Syracuse Orange: 5 Things We Learned from the Win over West Virginia
I don't know about the rest of 'Cuse Nation, but I am still suffering from the symptoms of a Syracuse victory hangover. This win was perhaps the biggest wins in Doug Marrone's coaching career (a debate for another day).
Over the next few days, Orange Nation will be slapping this win all over West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck's resume, as Luck is now eating his words and Orange fans can start dreaming of a December in South Beach.
This truly was a great win for the Syracuse Football program and things can only get better as long as Syracuse plays the way they did on Friday. How exactly did they play?
Click to see the five things we learned from this game.
Chandler Jones Is a True MVP
There was a reason Syracuse fans were excited to see Chandler Jones return to action this week, but no one knew he would change the game like he did.
Jones finished with six tackles and two sacks in his first game since the Wake Forest opener, but his impact transcends even those great statistics.
On the first West Virginia play, Jones swatted the ball at the line and throughout the night dominated LT Don Barclay, pushing him back into quarterback Geno Smith consistently. Jones set the tone for a Syracuse defense that pinned its ears back and rushed Smith all day.
Even better, often Syracuse rushed only linemen and still got to Smith.
Jones’ hard effort was rewarded with a Defensive Player of the Week award and if he has more games like this the accolades will keep coming.
With a Balanced Attack, the Offense Is a Machine
The offense has been a true bright spot so far this season, but Friday night they excelled not in flair but in effectiveness, controlling the entire game.
Syracuse was able to maintain a balanced attack and this ultimately led to long methodical drives that kept Geno Smith on the bench.
Ryan Nassib passed for 229 yards and four touchdowns, earning him a spot on the Big East honor roll.
Antwon Bailey scampered and fought for 125 of Syracuse’s 194 yards on the ground behind an offensive line that dominated the trenches.
Nick Provo’s three-touchdown performance cemented him as the fail-safe of the offense and more games like this will surely have him in Mackey Finalist consideration.
Remember, Marrone was the offensive coordinator of a Saints offense that has always been most effective when Drew Brees is able to command a balanced attack.
With 35-plus minutes of possession and no turnovers, the Orange offense looked like a classic West Coast machine, something Marrone and his mentor Sean Peyton are surely proud of.
The Secondary is Great as a Unit, not Individuals
The secondary may be one of the most intriguing parts of this team.
Coming into the game, they were ranked No. 112 in the nation, but the secondary played its bend-don’t-break style, almost entirely containing Geno Smith’s big play ability.
As shown on Stedman Bailey’s touchdown, the Syracuse corners are not able to consistently match up in one-on-one coverage, however when playing a zone, the secondary works incredibly well as a singular unit.
Geno Smith threw two interceptions and looked frustrated with the Orange’s zone look all game and the Orange safeties played their positions to perfection.
Shamarko Thomas looked strong as he continues to recover from injury and was a sure tackler, something the secondary struggled with at the beginning of the season. Phillip Thomas played up to the hype, hovering around the ball and making plays in the secondary and backfield.
Even when Thomas went to the sideline with what looked to be cramps or tightness in his leg, he returned to pick off a hurried Geno Smith pass.
Dorian Graham is a Gamebreaker
Dorian Graham has been working his way into the offense since the USC game.
He has averaged at least 12 yards a reception since then and averaged 13.2 this past week. For a senior, Graham may not be having the break out season you would expect, but he makes huge plays at the perfect time.
On kickoffs, he is really starting to see lanes and turn on the jets at just the right time. Teams are going to start to kick away from Graham after his recent success in the return game, but this does not mean Graham cannot continue to make huge plays in big moments.
Eleven of Graham’s eighteen receptions have come on third down and he can continue to become the go-to guy when Nassib needs to perpetuate Orange drives.
The Loud House is Back with A Force
With an announced crowd of 45,265, Syracuse football saw the most fans in close to a decade and it sounded as if twice as many had crammed into the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse parents and students made West Virginia, and every other future opponent, realize that the Dome is going to be a nightmare for big games.
Sound echoes, fans are rowdy, and everyone from the lower levels to the upper decks is perfectly capable taking it up a notch on third downs.
Geno Smith had trouble making audibles that changed passes to runs and eventually it became apparent he could only switch running plays because the receivers could not hear him on the edges.
Syracuse is hungry for a football success and if South Florida or Cincinnati stands in the way of that, then they and the rest of the Big East should be ready for noise and chaos.