the game.