Pass protection, red zone offense down in this week’s stock watch

first_img Published on September 16, 2019 at 11:07 pm Contact Eric: [email protected] | @esblack34 On Saturday, a Syracuse-Clemson game was decided by more than four points for the first time in three years. The No. 1 Tigers (3-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast) dominated the Orange (1-2, 0-1) en route to a 41-6 victory, dropping SU below .500 for the first time since 2017. While the Syracuse defense did its part, intercepting Trevor Lawrence twice in the third quarter and holding Travis Etienne in check, its offense struggled throughout. Opportunities set up by the defense didn’t become touchdowns and SU settled for two field goals on scoring chances in the second quarter. After beginning the season ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time in 21 years, the Orange now sit at 1-2, with two nonconference home games coming before the heart of their ACC schedule begins. Here’s whose stock is up or down after Syracuse’s loss to the reigning national champions.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe first-team All-ACC punter was arguably the player of the game for SU, which was forced to punt the ball away nine times against the Tigers. Hofrichter averaged a career-high 52.2 yards per punt, totaling 470 yards on the night, including three that pinned Clemson in its own 20-yard line. Hofrichter was effective in limiting the Tigers’ momentum after they stopped SU drives, which happened often. Explosive Clemson wide receiver Amari Rodgers, who broke off an 87-yard receiving touchdown in the second half, managed to return just two of Hofrichter’s punts for a combined three yards. Despite all of the question marks surrounding Syracuse’s play this year, Hofrichter has helped ensure its special teams unit is still one of the best in the country. After his latest game against the Tigers, Hofrichter is now second in the country in total punt yards and fifth in punt average. Williams makes his second “stock up” appearance of the season after leading the Orange with an eight-tackle performance on Saturday. The former Butte College star burst into the spotlight after making 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks against Liberty in Week 1, but struggled against Maryland along with the rest of the SU defense. He set the tone for Syracuse against Clemson, coming out active and energized. On one third down during the first half, Williams timed the Tigers’ snap perfectly and prompted an incomplete pass. Later on, when Ifeatu Melifonwu got beat by Tee Higgins, Williams recovered by tracking down Higgins downfield. In the second half, Travis Etienne was also tripped up by Williams on a play that had game-changing potential. The linebacker was often the first SU player to the ball on pass plays and the first to the hole when Clemson handed the ball off to Etienne, who ran for 5.4 yards per carry, well below his career-average of 7.8.A week after finding their footing against Maryland and combining for three touchdowns, SU’s wide receivers were one of its most disappointing position groups against Clemson. Their struggles began on Syracuse’s first possession, after the Orange defense stopped the Tigers on the first drive of the game. On 3rd-and-5 from the SU 30, Tommy DeVito found a wide-open Harris on a slant toward the middle of the field. DeVito threw a well-placed ball, but Harris couldn’t pull it in, negating a potentially big play and killing the momentum that Syracuse and its crowd accumulated. Near the end of the first quarter on a first down by midfield, DeVito threw another perfect pass, this time deep to Jackson in the end zone. Jackson, who broke out for seven catches and 157 yards against Maryland, let the ball fall through his hands to the ground. While a penalty on SU was called on the play anyway, Jackson’s drop was indicative of his issues throughout, as he notched just a pair of catches for 16 yards.While DeVito struggled at times with his decision-making on Sunday, much of his trouble in the passing game can be attributed to the fact that he almost never had any time to throw. DeVito was rushed out of the pocket on what seemed like every other drop back, forcing the redshirt sophomore to roll out of the pocket or just get crushed for a sack. The Tigers brought extra blitzers all night and Syracuse often neglected to pick them up, leading to Clemson racking up six sacks in the first half alone. That includes back-to-back sacks in the second quarter, after Syracuse kicked a field goal and managed to stop Clemson on the ensuing drive. While the Orange offensive line was simply not as talented as their counterparts on the other side of the line of scrimmage, the pass protection issues also occurred because SU often emptied its backfield of extra blockers. No matter the reason, Syracuse’s inability to protect DeVito from blitzes ultimately took its passing game out of the contest. The Orange won’t face a defense like the Tigers’ the rest of the season, but they need to shore up the issues that were revealed on Saturday. On two separate occasions in the third quarter against Clemson, Syracuse intercepted Lawrence and returned the picks to down inside the Tigers’ 10-yard line. The first takeaway was wasted immediately, when DeVito was pushed out of pocket to his right and threw an interception. The second change-of-possession also resulted in a Syracuse giveaway, this time a turnover on downs. Jarveon Howard carried the ball twice and went nowhere. Then, two plays were blown up and broken by the Clemson defense. SU also struggled on its two red zone trips in the first half, which both ended in field goals. After finishing 21st in the country in red zone efficiency last season, Syracuse failed to punch the ball in on each of its four trips and now sits tied at 122nd out of 130 teams in the category this year.Graphics by Karleigh Merritt-Henry | Digital Design Editor Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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