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FB : Syracuse defense fails to contain Cincinnati’s Pead in blowout loss to Bearcats

first_imgSyracuse knew heading into its matchup with Cincinnati that Isaiah Pead was the Bearcats‘ key player.Head coach Doug Marrone called him the best running back in the Big East during his press conference to start the week. Chandler Jones called him great. Shamarko Thomas said the Orange figured the Bearcats would try to get him the ball all over the field, especially with quarterback Zach Collaros sitting out due to a broken ankle.But what caught SU by surprise was the variety of ways Cincinnati got the ball to Pead throughout the game.‘Walking him out (as a receiver) and stuff, they did a little bit of that at times,’ defensive coordinator Scott Shafer said. ‘Not as much as they did this week in the game. They did a nice job. They knew what they had.’What the Bearcats had was a workhorse back who touched the football 28 times, amassed 246 total yards and scored twice in Cincinnati’s 30-13 rout of Syracuse (5-6, 1-5 Big East) Saturday at the Carrier Dome. Pead led the Bearcats (8-3, 4-2 Big East) with 17 carries, nine catches and even returned his first two punts of his career on the way to a huge day.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAnd his performance ultimately was the difference Saturday.‘He’s probably one of the best backs in the Big East,’ linebacker Dan Vaughan said. ‘They just wanted to give him the ball. They gave him a lot of screens out in space, and he was running up the middle, too. He was splitting us pretty good. He’s just a good back and he was making plays.’Pead’s biggest play was the backbreaker that put the game out of reach for the Orange.With SU trailing 23-13 and the clock ticking down under 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Cincinnati senior lined up in the slot to the right. The Orange had a blitz called and was in man-to-man coverage, a defense susceptible against a screen pass.Most of Pead’s nine catches came via the screen and his last was exactly that. He took one jab step forward before coming back to the middle as the SU rush flew upfield. Quarterback Munchie Legaux dumped the ball to Pead, and the back followed his blockers for a 69-yard touchdown down the middle of the field.‘They had a good play call against our defense,’ the strong safety Thomas said. ‘We had man-to-man back, so they got their blocks on all of us. That’s just a touchdown regardless of any situation. They had a great scheme on.’Though Thomas felt that play would have been a touchdown no matter who was running it against the Orange, Pead made plays throughout the game that flashed his versatility. SU held him to 36 yards on the ground in the first half, but he also hauled in seven passes for an additional 37 yards before the break.And then there was his first career punt return.SU’s Jonathan Fisher launched a 50-yard punt down to the Cincinnati 10. Pead caught the ball on the left side, weaved his way back across the field and down the right sideline for a 34-yard return that set up the Bearcats‘ first field goal of the day.‘Isaiah Pead is a great player,’ the defensive end Jones said. ‘He’s versatile. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, and you can hand it off to him and he’ll split you. He just showed exactly his ability, and they did a great job of out-executing us.’On the running back’s first touch of the second half, he scampered untouched for a 24-yard touchdown run to put Cincinnati up 17-6 just 17 seconds after halftime. He returned another punt in the third quarter, and despite muffing it at first, he picked up 20 yards to set up another field goal.Shafer said the Orange defense failed to execute at times, but Cincinnati simply did a good job putting Pead in good positions to make plays.And even though Syracuse knew entering the game he was the key to the Bearcats offense, it couldn’t stop him from having a career day in the Dome.‘I knew that I had a major role, bigger than it had been all season,’ Pead said. ‘I felt that I had to embrace it. With everything going on, it was a big game, and with a rookie quarterback, I had to be a veteran.’[email protected] Comments Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Published on November 25, 2011 at 12:00 pmlast_img read more

