Dougherty: Syracuse’s offensive success currently lies out of Hunt’s reach

first_imgEditor’s note: This column was in response to the question: Can this Syracuse offense be above average in the Atlantic Coast Conference with Terrel Hunt at the helm? This column answers “no,” click here for the column that answers “yes.”There’s a lot that Terrel Hunt can do. He’s throwing the ball with improved accuracy, creates and extends plays with his legs and, despite two straight losses and persisting red-zone inefficiency, has been marginally effective for Syracuse.But Hunt’s not a miracle worker. And since he can’t get Ashton Broyld, Brisly Estime and Ivan Foy on the field for Friday’s game against Louisville (4-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast) at 7 p.m., he doesn’t have the sharpness — or offensive line, running game and receiving options — to put Syracuse’s (2-2) attack in the top tier of ACC offenses. Syracuse is currently fourth in the conference in yards per game at 450.5. But the Orange has the 13th-best offense, out of 14 ACC teams, in points per game, and Hunt doesn’t have the weapons to make it anything more than a shell of its statistical self. AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“When you take a step back and look at where (Hunt) is now compared to where we were last year at this time, he’s light-years ahead,” said George McDonald, SU’s offensive coordinator. “So it’s never as good as you want it, but our job is to keep building on the positives and kind of keep trying to eliminate the negative things that we’re doing right now.”Syracuse’s offense is easier to defend than it was a month ago, which puts Hunt’s “negative things” under a microscope. Ben Lewis is the only Orange receiver to have multiple receptions in all four games this season, starting punter Riley Dixon led the team in rushing against Notre Dame and Foy’s lower-body injury puts an inexperienced Michael Lasker on the offensive line.The Fighting Irish’s defense, a tough barometer for a developing attack, showed how the injuries cause a ripple effect. Notre Dame pushed up its corners on the Orange’s wideouts, took away the edge with its outside linebackers and left a light front to defend the ground game. And the light front was successful — SU head coach Scott Shafer said his line didn’t hold its blocks long enough — as no other rusher but Dixon gained more than 29 yards. That forced Hunt to live in the air, but long completions were followed by unexecuted screens and the rushing attack provided few wrinkles in the Orange’s zone-read scheme.Syracuse’s first four play-action passes against the Fighting Irish went like this: incomplete, 3-yard gain, 5-yard loss on a sack, 1-yard gain. By the fourth quarter, the Orange was down and threw 17 times while running just once, a 7-yard scramble by Hunt that resulted in SU’s only touchdown. Three big gains of 46, 19 and 16 were attractive, but none of the 15 other throws went for more than 6 yards. “Sometimes the chips don’t fall your way,” Hunt said of the passing game’s inconsistency against Notre Dame. While the UND defense is top-notch, Louisville’s — as well as others on SU’s conference slate — is just as capable of handcuffing Hunt.Louisville heads into Friday’s game with the country’s best run defense, holding opponents to 58.2 rushing yards per game, 1.95 yards per carry and just one rushing touchdown on the year. Again, Hunt will be tested in the air because the Cardinals’ front will handle SU’s. When he has time to throw, he’ll look to Jarrod West, Adrian Flemming, Steve Ishmael and Lewis — with the last three heading into the game with a combined 46 collegiate games played and 23 collegiate receptions. Hunt accepts that the offense is a reflection of him, even if it really isn’t. “As a quarterback, you’re supposed to take the blame. You get the glory when you win, you take the blame when you lose. That’s how it goes,” Hunt said on Tuesday. “Most of the time I like taking the blame because it doesn’t make my players think they didn’t do well or it kind of takes the attention off of them, the bad attention.”And in a way he’s right. A good carpenter never blames his tools. But he still needs a toolset to work with.Jesse Dougherty is the sports editor at The Daily Orange where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at jcdoug01@syr.edu or on Twitter at @dougherty_jesse. Comments Published on October 3, 2014 at 12:05 am Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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