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Initial Thoughts: Syracuse Orange

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The Deacs and Orange got off to a roaring start this season, combining to win 88-3 over two FCS opponents. What can the Deacs expect from the Orange on Saturday?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Deacs got off to a great 1-0 start after a 41-3 romp over the Elon Phoenix last Thursday. The win and timing of the game did several things: provide momentum and confidence headed into a pivotal (in Wake's eyes) conference game against Syracuse, include two extra days of prep to get ready for the game, and also allow the coaches to watch the Syracuse-Rhode Island game last Friday night.

Syracuse came out with an impressive 47-0 victory over the Rams. Rhode Island is a very bad team, even by FCS standards, but I don't care who you are playing, a 47 point shutout victory is a great way to start the season.

The bad news for the Orange is that they lost starting quarterback Terrel Hunt for the season to a heel injury. The good news is that head coach Scott Shafer will now insert true freshman Eric Dungey into the starting lineup.

Many in Syracuse's camp believe that he was the better quarterback and wanted him to start from day one anyway. In his collegiate debut against the Rams he went 10-17 with 2 TD's, 20 rush yards, and 114 passing yards.

No matter how talented a true freshman is, there is always a very steep learning curve associated with learning a collegiate offense and getting up to the game speed change from high school. There is also an argument to be made that most freshman are not typical of what you would expect 10, 15, or 20 years ago. With all the 7 vs. 7 camps, year-round training, and access/exposure to all kinds of football, quarterbacks today are way more advanced than they used to be.

In my (limited) opinion, there is a drop off, especially between the legs of Hunt to Dungey, but I expect Coach Shafer to come up with a plan that gets Dungey comfortable early on and utilize his skill-set effectively.

Against Rhode Island there was a very balanced rushing and passing attack, and looking at the great work from our Syracuse equivalent Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician, we can see a breakdown of the play results. I will use this time to highly recommend TNIAAM. It's one of the best SB Nation sites out there and we are proud to work with them on a week in and week out basis across the board.

  • Overall play-calling breakdown: 50 called runs vs. 26 called passes. That rate's a much more realistic 32:25 through three quarters, and that's the ratio you should probably focus on more.
  • First half play-calling: 21 runs vs. 17 passes (29:9 in second half)
  • First downs: 23 total (17 rushing, 5 passing, 1 penalty; all but one in Q2-Q4)
  • First down play selection: 30 called runs, 6 called passes
  • First down play selection on subsequent sets of downs: 20 called runs, 3 called passes
  • First down plays for five or more yards: 12
  • Second down play selection: 13 called runs, 11 called passes (pass-heavy until Q4)
  • Third down play selection: 10 called runs; 9 called passes (pass-heavy until Q4)
  • Third down conversion: 11-for-19 (6 runs, 5 passes)
  • 39 of Syracuse's 76 play calls (51 percent) took place in URI territory; if that doesn't seem overly high, remember the number of explosive plays (7 of 15 or more) helped drive those play numbers down.
  • Two jets sweeps resulted in two 21-yard gains. In the hands of Philips, Fredericks or Strickland, these play-calls will work well. 
  • Play-action was 2-for-5 this week, and Dungey accounted for 2-for-4 of those. This has the potential to work like gangbusters this fall if we're going to stay heavily committed to the run (likely).
  • We glossed over explosive plays above, but they really did have a HUGE impact on this offense. Along with the seven that went for 15 or more, another nine gained between 10 and 14 yards. And there were another six plays that tallied nine yards. That's over a quarter of Syracuse's plays going for nine yards or more. That's extremely good.
  • From a defensive standpoint, Syracuse has a very good front seven. That showed last Friday when the Orange limited Rhode Island to just four rushing yards. That's damn good no matter the circumstances. In fact, they are ranked as the best defense in the nation at 64 YPG, and just 1.60 yards per play.(Wake Forest is 6th at 151 YPG).

    Once again we will consult the work of Nunes Magician to take a look at the defensive side of things for Cuse:

  • Overall Rhode Island Play Calls: 16 runs, 23 passes, 1 fumbled snap
  • Total Yards (per play): 64 (1.6)
  • Total Rushing Yards (per carry): 4 (0.2)
  • Total Passing Yards (per attempt): 10 for 20 for 60 yards (3.0)
  • Plays in base defense (4-3): 31 of 40 (77.5%)
  • Plays in subpackages: 9 of 40 (22.5%)
  • Blitzes: 22 of 40 (55%)
  • Blitzes from base defense: 13 of 31 (42%)
  • Blitzes from subpackages: 9 of 9 (100%)
  • They run a 4-3 base defense, which they ran on 77.5% of their plays last week. They blitzed on 55% of all plays, and blitzed every single time from a subpackage (which is something that I'm sure the Wake Forest staff will pick up on).

    I expect Coach Shafer and staff to blitz early and often versus the inexperienced Wake Forest line. The good news should be that John Wolford is used to the pressure given what he faced all of last season. Combating the blitzes will be delayed runs and screen passes, both of which the Deacs use quite frequently anyway.

    We will have a more in-depth look later on this week, but this article should give a good basic picture of what to expect from the Orange on Saturday.