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Inexperienced SU linebackers suffer growing pains

first_img Comments Kielan Whitner breezed into the backfield behind his defensive line. Clemson’s offensive line shifted left to open up space for running back Adam Choice, but no one picked up Whitner, who planted himself to meet Choice head-on.Choice ran through an A-gap, between the center and left guard, and met Whitner head-on. Whitner wrapped Choice just one yard beyond the line of scrimmage, but as Whitner planted his feet into the ground, they just kept sliding forward. Choice propelled his way for the first down, carrying Whitner on his back.“We’ve gotta fit up on tackles better,” defensive lineman Kendall Coleman said. “Make sure that we’re wrapping guys up. Can’t let them get yards after contact.”It has been a shaky season for Syracuse’s (4-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast) linebacking core of Whitner, Ryan Guthrie and Andrew Armstrong. Although all are veterans, the three have never played together in the same group before this season. They’re attempting to fill the void of recent SU greats: Zaire Franklin and Parris Bennett, both of whom earned All-ACC honors.Through five games, they’ve played well in the passing game but have struggled against the run and haven’t proven the ability to tackle in open space. The team has only given up 250 yards of passing once, in a game when Western Michigan was forced to pass because of an early deficit. Against the run, SU has given up less than 4.5 yards per carry against every opponent except Wagner. Whitner, Guthrie and Armstrong rank first, third and fourth on the team in tackles, respectively, but have often missed crucial tackles.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textEarly against Western Michigan, the linebackers brought strong pressure against the quarterback but couldn’t contain the run. LeVante Bellamy and the Broncos torched the Orange on the ground for 242 yards and 8.6 yards per carry. Bellamy accounted for 120 of those with 10.9 yards per carry and two touchdowns.On Bellamy’s 64-yard touchdown run, Whitner and Guthrie were in a great position as the only two linebackers on the field, but the rest of the secondary failed to help the run defense.But Bellamy’s first touchdown was a missed gap assignment. Whitner and Guthrie lined up in the midfield next to Antwan Cordy, playing nickelback. The Broncos set a wide receiver in motion to sweep to the right side. Guthrie slid toward his assignment. Whitner was supposed to remain in the middle of Guthrie and Cordy to prevent a run up the middle. But Bellamy faked toward his left before cutting back to his right — Whitner fell for the fake and for just a moment, moved to his right, past Cordy, shifting him off balance enough to give him no time to backtrack, as Bellamy ran right up the middle for an easy score.Their play improved against Wagner and Florida State. After rushing for 271 yards the week prior, Wagner running back Ryan Fulse managed just 47 yards on 21 carries, and the entire team averaged just 1.0 ypc.“Against Western Michigan, our base personnel, three-linebacker group, really didn’t get that many reps,” Armstrong said. “Being able to really dial it in in Wagner and have a group on the field to get more reps together was really beneficial.”Against Florida State, it was much of the same. Deondre Francois struggled amidst the pressure of the front seven. Linebackers blitzed, opening up paths for the defensive line to sack Francois. SU recorded four sacks against FSU, and hit Francois a plethora of times.In 2017, Seminoles running back Cam Akers ran for 199 yards against Syracuse. This season, he netted just 52. Guthrie was named to Pro Football Focus’ All-ACC Team of Week 3.But against then-No. 3 Clemson, when the linebackers had to have their best game of the season, they had their worst. The trio missed gap assignments, failed to generate substantial hits, couldn’t take down runners at the point of attack and at some points, simply couldn’t catch them.With a 23-13 lead, SU was struggling to slow down Clemson running back Travis Etienne. On second down and 10, Clemson handed the ball off to Etienne, who sprinted straight through a gap between the right guard and center, where Guthrie was waiting for him. Etienne hesitated to his left, fooling Guthrie, and juked back to his right, where Guthrie dove at his feet, unable to make the tackle, before Etienne did the same to safety Andre Cisco and scored on a 26-yard touchdown.Later that quarter, still down with less than one and half minutes to go in the game. Clemson faced another second down-and-long situation. This time Tavien Feaster got the carry. Whitner hit him head-on at the line of scrimmage, but Feaster bullied Whitner into the grass and ran for a first down, putting Clemson just five yards away from the game-winning touchdown.Clemson decimated the Orange on the ground, running for 293 yards, with Etienne accounting for 203 and three touchdowns. The linebackers failed to make contact with opposing backs for much of the game, and when they did they were either overpowered or outran. They may have been somewhat successful against SU’s first four opponents, but against a powerhouse, they failed.“They just kept handing him (Etienne) the ball,” SU head coach Dino Babers said. “We knew what they were gonna do, but we couldn’t slow him down.” Published on October 2, 2018 at 11:51 pm Contact Matt: [email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more