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Syracuse Film Review: First Quarter

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Louisville Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

We’re going to see how the holiday week goes but I’m going to try to do film reviews for the entire game if I can. There was a lot to like about how UofL played in the first quarter. Outside of a couple of plays where the defense gave up some gash plays, they played about as well as you could hope. The offense was on fire with everything working in the pass and run game. It was also obvious that Scott Satterfield wanted to get the throwing game going as he spread things out a good amount and didn’t rely on play action as much. It worked out well.


This was a really nice catch by Tutu Atwell that I didn’t notice at the time. I knew that it was behind him but he pins it to his leg on the way down to bring it in. Micale Cunningham maybe throws the wrong ball here as he doesn’t have a safety behind the play. If he throws this out to the goal line, Tutu probably just walks into the end zone.

I’ve started to nitpick a bit more as the season has gone on but my expectations have changed as the team has shown some improvement. Cunningham had a very good game, but these opportunities have to be taken advantage of. On the next play, Javian Hawkins got stripped right as his knee hit the ground. They almost wasted a chance to score because of an inaccurate pass. This is part of that next step he needs to take going into next year.


Louisville’s red zone offense is so much fun to watch because they keep things so simple. One ongoing issue I had with Bobby Petrino’s offense was how bad they were at converting touchdowns in the red zone. That hasn’t been the case so far under Satterfield. Two weeks ago we saw them use Tutu as a motion guy to pull the defense and then they slipped Ean Pfeiffer into the back of the end zone. Here they use the motion to stretch the defense and then they use play action to get Marshon Ford free in the flat. You can see that Cunningham has the option to run the ball and that threat pulls the safety up the field just enough to open the passing lane.


Louisville’s run fits were pretty terrible in this game but they were really bad in the second half. This was one of the few times that I saw them have an issue in the first half. You can see Dorian Etheridge walk outside and he’s essentially an outside linebacker here. He gets up field and takes that gap. The next gap over should be Rodjay Burns who is lined up behind Dorian. Instead of taking on the outside shoulder of the blocker here he goes inside and leaves a big open space to the outside.

The other issue with this play is that if Burns does stay outside, there’s no one there in the gap that he actually takes. I don’t know if G.G. Robinson is supposed to go to his left at the snap but if he does, that leaves C.J. Avery to fill that gap. Either way you slice it, the run fits were bad on this play and they just got worse as the game went on.


Here’s coaching making it’s way from the film room, to the practice field, and into the game. This is a play that Chandler Jones was beat on two weeks ago against Miami. NC State beat Marlon Character (with the help of a ridiculous push off) last week. This time around we get to see a much better play by Jones.

He lines up with more inside leverage than we’ve seen previously and he doesn’t open his hips or bail out at the snap. Instead he squares his hips and reads the receiver. He’s now in position to defend any pass because the receiver has to go through him to get where he wants to go. Once he sees him break, he closes the space between them and locates the football. Completely night and day from what we’ve seen the previous two weeks. Really good to see from Bryan Brown and Jones.


This is a play that I saw from Brown’s defense at App State. You guys that read my film reviews back when the hire was made know how excited I was about the open field tackling and specifically, this type of open field tackle. Rodjay Burns sees this screen coming and he takes off immediately so that he can beat the blockers that haven’t set up yet. I love that he doesn’t worry about what the blockers are going to do. He just uses his speed to force the issue. Then he takes out the runners legs. It’s the number one thing I saw from that App defense. Make the runner do something spectacular because even if he does, you’ve slowed him down and you’ve got help coming.


I wanted to post this play because I think it shows some progression from Micale Cunningham. He hasn’t been anticipating throws across the middle of the field and it has led to him taking sacks. However, on this play he sees the Syracuse blitz coming and he makes the throw to Dez Fitzpatrick before he even makes his cut because he knows he will be at the spot when he needs him to be. Unfortunately, Dez gets held and the corner is able to get under him and Cunningham’s throw is a little off. I tend to think that without the hold, Dez can make a play on the ball here even with a throw that’s off the mark. I really think this is a good sign, though.


