After a 3-1 start to its 2011-12 season, the Syracuse University football program was riding high. Yes, it had squeaked out two overtime victories over the University of Wake Forest, 36-29, and the University of Toledo, 33-30, but wins were wins. Most importantly, the Orange's starting quarterback, senior Ryan Nassib, was playing at an extremely high level, competing 71.4 percent of his passes, averaging 232.7 passing yards per game and his touchdown-to-interception ratio was a staggering 9-1.
So, despite SU's inconsistent play, at least, its quarterback was performing on a consistent level -- and, we all know if your team's quarterback is doing that, you're going to win some games.
However, since then Nassib, for many reasons, has regressed. In SU's last two games, Nassib has completed just 51.5 percent of his passes, averaged just 177 passing yards per game and his TD-INT ratio is 2-3.
Now, some of Nassib's regression can be blamed on the lack of a consistent play-maker at the wide receiver position -- Van Chew and Alec Lemon have been invisible the last three games (Chew: 1.7 catches per game for 19.7 yards and zero TDs; Lemon: 2.3 catches for 34.7 yards and just one TD.) However, a deeper look at Nassib's play uncovers a lot of inconsistency (even when we thought he was consistent).
These inconsistencies were discovered as I was looking through my post-game notes for the first six games.
- Against Wake Forest: "Nassib's first-half stats (7-for-13, 40 yards, a TD and sack) were terrible, but, his second-half stats (13-for-15, 138 yards, two TDs and zero sacks) were pretty stellar."
- At University of Southern California: "After two SU possessions, Nassib was 11-of-12 passing for 74 yards (four passes converted third down conversions). Nassib finished the game 25-of-37 (67.6 percent) with 230 yards and a TD."
- Against Rhode Island: "Ryan Nassib finished the game with a collegiate-best 318-passing yards. The last time a SU quarterback passed for 300-plus yards was in 2009 when Greg Paulus did it in a 37-34 victory over Northwestern. Nassib, who was 29-of-37 with three TDs, also tied a school record for completions."
- Against Rutgers Univesity: "Senior quarterback Ryan Nassib, who finished 14-of-31 for 164 yards and three interceptions (all in the fourth quarter), played his worst game of the 2011 season. Nassib had a hard time with Rutgers' all-out blitzes and couldn't get into a rhythm."
- At Tulane University: Nassib at halftime was 10-of-19 (52.6) for 124 yards and two TDs. By the end of the game, Nassib was 19-of-34 (55.9) for 186 yards (just 42 more yards) and two TDs.
Now, inconsistency has been the motto of the Orange this season. One half, SU will march down the field at will -- the Orange held a 31-14 halftime lead against Tulane with 229 total yards -- but will falter in the second half -- Tulane's defense held the Orange to just 127 total yards and two field goals in the second half.
Does Nassib, who has earned a spot on the Big East weekly honor roll five times this season, deserve all the blame for this inconsistency? Of course not. There are a lot of issues on this team that effects Nassib's play, which at times has been outstanding. But, it is interesting to look at how his play as fluctuated, even though, fans probably consider him the most consistent player on the squad.(Nassib's only real consistent game was against Toledo: 7-of-11 (63.6) for 88 yards and a TD at halftime; 16-of-24 (66.6) for 213 yard and two TDs by game's end.)
For the Orange to have a successful second-half of the season, Nassib will need to raise his level of play even more. Hopefully, when West Virginia University visits the Carrier Dome, Friday, Oct. 21 (8 p.m. on ESPN), Nassib and the rest of the SU offense can put together a complete 60-minute effort, which can help the Orange earn their second straight win over the Mountaineers (ranked No. 13 in the AP Poll and No. 16 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll).