Virginia Tech Football: Syracuse Q&A

A look at the VT-SU matchup from an Orange perspective.

[Syracuse Athletics \ Charles Wainwright]

Virginia Tech hasn't faced off with Syracuse on the football field since 2003 (and hasn't made a trip up to the Carrier Dome since 2002) so it's quite fair to wonder what exactly awaits the Hokies this weekend.

The Orange sit at just 2-4 under new head man Dino Babers, and though have yet to win an ACC game, they boast the nation's leading receiver and punt returner, and a prolific passing offense. To get a little more insight on the renewal of the old Big East rivalry, we turned to John Cassillo, managing editor of the impeccably named SB Nation site Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician (and he was kind enough to return the favor and solicit TKP for some thoughts on the game as well).

AK: After an unexceptional three years under Scott Shafer, the Orange hired former Baylor assistant and Bowling Green head coach Dino Babers to right the ship at Syracuse. What was your take on the Babers hire, and how would you grade his performance midway through year one?

JC: You'd be hard-pressed to find too many folks against the Babers hire considering his success at Bowling Green and Eastern Illinois, and the style of offense he runs. For a team that plays indoors, it makes perfect sense for Syracuse to run something a bit more up-tempo, yet we'd yet to do so until now. Babers is a smart coach and an entertaining interview, and while there have been questions about bits and pieces of the game plan through six games, you can see the clear vision toward a more interesting and competitive on-field product.

I'd say his current grade's incomplete, because things have happened about how we figured at the halfway point. The defense is very bad and the offense has shown a lot of improvement from last year. We'll have to wait until the end of the year to really properly grade his performance in year one. If the offense continues to progress, however, and the defense starts showing signs of understanding the new scheme, there's no reason he can't receive high marks.

AK: Setting aside last week's 28-9 loss to Wake Forest played in the remnants of Hurricane Matthew, sophomore quarterback Eric Dungey has been excellent this fall, averaging nearly 350 yards per game through the air. Who are Dungey's most dangerous weapons, and how do you see the Orange matching up with an athletic Bud Foster defense?

JC: Syracuse has primarily utilized three receivers: Amba Etta-Tawo, Ervin Philips and Steve Ishmael. While Etta-Tawo and Philips have received a lot of headlines for their larger reception totals, Ishmael might be the most physically talented of them all. Ishmael runs intermediate and more complicated routes, which typically take some time to develop. Despite the weather against Wake Forest last week, he was still able to make his presence known. Philips has been able to carve out a niche in the slot (42 catches), while Etta-Tawo's really going to dictate if this offense can make it to the end zone. His 51 receptions for 876 yards and six scores make him one of the country's most dangerous options at wideout, and especially on deep routes.

All of that said, Virginia Tech's defense is clearly designed to shut down pass-first attacks just like this one. The Hokies are the best in the country at preventing big plays, and even if SU can dink-and-dunk down the field with the short passing game, that means going up against the Hokies' red zone D (top-20 in the country as you guys already know). Syracuse's ability to play with pace should be able to help them counteract some of Tech's clear advantage in the secondary. But not sure it's anywhere near enough.

AK: While Babers brought an improved offensive attack to upstate New York, the defense under first-year coordinator Brian Ward has struggled against Power 5 competition. What's the key defensively for the Orange to slow down Jerod Evans and company?

JC: I'd argue we've struggled against FBS competition, since UConn put up season-highs and USF, while a very good team, thrashed us despite being outside of a power conference as well. Brian Ward has us running a coverage-focused Tampa-2, which is a stark difference from our old blitz-heavy scheme. We're also dealing with injuries and a lack of depth both on the line and in the secondary. Plus a ton of inexperience everywhere but linebacker β€” and even there, they were the heart of the old blitz, and now need to drop back into coverage. The personnel's not a match for what we're doing right now, which leads to quite a few growing pains.

If SU is going to stop Jerod Evans and the Hokies' passing game, they're going to have to keep him in the pocket, while also preventing him from long completions. There's very little chance the Orange are able to do BOTH of these things, mind you, but that's how they'd be able to slow down Virginia Tech's offense. If SU can't generate a pass rush (likely), it may behoove them to drop another man in coverage or as a spy for Evans. If you can't tell, I'm not overly optimistic Syracuse has the ability to stop Tech's offense (though we do actually make stops in the red zone).

AK: While Jim Boeheim has elevated Syracuse basketball to an annual Final Four contender, the football program has been mired in mediocrity since the departure of Paul Pasqualoni in 2004. With just three bowl berths in the past decade, Babers is tasked with rebuilding the program in what many consider to be the tougher of the two ACC divisions. I guess what I'm trying to get at is this: is the Syracuse fan base resigned to the fact that annually contending in the ACC may be overly hopeful, or is there legitimate confidence in Babers being the right man to return Syracuse football to prominence?

