LoGiurato: Inefficient pass offense preventing Orange from taking next step

first_img Published on November 7, 2010 at 12:00 pm Comments After each failed drive, after each mistake, Ryan Nassib’s first turn walking off the field is to the JumboTron. He looks to the replay, hoping for something fixable he didn’t see during the play. Saturday, he turned to the JumboTron a lot. And he turned to it on two hapless, three-and-out drives in the fourth quarter with a chance to mount a comeback. ‘They were definitely frustrating,’ Nassib said. ‘I personally had a couple of errors on a few drives, and I take responsibility for those.’ Part of a recurring theme lately for Syracuse has been that wretched offense. Especially in the passing game. All season, it has been just good enough to win. Against South Florida, the 98-yard, game-winning drive saved an abysmal performance. Against West Virginia, it was a good run game and defense that saved Nassib’s performance to forget. Against Cincinnati, the nation’s 98th-ranked pass defense, Nassib couldn’t open anything up downfield. Time to put it out there: In a year of across-the-board improvement for Syracuse, this passing offense is the component that is keeping it from winning the Big East.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text Offense wins games. Defense wins championships. That’s the saying, at least. And through the first five games of Big East play, the SU defense has tried to do both. When it became clear that wasn’t going to be the case against Louisville, the offense couldn’t step up to the challenge. We finally learned what it was like for the Orange to play from behind for most of the contest Saturday. And it wasn’t pretty. The two exceptions were the 51-yard touchdown to Alec Lemon on what appeared to be a blown coverage and a 12-play touchdown drive in which the Orange nearly exclusively used its run game. After that, though, the Louisville defense adjusted quickly. Syracuse’s offense is not a Rubik’s Cube. Run, run, run the ball. It has worked this season in conjunction with the defense, to the tune of six SU wins in its first eight games. But Saturday, Louisville stacked the box and dared SU quarterbacks coach and offensive play-caller Nathaniel Hackett to take a shot deep. Even on passing downs, the Cardinals brought the house, leaving one-on-one matchups in the secondary. ‘Right off the bat, we knew they were going to pressure,’ Hackett said. ‘We knew that was kind of their forte. We kind of prepared for every possible pressure you could possibly imagine.’ Obviously, not every possible pressure. Because in the second half, the Syracuse offense didn’t even look like it was prepared to go out and play. Nassib had one completion of more than 10 yards in the second half. The offense as a whole had 62 yards. Sixty. Two. Divide that by 23 offensive plays. That’s 2.7 yards per play. And with that, the Orange watched as Louisville controlled the clock for nearly two-thirds of the half, marching down for two game-changing drives when SU couldn’t get anything going. ‘I could have sworn I thought we were going to just roll right down like we had earlier,’ Hackett said. ‘It was one of those things. We were trying to keep the same game plan, and they knew exactly what was going to come.’ While Louisville made adjustments and eventually got through with its pressure, Hackett and the Orange didn’t switch up. And that was SU’s downfall. It was no more evident than in two late drives, down 28-20, in which the Syracuse offense couldn’t respond off two stops from its defense. The Cardinals’ pressure was there, complete with hurries from Kamal Hogan and Malcolm Tatum that forced Nassib incomplete passes. Two drives, six plays, 15 yards. A 2.5-yard average, about on par with the rest of the half. Maybe that average is the reason Doug Marrone trusted his defense to make a play more than he did his offense in the final minutes. Because on fourth-and-4 from its own 42-yard line with fewer than five minutes to play, Marrone elected to punt away. You can’t blame him. Syracuse needed three yards. It hadn’t done that on most occasions Saturday. ‘We wish we had a couple more minutes on that clock,’ running back Delone Carter said. ‘And we wish we could have gone out there and won that one.’ Somehow, that’s a little hard to believe. Brett LoGiurato is an assistant sports editor at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img