We’re eleven games into the season and Scott Satterfield is still pulling out new things in his offense. This is a really great play design that uses play action and deception to get Seth Dawkins open. At the snap you can see that Dawkins and Jordan Davis fake a double team block. Then Davis darts outside for an out route which pulls the safety outside. That leaves Dawkins a free path right down the middle of the field.

The play action and little pause from Micale pulls the linebackers and the other safety up the field and all that’s left is a catchable throw. This is just a great play design that accounts for just about everything. If the throw to Dawkins isn’t there for whatever reason, you still have Dez running down the sideline on the short side of the field. Just a really nice play.


Louisville will miss G.G. next year but Jared Goldwire could have a really nice season with first team reps. He’s been beating blocks all year and he makes a nice play right here to force this run off path and right into the second level defenders. He gets into the pads of the blocker and just takes him out of the play while also forcing the runner to cut back. Any time a blocker is turned back towards their own end zone, things have gone terribly wrong. He has his guy running towards his own end zone. That means that someone is going to be unblocked and Dorian and Dayna Kinnaird both end up right on the ball carrier here.

I also love that he gets hyped after this play even though he doesn’t get the tackle. He knows he made the play and that’s what matters.


If you follow me on Twitter you know how let down I was about how the defense played in the second half. It’s because they played so well in the first half. Plays like this one are what I expected from the defense this year. Not just Khane Pass making a very good open field tackle where he uses the sideline as his friend. I also love the effort from the rest of the defense. Look at everyone going full speed after the ball here. Guys are still giving full effort when the tackle is being made. This should be the expectation and it hasn’t always been this all year.

Want to stress this again. Look at Pass’ angle to the ball. He gets to his spot and turns his hips to leave no path back inside for the runner. It’s either go through me or go out of bounds. Really good stuff.


Cunningham makes a really poor decision here but I really wanted to highlight the play. They run the jet sweep motion here with Marshon Ford running a wheel route out of his normal blocking path. The hope is that the two defenders here will react to Tutu and come up the field. That would leave Ford free down the sideline. It doesn’t work because the guy responsible for Ford gets caught up and he ends up not even being able to see anything but Ford going out for a route.

This is a play that has one read, so it’s not surprising that Micale is locked into Ford, but he can’t throw this ball. Tutu is his bailout in the flat and as soon as he takes that little hop back, he should be throwing it to Tutu or over his head. It worked out because dumb things happen in football but this is an easy pick most of the time.


This might be the best blocked running play of the game. Keep your eye on Caleb Chandler at left guard. He gets off the ball and gets a “chip” block on #85. That allows Cole Bentley to get around that guy and latch on for his block. Then Chandler moves up to the linebacker and HE LITERALLY PUSHES HIM OUT OF THE SCREEN.

This is just dominant blocking by Chandler and it’s just a part of a perfectly blocked play. Mekhi Becton slows up the first guy and then gets to his block. Issac Martin takes on that initial guy and stones him. Chandler and Bentley do their thing. Adonis Boone flies up to the second level to get his block. Tyler Haycraft gets across the play to cutoff a backside linemen. Ean Pfeiffer gets enough of his guy that he’s out of the play. Then you have Ford making sure his guy can’t get going to make a play from the backside. The guy that makes the play is the only person that’s unaccounted for on the play. It’s Hassan Hall’s job to make him miss but you can’t blame him for not doing so.


Scott Satterfield ran Micale Cunningham a good amount early in the game and it worked really well as Syracuse kept pinching down on the left edge. Cunningham made the right read every time and he was able to get outside three or four times. This play is just pure speed along with two really helpful blocks.

Marshon Ford gets enough of both of the defenders chasing this play from the inside. He gets a little chip on the first guy and then he slows down Andre Cisco. Then you have Dez continuing his trend of dominating blocks down the field. Watch how he initially runs this guy off but fights back around him to seal him off. Then he makes sure he doesn’t hold at the end. Put it on a clinic tape.