Goal-line offense proving to be major shortcoming for Syracuse

first_img Published on September 24, 2012 at 2:55 am Facebook Twitter Google+ Related Stories DIGGING A HOLE: Multiple turnovers, miscues cost Syracuse in 17-10 loss to MinnesotaSyracuse offensive line struggles to hold off overpowering Minnesota defenseSales struggles in loss; Lemon sets program record for receptionscenter_img MINNEAPOLIS — Two plays on Saturday revealed a glaring flaw in the Syracuse offense.On both plays, SU running back Jerome Smith fell short along the goal line. They were the fifth and sixth failed attempts by an Orange running back to score from inside the 5 yard line in the past two games.And they showed that while Smith, Prince-Tyson Gulley and Ashton Broyld have all shown flashes this season, SU lacks a dependable running game heading into the bye week.“Everybody, we moved the ball well,” SU offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said of the running game on Saturday.But the running game failed when it mattered most. One yard was all that separated Syracuse from the end zone. It was all the Orange needed to get back into the game in the third quarter against Minnesota.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBut it proved to be too much.The same shortcoming that haunted Syracuse seven days earlier against Stony Brook reared its ugly head in the team’s 17-10 loss to Minnesota on Saturday night.“You know what, I can’t remember last week what we were doing,” Marrone said. “We didn’t run the same plays. I can tell you that.”The plays may have been different, but the result was the same.Against Stony Brook, Smith tried and failed to punch the ball across the goal line three times from inside the 5. Saturday against Minnesota, Smith lined up at the 1 yard line with a chance to put the previous week behind him and move SU back within four points in the third quarter.On first-and-goal from the right hash, he took a handoff and charged straight toward the goal line, only to be stopped short by Gophers linebacker Aaron Hill and safety Cedric Thompson. Smith’s struggles in the Carrier Dome the week before were suddenly replaying in TCF Bank Stadium.On second-and-goal, Smith took a toss to the left and raced toward the pylon. He sprinted laterally, trying to get an edge on the pursuing Minnesota defenders, but Derrick Wells and Michael Carter were too quick for the back and pulled him down for a 3-yard loss.“We thought they were going to bring everyone up the middle in an all-out situation,” Marrone said. “We tried to take the ball outside, we couldn’t get around the corner and the next play, they all-outed us and brought everyone, and it was a good play by them.”If Marrone and Hackett had confidence in the running game, they wouldn’t overthink their opponent’s strategy 1 yard away on the goal line. Without a go-to running back and proven offensive line, though, they considered the pitch a better option than forcing it up the gut and across the goal line for a touchdown.The goal-line stands by Stony Brook gave reason for pause when assessing the backfield. But Smith’s troubles against Minnesota makes it a serious cause for concern.The running game led by Smith and Gulley has offered a nice change of pace in Syracuse’s new pass-heavy offense in its first four games. The backs average 4.5 yards per carry and combine for 101 yards per game.But they are also not capable of carrying the offense when Nassib and the wide receivers are neutralized. And it’s magnified on nights like Saturday, when the passing game wasn’t clicking.The struggles at the goal line in the third quarter ended with Nassib throwing an interception as he was hit in the backfield.And a frustrated Hackett was left wondering what could have been on the plays that preceded the turnover. Two pass interference calls ruined chances for SU touchdowns — touchdowns Hackett said the team should have scored.“We probably should have kept calling passes just to keep throwing there,” Hackett said. “Keep getting a penalty over and over and we’ll slowly — wonder if you can now move the ball into the end zone after a certain amount of defensive penalties.”But the penalties also gave SU first-and-goal at the 1. Syracuse should have capitalized in that situation. Plain and simple.The cause for Marrone’s concern in the running game coming out of camp is clear after the last two games. Both Smith and Gulley are capable backs, helping move drives along as Hackett said they did Saturday.But success is measured in putting points on the board. And right now, they’re not getting the job done.Ryne Gery is the sports editor at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] Commentslast_img

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