The Daily Nole

FSU Football: A First Look at Syracuse

Phil Kelly/FSU athletics

Syracuse is a team needing to win its final two games to become bowl-eligible. In the first season under Dino Babers, the Orange have already equaled their win total from last year with the headline victory being an upset over then No. 17 Virginia Tech. They’ll look for another upset on Saturday as they host Florida State in the Carrier Dome.

Syracuse hung tough with FSU for a little while last season in Tallahassee, but are 0-3 against the Seminoles since joining the ACC in 2013 and has lost eight straight overall in the series. FSU topped Syracuse on Halloween last season, 45-21. In the three ACC meetings, the Seminoles have outscored the Orange 142-44.

On Syracuse

Record: 4-6 (2-4 ACC)
Offensive Ranks: 47th in yards per game (439), 12th in passing yards per game (321.9), 118th in rushing yards per game (117), 107th in points per game (23.3).
Defensive Ranks: 116th in in yards per game allowed (472), 115th in passing yards per game allowed (274.2), 86th in rushing yards per game allowed (197.3), 106th in points per game allowed (34.2).
Last Game: Lost to N.C. State on Saturday, 35-20.

On Offense

Syracuse could be without dual-threat quarterback Eric Dungey, who is nursing a head and shoulder injury, on Saturday and that would serve as a huge blow to the Orange. Just a sophomore, Dungey is the straw that stirs the offensive drink for Syracuse with nearly 3,000 total yards, 21 total touchdowns and a 65 percent completion rate. The good news is Zack Mahoney, a junior, gained valuable experience last season and is capable of running the offense effectively.

The receiver position for Syracuse has been a strength as Amba Etta-Tawo and Ervin Philips rank first and third in the ACC in receptions with 79 and 72 respectively. Etta-Tawo also leads the conference in receiving yards and ranks second with eight receiving touchdowns. Steve Ishmael, a 6-2 junior, is also a reliable target for a corps of pass-catchers that has four players with at least 33 catches.

The ground game for the most part has been ineffective. Dontae Strickland leads the Orange with 484 yards rushing, but on just 3.7 yards per carry. As a team, Syracuse is averaging just 3.2 yards per rush, which ranks just 123rd nationally. The young offensive line that features two redshirt freshmen and two true sophomores has gotten little push while giving up 27 sacks and that’s with a mobile quarterback.

On Defense

Defensively, Syracuse doesn’t really do anything well. The Orange have just 14 total sacks on the year and do not rank in the top 85 nationally in any major category. Syracuse ranks just 122nd in fewest yards per pass attempt allowed and have allowed four opposing passers to throw for over 300 yards. It has also allowed six opposing rushers to run for over 100 yards.

Linebackers Parris Bennett and Zaire Franklin each rank in the top 5 in total tackles in the ACC. The two have combined for 193 stops. Franklin leads the team with 10 tackles for loss while the top sack man is defensive tackle Chris Slayton, who has four. Bennett has three forced fumbles to lead the team. In a struggling secondary, safety Rodney Williams leads the team with two picks.

On Special Teams

Junior kicker Cole Murphy is just 10-for-18 on the year when it comes to field goals, but Murphy has been fairly accurate from deep. Murphy is a respectable 6-for-12 on kicks of 40 yards and beyond with a long of 51. Redshirt freshman Sterling Hofrichter has had a decent year punting, averaging better than 42 yards per punt with 18 of his 63 kicks having been downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard-line.

Receiver Brisly Estime is dangerous as a punt returner and scored a touchdown against the Seminoles last season on a punt return. The Orange however, have given up three returns for touchdowns this season — two on kickoffs and one on a punt.


Under offensive mind Dino Babers, it’s not surprising that Syracuse has made strides on offense, but the defense and special teams units still have a long way to go. The Syracuse offense throws the ball well enough to keep things close if a lot tends to go right. With a relatively young team, there is reason for optimism for Syracuse moving forward. With FSU and Pittsburgh still on the schedule, there shouldn’t be much optimism about the remainder of 2016.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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