Syracuse-Notre Dame Recap: Beware Fool’s Gold
The Confidential was tweeting aplenty during the Syracuse-Notre Dame game. Indeed, the Confidential got into a twitter-battle (which always makes me think of Dr. Seuss’s “Muddle Puddle Tweetle Poodle Beetle Noodle Bottle Paddle Battle”) over the Syracuse defensive performance. The upshot is that the Confidential has some legitimate concerns that this Syracuse coaching staff will be seeing Fool’s Gold with the 5 turnovers, just like there was Fool’s Gold with the nearly 1,000 yards of offense the past two weeks.
First, the defensive turnovers were a product of great individual plays-especially the interceptions. However, you cannot always count on the opponent fumbling three times. Although a turnover is the goal of each series, mathematically speaking, if you alternate touchdowns and turnovers for 12 possessions, you give up 42 points. And that is not a winning formula.
Let’s look at the other Notre Dame offensive statistics besides turnovers:
- 523 yards of offense.
- 32 of 39 passing (greater than 80%!!!)
- 161 yards rushing
- 9 of 14 on 3rd down
- 33:17 time of possession
That is a lot of negative. You are not going to allow 80% passing completion, coupled with significant rushing yards, and win.
And then there is the eyeball test. Watching the Syracuse defense, you saw a lot more focus on getting to the ball. That was good. But there were still a lot of missed tackles. There is plenty of room for improvement.
The defense should be lauded for doing plenty to give the Syracuse offense a chance to make it a game on Saturday. But the coaches cannot get too carried away with the turnovers ALONE as an indicator of great defense.
Second, the offense against Notre Dame put up 429 yards. That is more than 1,000 yards of offense in two weeks. However, despite 1,000 yards in two games, there have been three touchdowns. The offense is moving the ball very well once the opponent is up by 17+ points. And between the red zones perhaps. But it is just not a crisp offense.
Interestingly, Terrel Hunt continues to show a strong arm downfield. He has made a handful of nice deep throws in consecutive weeks. The problem is that his accuracy and decision-making are suspect in the bubble-screen offense that Syracuse is running. Moreover, that offense is not going to work against quality opponents (i.e. everyone other than Central Michigan so far and everyone left on the schedule). Syracuse needs to have that downfield threat to keep most opponents in check and allowing the running game to develop.
Speaking of the running game, there is a real problem when a fake punt leads to the punter being the leading rusher in the game. That can be chalked up to Notre Dame’s stout running defense. But there also needs to be better play calls. Still too much ill-conceived use of the backs, such as having your bruising running back going wide on his third carry in a row.
[And, while it was nice to see Hunt under-center on 4th and 1, that was clearly not a play that was practiced much yet and he did not camouflage his intentions at all. They need to work on that. But it was great to see it being incorporated into the packages.]
Perhaps the biggest problem remains penalties by the offensive line. These are drive-killers and living up to it. If the offensive line cannot stop sabotaging the offense, the calls probably do not make much of a difference. 1st and 15 is not where this offense needs to be.
Long story short, a fan can look at 1,000 yards of offense over two games and think “good”! A fan can look at five turnovers and say “great”! It is up to the coaching staff to realize that these statistics are covering up deficiencies. Fixing those will be the difference between a bowl game and staying home for the Holidays.