The Syracuse football program and its head coach Doug Marrone will have a lot to break down after the White team defeated the Blue team, 13-7, Saturday afternoon at the annual Spring game at the Carrier Dome. In a game designed to showcase the 2011-'12 squad, Syracuse fans witnessed some good (120 rushing yards from senior running back Antwon Bailey; a handful of 30-plus yard passing plays) and some bad (just one offensive touchdown) in what many would call a "so-so" orange-and-blue performance.
"I’m proud of the kids. I thought they had a good game," said White team head coach Scott Shafer, who will serve as SU's defensive coordinator during the Fall. "We have a lot of work to do, but I think we are in a position where the kids believe we can be better than people on the outside think we can be."
For those looking for a strong showing from projected starting quarterback Ryan Nassib, they didn't get it in the first half, but a second-half turnaround led to a solid 227-yard (on 15-of-24 attempt) performance. On his team's first possession, Nassib was intercepted by Blue's senior cornerback Kevyn Scott, who ran 33 untouched yards into the end zone to help Blue take an early 7-0 advantage. However, as the game wore on, Nassib settled in well and made some great throws to senior tight end Nick Provo (game-best five caches for 50 yards) and junior wide receiver Alec Lemon (three catches for 65 yards).
"Ryan Nassib looked really good on that other side," said opposing head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who will be SU's offensive coordinator during the Fall. "We tried to get him out of his game the whole time. [Nick] Provo looked good, so it was a fun day and we are really excited about where we have to go from here."
However, as fans were eagerly breaking down the play of Nassib, Bailey was the most impressive player on the field, especially in the second half which featured a few dashing and darting runs. The most important run came late in the fourth quarter on a fourth down and long situation, which was converted thanks to an 18-yard dash by Bailey, who moved inside the Blue team's 10-yard line. A few plays later, Bailey leaped over the goal line for the game's only offensive score.
Blue's quarterback Charley Loeb didn't light up the box score (138 passing yards on 11-for-24 attempts), but was clearly the second-best SU QB. White's Johnny Miller and Blue's John Kinder failed to move the ball at all in their limited action.
On defense, White's Chandler Jones (one sack) was a presence on most plays, but Blue's front line, which featured junior Brandon Sharpe (three tackles with one sack) and junior linebacker Siriki Diabate (four tackles with one sack), put a lot of pressure on Nassib, and came up with a few big sacks that stalled possible scoring drives.
The secondary was also solid. Scott had his INT early in the first quarter, while there were a few notable pass breakups -- the most important by White's senior linebacker Dan Vaughan who stepped in and nearly intercepted Loeb's final pass that came during Blue's final drive.
"The kids were very competitive and there was a lot of hitting," said Marrone. "It’s a good way to end Spring. We had the game format back and I know people appreciate that. I did too. We worked a lot more players on the field. We will just keep building it from here."
The disappointing aspect about Saturday's game was the lack of offensive production. Out of all the good that came in the second half, it isn't enough to overshadow how both offenses struggled to put the ball in the end zone. Yes, there were a lot of nice plays, but the inability to put points on the scoreboard -- even though there were three field goals missed despite no defensive rush -- is what haunted SU last year and will be its downfall this year if Marrone can't figure out how to punch it into the end zone.
Check out quarter-by-quarter breakdowns here: