Syracuse Wednesday Morning Quarterback: Wake Review and RI Preview
Week one of the Syracuse Orange’s season left fans’ hearts racing and the dome near empty the Orange look forward to facing meager Rhode Island this Saturday at 4:30 which WILL be televised in Central New York.
The Wake game may have left some feeling elated and optimistic, but in reality the game may have raised far more questions than answers.
Going against an opponent like Rhode Island means an easy week in terms of outcome (Vegas didn't even bother to come up with a betting line at this time) but not necessarily importance.
Click through out the slideshow and see the everything from the great to the ugly of the Wake game and then the 3 major keys to watch for in this week’s game.
The Great—Syracuse’s Fight
These guys are going to be tough to beat this season. The Orange may not be a threat on merits of their talent, but rather on the sheer resilience of Marone’s team.
The Orange can definitely take from this game the knowledge that they can win in any situation. Against tough opponents such as Pitt and West Virginia, this is the mentality and tenacity necessary to at least compete for four quarters.
What was very impressive was the fact that Syracuse just looked better conditioned as a team. They hit their stride in the fourth quarter while Wake seemed to tail off with their lead.
The fourth quarter and overtime featured key plays that teams need to make if they are going to win more than six games in a year: explosive plays (Antwon Bailey’s 53-yard run), clutch quarterback play from Ryan Nassib, a wide receiver who just makes the catch in Van Chew and a turnover to gain momentum and create scoring chances (thank you, Kevyn Scott).
While the win was not pretty, it was still a win, and the Orange showed the fight of the physical, scrappy team that Doug Marone wants.
The Good—Solid Quarterback Play by Ryan Nassib
Everyone wants to talk about the amazing senior quarterbacks in the Big East, yet no one mentions Ryan Nassib.
Maybe it is simply because he puts up games like he did against Wake Forest.
At first glance, 20-28 sounds pretty good, especially considering I saw at least three dropped passes that should have been caught. Three touchdowns to no interceptions also sounds fantastic. But then you look and see he passed for only 178 yards (average of 6.4 yds/completion) and his longest pass was 24 yards, and suddenly the chatter dies down.
I’m not saying Nassib should be a Heisman candidate this season, nor should those be the expectations, but Nassib is the clear leader of this team and he played like a leader last Thursday. He was calm even after being sacked and hurried and overall never jeopardized the Syracuse team.
He will probably never receive as much as All Big East Honors due to the systems in place at Pitt and WVU, but he is definitely one of the most solid quarterbacks in the Big East.
The Bad—Syracuse Injuries
Admittedly, while Syracuse was hit with injuries in the offseason, they avoided major questions by keeping the starters healthy.
That all changed this week according to the team.
DE Chandler Jones, S Olando Fisher and CB Ri’Shard Anderson are all out. That is scary because of two main reasons: all are out indefinitely and all are on defense.
Hopefully, these players will be back for the USC trip because if not, the Syracuse defense is in serious trouble (more on this later). Injuries are a part of the game, but with so many injuries already, losing any player could result in major adjustments for Syracuse.
The Ugly—'CUSE SHOULD HAVE LOST to WAKE FOREST
If you did not see this coming, let this be your early season reality check.
Does Syracuse have the potential to win the Big East? Due to parody via futility, yes, anyone really can win the Big East. Did Syracuse deserve to win their opener? Absolutely not, an opinion shared by Daily Orange Sports Editor Michael Cohen.
Honestly, looking at the stats, it is easy to see that Syracuse was outplayed in almost every facet: Total yardage (406-299), passing (326-178), third down efficiency (7-for-19-3-for-11) and time of possession (33:44-26:16).
Essentially, when Tanner Price left the game for Wake, their only chance of a win was to stop the Orange defensively because they were not scoring with Ted Stachitas.
If it was not for bad kicking, lack of scoring conversions and overall luck going Syracuse’s way, the Orange are 0-1 and taking a lot of criticism.
Ultimately, the Orange do have problems as almost every team does, but thankfully, Rhode Island rolls into town for an expected warm-up game for USC.
With that said, looking at Rhode Island, the keys are definitely…
1—Play of the Defensive Line
Against Wake Forest, the defensive line did an amazing job of holding the Demon Deacons to just 1.9 yards a rush.
That said, Tanner Price looked as if he could have made me a sandwich and still found an open man with all the time he had to throw.
The defensive line was not necessarily handled by Wake (they were many a time though) as much as they looked confused and misaligned. I saw several plays where defensive lineman ran into each other while trying to penetrate Wake’s line.
With the absence of Chandler, Torrey Ball and Deon Goggens will have to step up at the defensive end position. Against Rhode Island, they will be able to get quality reps and hopefully improve in case Chandler cannot play in LA next week.
2—Shore Up the Secondary
This game was painful in how Price and his pistol offense shredded the 'Cuse zone, man, zone blitz or whatever Marrone tried to run.
Anderson, Kevyn Scott and Keon Lyn all had their shots at handling the starters of Wake and all played excellent in the fourth quarter against backup Stachitas.
Price was able to carve up the Syracuse zone with deep passes where everyone got burned and on short passes, the secondary seemed to just forget how to tackle.
The Orange corners are supposedly strong and physical which makes up for their lack of speed. Against Wake, the wide receivers were man handling them and on many plays they simply looked lost.
I have no doubt that going up against USC, Marrone knows this issue needs to be fixed. Watch for some new schemes against Rhode Island and expect the corners to be far more aggressive from here on out.
Syracuse needs to move on from the recent Marcus Sales fiasco and Van Chew may be the man who can help them.
Chew showed big play ability and a chemistry with Nassib that will only mature with time.
Chew had a knack for finding the ball and making sure something big would happen. He finished the day leading the team with four receptions for 60 yards and he will need more big outings if the Orange passing attack is going to balance the running game of Antwon Bailey.
Watch for Chew to be targeted early and often as I am sure Nassib and Chew want to show that they can stretch the field with their passing game.
Developing this aspect of the offense now will help in the long run as defensively aggressive USC, WVU and Pitt will need to be spread out. If these guys can get a deep play action game going for the team, the offense suddenly looks dangerous, as long as the offensive line can protect Nassib.
Bonus 4—Offensive Line
The reason that the O-linemen are not in the top three keys to the game is simple: they should be able to handle Rhode Island.
Yes, while they do need significant improvement, these big boys should be able to handle whatever Rhode Island throws at them. If they can’t, hit the panic button because USC has tremendously better athletes on their line compared to Rhode Island and Wake.
As long as the line improves their techniques and blitz recognition, there is not much else they can prepare for against a much weaker team like Rhode Island.
That’s all I got. For more updates on this week's game, follow me @acpregler all the way until kickoff and #BeatRhody!