The best and the worst from Syracuse's 50-33 loss to Notre Dame.
The offense moved the ball quite well. Yes, the Notre Dame defense has been subpar this season. However, they still have four and five star athletes on their roster. So the fact that Syracuse was able to move the ball and score, perhaps better than the last two games, is a positive sign.
Eric Dungey had a strong game. He had a few issues with inaccuracy, but largely was very effective with both his legs and his arm. Dungey piled up nearly 400 yards through the air, threw two touchdowns and ran for three more accounting for all of the Orange scoring. In addition, he took care of the football and did not turn it over.
Amba Etta-Tawo went up against another cornerback who is on the board as a potential NFL draft pick. He had another strong game with 134 yards on seven catches with a touchdown. His score was a thing of beauty. Dungey recognized single coverage, threw the ball up, Etta-Tawo adjusted, snatched it out of the air, and made a couple of nice moves before speeding by the rest of the Irish secondary.
It was nice to see Steve Ishmael targeted a bit more and be more of a focal point in the passing attack. He finished with five catches for 67 yards. I would expect his production to continue to improve as the season progresses.
Ervin Philips had another efficient game with 68 yards on six catches with a score. He is a reliable target that Dungey clearly trusts.
Brisly Estime was spectacular as a punt returner. He reeled off a 72 yarder at the end of the first half to set up a touchdown and had two other strong returns. Estime is a big time threat on special teams, and proved why on Saturday. He is shifty and slippery in the open field.
Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett have proven that the lightbulb has flickered on as far as their understanding of the system. Their last two games have been very, very good. They need more help, but those two guys are playing at a very high level. Franklin had nine tackles a sack and an interception. Bennett racked up 17 tackles against the Irish.
Syracuse may have found themselves a high quality freshman along the defensive line. Joshua Black played very well against the Irish, who have a really good offensive line, and proved he will be a contributor for years.
Even though they were missing three starters, the Syracuse offensive line did a nice job protecting Dungey for the most part.
The Syracuse defense continues to get shredded on the back end. The secondary lacks speed and length, and that is showing when they face teams with athletes like Notre Dame. Combine that with a lack of a consistent pass rush and that is why big plays continue to happen. But giving up long touchdowns early in games to put the team in a hole needs to be fixed going forward.
The special teams were just awful, save for Brisly Estime, on Saturday. A blocked extra point that was returned for two points, botched snap on another extra point, a 14 yard shanked punt and a kickoff return for a touchdown allowed. It was the worst game of the season for a phase that had been solid previously.
The running game continues to be an issue. There is no consistency there and the holes don't seem to be there either. Syracuse averaged just 3.4 yards per rush against Notre Dame.
Too many drops. It was only a few, but they came at critical times. Second and longs that set up third and longs. Would-be third down conversions to extend drives. When facing a team like Notre Dame, those cannot happen.
The defensive line needs to get more pressure on the quarterback. Too often, DeShone Kizer was able to sit back for as long as he wanted until someone got open. That would help with the issues in the secondary.
Is there something wrong with Cole Murphy? He started the season so strong, but missed another field goal on Saturday and had an extra point blocked. He is one for his last four on field goal attempts. He's a good kicker, so let's see if this trend continues.
Sean Riley averaged less than 20 yards per kickoff return. He has shown a flash here or there on why he is back there, but has to be a bit better going forward.
Missed opportunities. Syracuse had a chance to put a ton of pressure on Notre Dame at the end of the first half and beginning of the second. But a missed field goal and short drive ended their momentum. Notre Dame took it back and the Orange never seriously threatened again. They have to take advantage of those opportunities when presented.