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By the Numbers: A Change is Needed on Defense

Posted on September 8, 2018 at 11:45 AM

  Article by Dan Tortora

  Syracuse, New York, is known as a blue-collar town. 


  Being willing to work for what you want.

  Going after your dreams instead of waiting for them.

  The Syracuse Orange football team, historically, has been similar on defense.

  Attack the day.

  Go after what they want.

  The current era of Syracuse football detracts from that defensively, with a scheme that does not seem menacing or thunderous.

  It feels more reactionary than the preemptive strikes a defense is supposed to make.

  Reading and reacting instead of pouncing and attacking.

  The change to the Orange defense came under current defensive coordinator Brian Ward who came with Dino Babers when Babers was hired on as the head coach of the Orange before the 2016 season.

  Ward has been a defensive coordinator consistently since the 2011 season, when he oversaw the defense as a member of the Drake Bulldogs' staff in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Drake allowed 17.8 points per game that season.

  But following that season, defenses under Ward have elevated in how many points that give up to their foes.

  As defensive coordinator for the Western Illinois Leathernecks, also in the FCS, for three seasons beginning in 2012, Ward led a defense that gave up 28.2 (2012), 25.25 (2013), and 27.25 (2014) points per game.

  Moving forward to the 2015 season where he served as defensive coordinator for the Bowling Green Falcons, Ward would oversee a defense that allowed an average of 28.9 points per game.

  No two seasons have been worse defensively as far as points given up under Ward than his seasons commanding the defense at Syracuse. In the last two seasons, Ward's defensive scheming has given up 38.58 (2016) and 32.17 (2017) points per game.

  The Orange allowed 76 points to longtime rival, the Pittsburgh Panthers, in his first season with the team and followed by giving up 162 points combined among the final three games of the 2017 season, an average of 54 points per game in that three-game span.

  Syracuse's defense began its third season under Ward by allowing 42 points to the Western Michigan Broncos.

  As can be seen by the numbers, it is not the personnel that cannot make this defense run. Their have been different players on the teams over the years and four different schools where Ward has overseen the defense since 2011.

  But this is not a witch hunt for the defensive coordinator.

  It is the reality that this passive defense is simply not working.

  Giving up 30 or more points per game on average for the last two seasons combined at Syracuse is not an ingredient to success.

  It puts all the pressure on the Syracuse offense to essentially "bail out" the defense, setting the bar high for the offense, needing them to score 30 or more on average just to stand a chance.

  The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

  What this defense has led to is Syracuse being on plenty of highlight film for other teams' offenses and individual player performances. It has not led to winning seasons or bowl berths.

  This defensive scheme looks to be hindering more than it is helping the team as a whole or its individuals.

  So. this is not a witch hunt. It is a plea to stop trying to fit a square peg into a round hole and give this city a team that once again mirrors us.

  Going after our dreams with intensity and aggressiveness, instead of just waiting and reacting to what others are doing.

Categories: Syracuse Orange Football, Atlantic Coast Conference, NCAA

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