Last season Syracuse was able to grind out a win over NC State in a game that was indicative of the Pack's season at large. The Pack fell disappointingly short on the offensive side of the ball, managing just 10 points, and it was Syracuse that made the plays late to assert control of what had been a tie game with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Terrel Hunt was dreadful throwing the ball, managing only 74 yards on 20 attempts and throwing a pair of interceptions. The Orange nevertheless averaged more than seven yards per play overall because they put up big numbers on the ground. Normally making an opponent one-dimensional is a pretty good sign, but for NC State's cruddy defense, it didn't really matter.
Syracuse finished with 362 yards rushing on 40 carries and had a pair of running backs go for well over 100 yards. Prince-Tyson Gulley was one of them, and he enters the week as the Orange's leading rusher with 498 yards. His workload has been heavier since Hunt's injury, and that trend should continue, especially if the Orange find anything resembling the rushing success that they had against the Wolfpack last year.
|Cuse Offense||Off. S&P+ (rank)||Yds/Play||Yds/Rush||Yds/Pass Att.|
|2014||95.9 (85)||5.4 (78)||4.9 (36)||6.0 (110)|
|2013||93.9 (75)||5.1 (102)||4.6 (45)||5.8 (113)|
But it remains to be seen how Hunt's absence changes the dynamic of Syracuse's attack. Last season Hunt ran for 92 yards on 11 carries against NC State, creating an extra set of headaches in the process. Fill-in A.J. Long is no threat to duplicate those numbers.
Defensively, Syracuse actually ranks lower than NC State in opponent-adjusted S&P plus. The raw numbers look considerably better in a couple of areas.
|Cuse Defense||Def. S&P+ (rank)||Yds Allowed/Play||Yds Allowed/Rush||Yds Allowed/Pass Att.|
|2014||95.3 (82)||5.1 (40)||3.3 (23)||7.5 (89)|
|2013||104.1 (67)||5.3 (48)||3.8 (37)||7.0 (57)|
Forcing turnovers has been a strength of the defense (or they've just been luckier than most, if you prefer)--they have 17 takeaways in eight games, including 11 fumbles recovered. Only 11 FBS schools have recovered 10 fumbles or more at this point, led by Florida International's football vacuum of a defense, which has 16. (On a side note, FIU is averaging more than three takeaways per game but is under .500 on the year. That's impressive in a sad way.)
The Orange have forced at least two turnovers in five straight games, though that's been of no help to the bottom line, with the exception of the Wake Forest game. They simply haven't been able to manufacture much scoring even with the help from takeaways, and with the exception of their 30-point outburst against the Deacs a couple weeks ago, they haven't scored more than 20 points in a game since mid-September.
If that doesn't change on Saturday, figure Dave Doeren's got a pretty good shot at getting the ol' monkey off his back.