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Carry on: Syracuse looks to solidify running game against Northwestern

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on September 5, 2013 at 1:04 am Contact Trevor: [email protected] | @TrevorHass Syracuse’s first three handoffs set the tone for the rest of the day.Jerome Smith rushed for 1 yard. Prince-Tyson Gulley rushed for one, too. Then Gulley ran for a loss of one on the next play and SU was forced to punt.There was no space to operate. There were no holes to dance through. And there were certainly no game-changing runs.  The element of Syracuse’s offense that was expected to be its strongest suit was stagnant against Penn State, resulting in a 23-17 SU loss on Saturday.Syracuse’s run game will look to bounce back when the Orange (0-1) faces No. 19 Northwestern (1-0) in Evanston, Ill., at 6 p.m. on Saturday. With many other questions swirling, the Orange will need its running game to emerge as a dominant unit when it faces the ultra-talented Wildcats.“I think the biggest thing we want to do is look at the tape like we did yesterday and today,” SU offensive coordinator George McDonald said, “go back and fix our mistakes and move onto Northwestern.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe run game was supposed to be Syracuse’s bread and butter. With an inexperienced rocket launcher in Drew Allen, Smith and Gulley were supposed to be steady motors in the backfield. But against Penn State, the running backs were anything but steady. Holes up the middle were nonexistent and runs to the outside were squelched.Syracuse only averaged 1.9 yards per carry. Less than 72 inches. Close to seven footballs.Smith finished with two touchdowns, but fumbled early in the second quarter. Gulley only rushed for 24 yards in his first action since he torched West Virginia for 213 yards and two rushing touchdowns in the Pinstripe Bowl.Running backs coach DeAndre Smith said Gulley’s footwork was lacking, and much of the technique they practiced during the summer and training camp went out the window.“He didn’t make plays,” Smith said.If Syracuse is able to move forward and outduel Northwestern, it will likely be because of its running game. DeAndre Smith described Jerome Smith as powerful and Gulley as an all-around guy, and said that his task is to make sure both running backs score touchdowns and minimize their mistakes.Against the Wildcats, DeAndre Smith said that one-cut-and-go back George Morris II and elusive runner Devante McFarlane will be used more frequently. Morris and McFarlane each ran the ball just once against Penn State.Syracuse has the weapons. It’s just a matter of how to unleash them.  “They all present certain challenges for defenses,” DeAndre Smith said, “and my challenge is to make sure when we have a play they’re all doing things they’re capable of doing.”When Smith spoke with his players following the Penn State loss, he told them the unit had a lot of work to do, but that one game doesn’t make a season. Zoning in on Northwestern now and figuring out how to generate offense is the team’s only priority.If the Orange’s run game improves in week two, one main reason why will be the play of the offensive line. Syracuse center Macky MacPherson said the unit made blatant mistakes and was outplayed by a strong PSU front seven.“It was kind of a knock-down, drag-out fight,” MacPherson said, “and they basically got the better of us that day.”MacPherson said four people doing their job and one messing up was the theme of the day. Glaring mistakes stuck out when the team watched film Monday and Tuesday.But MacPherson is confident the inevitable bumps and bruises will slowly disappear.“This week hopefully we’ll get the running game better,” MacPherson said.Syracuse will need to have a more complete running attack against the Northwestern defense, a unit that McDonald described as passionate and skilled at stripping the ball away.Despite the daunting task ahead, McDonald isn’t placing too much stock on the Penn State loss.“The people outside of our building want to press the panic button,” McDonald said, straight-faced. “It’s a 12-game season last time I checked, and we only played one game.” Commentslast_img

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