Syracuse Recap–Everything You Have Seen Before, Only Worse
Scott Shafer is a lucky man. He is not being held hostage in the Middle East, much less under any threat of imminent beheading. So that is good. And Syracuse fans should certainly be pleased that we share Shafer’s good fortune in that regard. We are, after all, just discussing a game of football played by young men. Perspective noted. But the last time I checked, Scott Shafer did not use that same perspective when negotiating his salary or imploring his team at practice. All the reference to perspective shows is that Shafer does not get it. He can say the words of a fan in press conferences, but it is apparent that the folksy-speak is just a ruse. He goes not get it. And on the field he does not get it either. Everything that occurred last night during Syracuse’s drubbing by Louisville took place earlier this year. Maybe you missed it or ignored it. But it was there. Last night was just that same stuff being more obvious and not getting the benefit of the doubt anymore. Consider…
This Syracuse team looked awful against Villanova. Terrell Hunt committed a mental mistake in punching a player, resulting in his ejection. The backup QB fared OK, but was clearly not ready for anything other than an FCS foe (preferably one worse than Villanova). Scott Shafer could not manage the time at the end of the game. And, but for a FG missing, the game would have ended with the worst loss in Syracuse history. Then, with the ball at the one-yard-line on 1st down in overtime… with a touchdown to win the game.. Syracuse decided to run the ball in a pistol formation losing yardage. But for Villanova’s QB making a bad decision on when/how to run for the 2-point conversation, Syracuse would have lost.
Last night, Terrel Hunt showed that he lacked an understanding of the game situation at the end of the first half. The team mismanaged time. The backup QB came in at the end and did not look like he could be entrusted to do anything other than hand the ball off. The offensive coordinator called a slow-developing pitch to a full-back sized RB five yards deep in the end zone. On purpose. If there has been a less intelligent playcall in the history of Syracuse football, so be it. But there haven’t been two that were less intelligent–that’s for sure.
Louisville, in contrast, was playing a true freshman QB. That QB was behind an offensive line that has been subpar for parts of the year. They responded by getting flagged repeatedly in the first half. Louisville’s best WR–one of the best in the NCAA–was in street clothes. And yet they put up 28 points on a Syracuse defense that forced a few good turnovers and generally played well. Syracuse was using a senior QB in his 15th or so game. And the closest Syracuse came to touchdowns were passes by persons other than that QB. And those were eliminated by penalty and a bad drop. But you knew all that. Worse yet, you were not at all surprised. This was the Greg Robinson era 2.0.
Scott Shafer? Yes, he is a good guy. But his folksy press conferences were already wearing thin. This team was soft two weeks ago and they are getting softer. Three weeks in a row Shafer has punted from inside opponent territory with 20 minutes or less left to go, down by more than 10 points. All to net 10-20 yards of field-position. That is hard-headed and soft-nosed. As the Confidential said two weeks ago–that is fraidy cat football. Moreover, he cannot manage time or timeouts–the team routinely using timeouts in curious times, such as while the clock is stopped or after a TV timeout. Other than a .500 record, which should disappear when the Seminoles get back on the bus next week, there is little there to believe that he should be a head coach in a Power 5 conference.
George McDonald? Probably a good guy too. He does not get the benefit of press conferences to shape opinion (although his interview last week was counter-productive). But he does not seem qualified to run an offense. The playcall in the end zone for a safety was historically bad. But beyond that there is way too much time being taken on playcalls for a team that aspires to be fast-paced. During the Villanova game, Austin Wilson had to wait for the call in overtime all-too-often. This issue persists. You cannot be fast-paced and take 20 seconds to decide the play. Sometimes it seems like the playcall is “do that again,” just to buy more time to think of the next play. Thus, a 10-yard run will be followed up with the same play, perhaps to the other side. Finally, he may like his system… but that does not mean that it fits the players on the field. Greg Robinson learned the hard way–at the expense of Syracuse fans–that a West Coast offense without the personnel to run it and an NFL defense without that level of skill–simply will not work.
It all makes you wonder. Is this the Peter Principle? Has a decent defensive coordinator risen to his level of incompetence? Has a decent WR coach/recruiter risen to his level of incompetence? Who on the staff has experience at their position? Well, Chuck Bullough does, and low and behold the Syracuse defense seems to be improving. Notwithstanding the injuries on offense, there is still a rather plain regression by the offense and its coordinator.
We saw it Week 1. We saw it again against Maryland and Notre Dame. We saw it last night. The only difference is that some “folks” each week are choosing not to ignore it anymore. And while they are happy that they are not going to be captured by militants this week, that does not make them happy Syracuse fans.