Northwestern Recap

Well so much for starting the season on a good note. There wasn’t much that Syracuse did well during the 30-10 loss on Saturday in Evanston. We will touch on some things in a bit.

Obviously a lot has been said about “The Punt”. No real need to go into it any further. That would probably just make me feel like Rob Gordon in “High Fidelity”. All I know is that I was shocked and at the same time not at all surprised. I’m sure I’m not alone there.

What came first? The head coach or the misery? was the head coach.

"What came first? The head coach or the misery?" was the head coach.

The coaching in general was bad on Saturday, and not just from Greg. While I think Mitch Browning is a terrific coach (the running game finally looked good, and the pass protection wasn’t as bad as it was last year), some of his play calls were just baffling.

On the Robinson safety, the offense came out at their own five yardline in an I-formation, 2 TE set. It was 2nd and 8. Seems like a good time to use your running game, which had been great to this point, to give Andrew Robinson some extra room on a third down passing situation. But what makes no sense, is calling play action, and then sending only ONE player out on a route. Seriously, if you haven’t yet deleted the game from your DVR, go check it out. Both the tight ends, the fullback and the running back stay in to block. But the problem is three fold: 1. Andrew Robinson play fakes then does a 7 step drop, leaving him vulnerable to any defensive penetration, which happened; 2. Robinson is given only one option to throw the ball to; and 3. The entire O-Line sold the fake to the left, but Mike Owen who lined up as the TE on the right, went right. This left a huge gap between Owen and the right tackle. Guess where the pressure came from.

So while you can’t pin this entire play on Browning’s shoulders due to Owen’s poor execution, you can’t have a QB like Robinson 7-step dropping with only one WR to throw to from his own five yardline. You just can’t.

The defense also looked ill-prepared to handle the no huddle, quick pace of the Wildcats offense. Multiple times they were scrambling to get players in position, and on a few occasions they were not set when the ball was snapped.

The defensive personnel choices were also very poor. Syracuse played with a lot of 3 defensive lineman sets, not surprising considering the pass happy attack they were facing. But why on earth would you continuously put Nick Santiago at defensive end in those situations? He is a tackle and it showed on the multiple occasions when Sutton absolutely destroyed him. I’m not saying that it would have been a different result if a speedier d-end was on the field during those situations, but Santiago is not quick enough to play there. He just isn’t.

Also of note, Mike Mele looked absolutely atrocious out there. He was consistentlya step behind (like Santiago) and did a horrible job in pass coverage. Hopefully this is just a product of the offense he was facing, and against a more traditional team he will play better, but he had a very rough afternoon.

After doing some video analysis of the entire game I noticed a few things listed below. I only collected data for the offensive and defensive plays, so my apologies for anyone who wanted a breakdown of wedge busting on kickoffs.

1. WR Targets

We knew going into this season that it would be tough to replace Mike Williams and Taj Smith. But who was Andrew Robinson looking at the most? Here is a breakdown:

Robinson was very inaccurate all day (he stared down Donte Davis from the moment he received the snap), but it didn’t help that his wide-outs had 5 drops. Donte Davis looked very good, including having a great sideline grab on a tipped pass. Marcus Sales looked quick, getting wide open on two quick slants in the fourth quarter. Robinson threw one too far for Sales to get to; the second was thrown into the ground, but Sales made a nice diving catch. If Robinson had thrown it on the numbers Sales would have gotten 20 yards on the play. But Robinson couldn’t hit anyone on the numbers Saturday.

Lavar Lobdell struggled in his debut as the number one wideout. Too many drops for a guy that big things are needed out of.

2. Running Game

Holy crap, Syracuse has a running game again! You could see the marked improvement in the running attack in this game. All three running backs had their moments, and it will be interesting to see the division of carries going forward. Brinkley and Houge both lined up in the slot on separate occasions, with Robinson attempting to hit them on swing passes. I wonder if no receivers develop into consistent targets if the coaches will move one of these guys to the slot position, especially if one running back becomes dominant as the season moves on. Something to keep an eye on.

3. Offensive philosophy

This from Sean at TNIAAM:

When Mitch Browning and Greg would seemingly smirk when we asked them to delve into the offensive schemes because we thought they knew something we didn’t, they really didn’t either.

Not so fast. Maybe they were smirking at the return of the option to Syracuse! There were two options run by Andrew Robinson in this game. It was like seeing an old friend you’ve lost touch with for years: good to see them, but after that initial happiness wears off you just feel awkward. And I don’t think A-Rob is suited for the option. If anyone knows why they would risk injuring their starting quarterback by having him run it, please let me know.

But Browning’s offense was a very balanced attack on Saturday (30 rushes-28 passes). The Orange worked almost exclusively out of the singleback formation (79%), with a little I-form and shotgun mixed in (conversely, Northwestern ran 96% of their plays from shotgun). Tony Fiammetta was used almost entirely at tight end, but as shown above, he was only thrown to once. He did look very good as a pulling blocker, something the Orange ran quite a bit in the first quarter, but seemed to get away from as the game wore on. I’m sure we’ll see more of it against Akron’s weak run defense this week.

4. Missed tackles

13 for 97 yards.

13 missed tackles.

Resulting in 97 yards for Northwestern.

Good teams don’t do this. They finish their tackles and don’t allow their opponents to gain any extra yards. The Syracuse defense was embarrassed out there, but they didn’t help themselves with their shitty tackling. Here is a list of offenders (the two combined McKinnon tackles are combined because two players missed on the play and it wasn’t possible to divide up the yards):

5. “Great” Plays

Every week I will keep track of the players who did something on a particular play that stood out on tape. I’ll keep a running tally so we can know at the end of the year who the standout players were (I also keep track of players who make a mistake, but I’ve already pointed out a number of them so we’ll try to keep this one positive).

Not surprisingly, Arthur Jones led the way with 4 standout plays. Three of his were for great penetration into the backfield and the fourth was running down Sutton from behind on a running back screen. If he hadn’t done that, the play was likely to go for 20 more yards (instead it only went for 12).

And while Chavers and Durand (but especially Chavers) didn’t play well, they did have a good play on a big rush.

Here is the full list:

I’ll be back later in the week to discuss the Akron game. If you have any questions or suggestions on other stats you’d like to see feel free to drop me a line at .


3 responses to “Northwestern Recap

  1. Ah yes stats, just the items that prevent us from absolutely making shit up to show how awful that game really was.

  2. Thanks for the breakdown. That was perfect. Really goes to show just how awful the team is. At least we have Art Jones to provide some positives to the team…

  3. Pingback: Saturday Pick’em - Week 2 « Tell Me How My Orange Tastes

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