If you play enough close games some are not going to break your way. At this point in his tenure and rebuild it is encouraging that we were in position to win this often. Watching back you realize how lucky we were. Syracuse moved the ball all day and would've had more yardage if not for some really short fields. I will defend Addazio's calls later in the post, but I didn't see anything in the second viewing to change my mind from the initial postgame reaction. The loss was really on the defense.
Rettig saved his best game for last. His passes in general were good (not sure what happened with Naples on the INT). And he had good awareness. The runs showed surprising speed and the TD was a great play. I will have more on his career in the coming weeks. It was never what it could have been, but I am glad he is ending on an upswing. I think you also saw a glimpse of what this offense might look like with a true runner at QB.
I felt for Williams. Syracuse was ready for him but I believe that if he hadn't been hurt he would have got his yards. Their D started to loosen up. His TD run was nice. Willis played well and showed good elusiveness. He did drop a catchable pass. Rouse was fine in his few carries. Sinkovec blocked well and his TD catch was nice.
Amidon had one of his better games even though he wasn't targeted as often. He made big plays and got open on critical third down conversion early. Dudeck had one pass near him and couldn't pull it in. Naples looked good and so did Parsons on their big catches.
The offensive line was really good again. Patchan moved well and got down field on Andre's TD. Vardaro was solid and did well coming out of the backfield. No mistakes from Gallik this week. Williams moved well. White was good too.
Syracuse loaded the box in probably the most aggressive approach yet and I thought we adjusted well. After we realized we weren't going to run over them with Andre, we opened things up with play action. We also used OLine in new ways (Patchan in the slot on bubble screen! Vardaro as fullback!). It was creative and had plenty of explosive plays. I will defend the goaline play calling later, but overall I thought the offensive gameplan and the adjustments during the game were good.
This was another rough game for the Dline. Edebali got tied up by the zone read option plenty of times. He made just one big play and missed some tackles. Wujciak and Appiah got pushed around inside. The best of the DL was Mihalik.
The LBs were the bright spot on D. KPL made a ton of plays early. We should have kept blitzing him off the edge as it was effective. Daniels played tough and cleaned up a lot of mistakes. It wasn't the best game from Divitto but his INT was huge. When it happened I thought the game was over.
Where to start with the DBs? Other than Sylvia and C.J. Jones, no one looked very good. Simmons missed four critical tackles that would have killed drives. I also think he was supposed to have the Tight End on their first TD. Bryce Jones missed some tackles and was soft in coverage. He also fell down again on a big third down. ALJ got beat plenty of times. Asprilla was playing too far off throughout. I also don't know what happened on some of the coverages. Total breakdown in communication and or assignments.
I am going to write more about Don Brown in the coming weeks, but this game was bad. Putting aside the missed tackles, I don't understand our approach many times. I don't know if he is doing things by feel or what he sees or if he is just winging it in an effort to keep them off balance. We went away from what was working (KPL blitzing) and never came back to bring effective pressure again. I also don't know how when the play is so common place, our guys had such trouble with the zone read option. Even on the final drive there was no effort to mix it up or confuse. I don't know what happened.
Special Teams: C+
I found Syracuse's decision to kickoff short surprising but effective. Were they that afraid of Willis as a return man? Or maybe that confident that we would take advantage of a short field? My only complaint is that even after the first time they did it, the upmen (mainly Wolford) didn't try to return it. Willis was fine on the returns he had.
I was glad to see Spiffy back, although he wasn't able to do much on his one punt.
Freese's punts were not that great and hurt our punt coverage. On their biggest return, his punt was so low that our guys didn't have time to get down field. Obviously his kickoffs and field goal were good.
There has been a lot of Armchair Quarterbacking regarding the third down pass on our final drive. I will defend the call to the hilt (the execution was a different issue). First of all, you need to pass there. We tried two runs and forced them to burn their remaining time outs. But they are still expecting and loading up for the run. They've been fairly effective at stopping it. One more run (assuming no fumbles) is unlikely to get a TD. It leaves you still kicking a short field goal and takes off an additional 40 seconds. However, the aggressive and in my opinion correct move, is throwing. The throw is more likely to lead to a touchdown. I would have liked to see Rettig put the throw in the endzone, but he said (and watching it back showed) that Naples was part of his progression. He makes the throw on the short side of the field. Naples catches it but cannot turn up field, cannot break a tackle and worst of all cannot stay in bounds. That invites the second guessing. But that doesn't mean it was the wrong call. If Naples gets the TD, Day and Addazio are geniuses. Instead they got a stoppage and gave Cuse more time. In college football time is rarely an issue. With the way our defense was playing, I think we needed the TD. Taking off another 40 seconds wouldn't have changed Syracuse's ability to get down field. Their first big completion on their final drive took all of six seconds. The play with the pass interference five seconds plus a stoppage. I know they scored with 12 seconds left, but that was only because they used all the time they had. I feel like they could've just as easily moved the ball with less time.
To give you some hindsight on why the aggressive play was the right call even though it was the wrong outcome, look at our sequence right before the half. Instead of regrouping or even playing it safe with runs, we went deep on the pass to Amidon. Addazio's been aggressive for the most part this year and it has paid off. I am glad he threw it there.
Overall I thought he managed the game well. We have a gimpy Williams and eventually lose him, yet the offense still moved the ball. We also kept our poise and gameplan after going down 14.
This was a tough one because we could have won. However, you cannot allow 480 yards and allow them to convert 66% of their third downs and still expect to win.
I am disappointed as I would be with any win, but I am not going to kill him for this. The team has come a long way and he now has another month of football to end the season on a high note.