Syracuse may be luckiest 2-0 team in the nation.
While they definitively outplayed the Rhode Island Rams, the team’s issues came to light even more so tonight than against Wake Forrest.
Ryan Nassib, however, showed his true senior leadership and helped the Orange overcome many early struggles on offense.
With 10 minutes left in the second quarter, the Orange had already used all three timeouts due to miscommunication issues. Nassib and Coach Doug Marrone were not on the same page early on as the referees only made driving the ball more difficult.
These issues were perfectly summed up when Nassib threw into double coverage for Alec Lemon who stopped his jump midair, assuming the pass was for Van Chew, who was further downfield. Unfortunately for Nassib and Lemon, Chew was running a deep fade and the pass floated into the hands of Devon Dace.
The miscommunication was further demonstrated when Nassib just barely missed David Stevens for a touchdown, making the quarterback and his receiving core look all the more inexperienced.
All that changed once Nassib settled into a groove with bubble screens and slants predominately targeting Lemon. Nassib would finish with 3 TD, 29 completions and 318 yards with this West Coast-style attack, finding playmaker Chew for 134 yards and huge catches of 22 and 64 yards.
But Nassib should have had better stats.
Marrone was visibly frustrated when Nassib and center Macky MacPherson wasted over 20 of the final 40 seconds attempting to get a snap off, and ran for the tunnel after throwing his headset to the ground. This was not uncommon, as Nassib was forced to regroup his team several times as the offense failed to capitalize on good field position and a confused Rams defense.
Unfortunately, Nassib could not help the defensive woes.
The Orange defense did play well, especially considering that they were on the field for 17 minutes in the first half and 15 in the second. Things only got worse as the 5’8" running back Travis Hurd was nearly impossible to tackle at times.
Steve Probst did his best Ben Roethlisberger impression and used his 6'4" frame to steal first downs on the ground and draw roughing-the-passer penalties. The defense did intercept Probst on the final drive after Marquis Spruill sacked him twice previously.
Overall, this is a game where the Orange should have scored far more points, and felt more like a loss than a win. This is more than likely related to the fact that the Orange know that against USC next week, this team will have to greatly improve all facets of their game in order to contend, let alone win.
Orange Nation can only hope Nassib steps up yet again to lead the Orange to victory.