JC: There are very few Syracuse fans fooling themselves into contending with Clemson and Florida State in their current forms. That said, the hope would be a 9-3 or so long-term ceiling, with consistent years of 7-5 or 8-4 with a fourth-place finish in the Atlantic. Those things happening would count on some smarter scheduling than we've had of late (we like to punish ourselves for some reason), but it's feasible a few years down the road (we did go 7-6 in Shafer's first season, after all, and he ended up sinking the program). We have a decent amount of faith that Babers is the guy to lead us back. But leading us back probably means he finds a better gig as well, which is fine, because it means he's won games at Syracuse.

AK: Time to put you on the spot: who wins Saturday, and why?

JC: I'm not overly hopeful we win, for many of the reasons state above. Syracuse is improved, and the offense should provide some entertaining moments no matter what happens on the scoreboard. But between offensive line injuries (three of five starters will miss this one) and the defensive issues, it's hard to see an upset for the Orange here. Maybe the teams are close at half, but Tech's defense will force mistakes that put some distance between them and Syracuse by the time the third wraps up. I'll go 48-21 in favor of the Hokies. Not happy about it, but it is what it is.

Comments

Been a while since our guest journalist has had this much confidence (in the Hokies).

It would be kind of cool to renew our "rivalry" against a more established and healthy squad, but I'll have my eyes on the keys JC mentioned tomorrow.

___

-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

Ehhh of all the teams in the Atlantic, Cuse and BC are the ones I am least interested in "starting a rivalry" against. Unfortunately, we are already forced to have a rival with 1 of the two.

Is this the first time a guest journalist picked the Hokies since Liberty?

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

The Hokies are the best in the country at preventing big plays

Thats new

I'll believe this when they beat Clemson's big plays.

It will be nice to enter the playoffs with that belief!

My 2019 Season Challenge: only comment with Star Wars memes. (completed as of Nov. 29)

I'll go 48-21 in favor of the Hokies

Such a nice interview, good back and forth and then he comes in a ruins it with that last sentence /s

Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate, and hetzers gonna hetz

I know right? Dude left us with nothing to rabidly attack him for. WTF

Can you believe this dude? Drinking the kool-aid! /S

My 2019 Season Challenge: only comment with Star Wars memes. (completed as of Nov. 29)

Great stuff, enjoy seeing what beat writers and bloggers think of the VT team. Like to know what's going on outside my O&M contacts.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

"Foe"rensics getting some love in their comments section. Excellent work Alex and T5F.

Click here to destroy wall.

Good read. Over on their site as well. Their comments section seems pretty reasonable and like good fans. A lot were talking about the "foe"rensics article. A decent string of comments discussing the "New York - New England" thing ha ha ha

If you don't want to recruit clowns, don't run a clown show.

"I want to punch people from UVA right in the neck." - Colin Cowherd

I can't find the comments section. Every time I go to another fan bases fan site I thank God for Joe and what he gave us here. The flow and ease of use is just light years ahead of all those other sites.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

Scroll all the way to the bottom, past the ads, links, and junk, then as you wait for the dozen or so comments to load (which took my browser about 30 seconds), reflect once again on how awesome the TKP interface is.

True this ^^^^^^^^

Did anyone mention The Key Players Club.....

If you enjoy the easy to use interface and the enlightening and occasionally entertaining content, then I hope everyone chooses to join the Club and support this endeavor. It's really worth it.

And after this short commercial break, we now return to our regularly scheduled program....

Than You.

"Don't go to, go through"

All the SB Nation fan sites are like that. It's pretty simple once you get used to it. What I think is hilarious is all the SB Nation sites have guest writers from other SB Nation sites except Gobbler Country. Everyone passes over them for TKP. TKP is basically the defacto SB Nation VT site haha.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

Agree to disagree, having part of the comment as an bold header in every comment is annoying. Have comments load separately from the article for those sites. Then places like Le Sabre and TSL where each comment loads an entire new page. They are all juvenile to the glory that is TKP.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

I believe the SB Nation sites do comments just like TKP. But Sabre and TSL... ugh. I don't see why anyone would think that's a good idea. The thing I love about SB Nation that I wish TKP would be able to do is auto refresh comments without page reloading. That'd be nice for game day threads.

EDIT: I see you changed your comment. Makes more sense now. TKP used to have a subject line like the SB Nation sites too. I'm fine with either one. Overall, both formats are good. Not sure why you'd want comments to load separately though. It's literally just like TKP except for the Ad space between and the subject line.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

Don't get me started on TSL. They're literally holding onto that format to desperately keep around their existing base knowing full well its driving away new customers. They went to vBulletin about 5 years ago, and while their traffic actually started to grow, they received enough complaints from the old base that they scrapped it after a year, completely deleting the database of the vBulletin system after begging people to switch over for a year. And they basically told everyone who adapted to vB to fuck off in the process.

