Blue and Gold Illustrated

Nov. 19, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 34 of 55 NOV. 19, 2018 35 BY BRYAN DRISKELL SYRACUSE RUNNING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME RUN DEFENSE Head coach Dino Babers' "Air Raid" offense works best when it has a strong run game to com‑ plement the pass game. The Orange averaged 140.5 rushing yards per game in his first two sea‑ sons, including just 119.6 yards in 2016. Through nine games this season, though, Syr‑ acuse racked up 203.9 yards per game on the ground to rank 36th nationally. Senior quarterback Eric Dungey is the team's top rusher, going for 628 yards and 10 scores, while running backs Moe Neal and Dontae Strickland combined for 911 yards and nine scores. Syracuse was especially good early on, averag‑ ing 278.0 yards per contest while jumping out to a 4‑0 start. The Orange were held to 61 yards in a loss to Clemson, 140 yards in a win over North Carolina and 81 yards in a win over North Carolina State, before getting back on track at Wake Forest Nov. 3, rushing for 264 yards and five scores in the 41‑24 victory. Heading into its matchup against Florida State Nov. 10, the Fighting Irish had given up just 123.9 rushing yards per game against non‑option op‑ ponents. Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked senior Te'von Coney as the No. 2 linebacker in the coun‑ try, while fifth‑year senior Drue Tranquill was listed No. 21 at the position. That made the Irish one of just four Power Five teams with two linebackers in the top 25. Coney and senior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery both ranked in the top 10 of PFF's top front seven players rankings. Notre Dame was the lone defense with two front seven players in the top 10 through the first 10 weeks of the season. Advantage: Even SYRACUSE PASSING GAME VS. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE The Orange ranked 28th nationally in passing of‑ fense through its first nine games, racking up 274.3 yards per game through the air. Those numbers come from volume passing, with Syracuse ranking 26th in the land in pass attempts per game (37.1). On the flip side, SU ranked just 68th in the land in yards per attempt (7.4) and yards per completion (12.3). Through nine games, Dungey had connected on 61.2 percent of his throws for 2,001 yards with 13 touchdowns and just four picks. The Orange, however, gave up 25 sacks. PFF ranked Notre Dame as the fourth‑best pass rushing squad through 10 weeks of the season. Ju‑ nior defensive end Julian Okwara ranked third in the country with 47 quarterback pressures though his first nine games, while Tillery ranked third in pres‑ sures among interior defensive linemen with 30. Notre Dame featured one of the nation's top pass defenses through the season's first 10 weeks. On PaPer Senior tight end Ravian Pierce hauled in three touchdown passes during Syracuse's 7-2 start. PHOTO COURTESY SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS GAME PREVIEW: SYRACUSE

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