King Alum of the House Hokie, the First of His Name, Khal of the Turkey Legs, The rightful Heir to the Big Board, the Unbanned, Breaker of Trolls and Father of Gritty

I wish Sabre would switch to vB so it'd be easier to read their misery.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

What no, sorry in typing this on phone waking through SAMS Club. My complaint is : It looks like when you comment on those sites it makes part of it BOLD as a header to the comment and when reading an article you have to load comments separately. That seems odd and may explain why so few of sites have comments that go into the hundreds like we do here.

Wet stuff on the red stuff.

Join us in the Key Players Club

Yeah the bold part is the "subject" line. TKP had one awhile back. If you look at old threads you'll see it. There are two fields to enter comments on SB Nation sites.

As far as traffic, some of their sites do a lot better than others. EDSBS has a huge following (and deservedly so). They do great stuff over there. Just some of the team sites are smaller. On desktop all the comments load when you scroll down. But on mobile you have to click to load.

Seriously, check out EDSBS.com if you haven't. One of SB Nation's best sites.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

I will admit to having seen the 'ole VT_Warthog over on SB Nation a number of times... (unless that's actually not you, and this is a tremendous coincidence; however, going based on the sigs alone, I'm guessing it's you!).

β€œAlso, a microwave has never danced it's ass off to Jackie Wilson.” - AssPocketFullOWhiskey

It's me. I used to be on The Busby Babe a lot. Not so much anymore.

I have no idea why my username is VT_Warthog.

Arkansas blew a 24-0 lead in the Belk Bowl.

lol first comment

"Jerod Evans hasn't gotten a ton of national hype, but he's put up some quality numbers so far at QB. What does he excel most at?"
Probably the deep ball.
FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.........

Posted by NOLACuse on Oct 12, 2016 | 10:11 AM

King Alum of the House Hokie, the First of His Name, Khal of the Turkey Legs, The rightful Heir to the Big Board, the Unbanned, Breaker of Trolls and Father of Gritty

they're already cheering for Fuente!!!!!!!!!!!!

That one got a chuckle out of me as well

Click here to destroy wall.

They have a WR named Philips too? I'll set the +/- for # of times ESPN confuses the two at 6.5

I'll take the over

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

I just hope they get their pictures confused a la I. Ford/A. Ford

Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate, and hetzers gonna hetz

UConn put up season-highs

The same UConn that only managed 277 total yards and 13 points against Charlottesville's Pop Warner All-Star Squad?

...and still won!

That's implied!

My 2019 Season Challenge: only comment with Star Wars memes. (completed as of Nov. 29)

Highly encourage reading the comments on their site as well. One guy even mentions how he visits TKP.

Another white bronco? The first one didn't go too far.

48-17 Hokies

Born in Charlottesville, Reborn in Blacksburg

66-13

2 defensive scores in the second half

If a tree falls in Scott Stadium does it make a sound?

I like the way you think.

I don't see Cuse getting two defensive scores, Motley/Click will play conservatively.

/s

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-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

Orange + Blue

via GIPHY

Hokies United l Ut Prosim

Alright so I had to google Troy Nunes to figure out the site name. Ended up finding out he is 5th on Cuse's single game passing yards record, for his performance against us in 2002.

So, I strongly dislike Troy Nunes. (Fuck is reserved exclusively for Matt Ryan.)

Hey fellow Hokies,

I visit the Syracuse SB Nation site quite often and believe me, they are a decent bunch of fans. They definitely have an interesting sense of humor that I cannot quite pin down, but it is a good site with good writers. As an example of the type of humor that can be found on their site, I offer for your reading pleasure the following:

The Ballad of Sara Quse...

It hooked me to their site ever since.

Go Hokies!

Two things bother/bewilder me: 1) I was under the impression that the deep ball was one of the things Evans was struggling with and 2) I really don't get the "surprise" about Mook. I mean, heck, he was highly ranked as a recruit. Been pretty much kicking everyone's ass this season. I'd say he's very much meeting/exceeding expectations. Why is this shocking?

I know this has the potential to be a "trap game", so it wouldn't surprise me to see something relatively close. However, this also has the potential to be a complete blowout to the tune of 30 to 40+ points, especially the way our Special Teams unit has been playing.

Is it basketball season yet?

same thoughts

the impact of emotion on the outcome makes college football the great game that it is

this is a classic trap game for VT and a potential statement game for Babers

on paper, the matchups favor VT. emotionally not so much

would like to see the Hokies get off to a quick start in this one. we'll see if Fu can keep the players' attention

I hope my case of dome anxiety is totally unfounded.

Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in bad humor.

My too buddy, me too. Although I understand a trip to Mellow Mushroom can help! Even if you're there for four hours, that's totally normal. ;-)

Go Hokies!

Nope. Totally founded. SMH

Warning: this post occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)..