Zack Mahoney struggles with deep ball, hurts SU on 3rd-and-long in loss

first_img Published on November 21, 2015 at 6:54 pm Contact Paul: pmschwed@syr.edu | @pschweds RALEIGH, N.C. — Zack Mahoney jogged off the field after fumbling a snap on third-and-17. He went to sideline and watched as Riley Dixon punted the ball. North Carolina State took over and a few plays later attempted a field goal.There were still more than three quarters left of football. There were still more opportunities for Syracuse to convert on third down. There were still ways the Orange could come back.But the play preceding Riley Dixon’s first punt of Saturday’s game was the first of seven third-and-10-plus situations that resulted in a disastrous collection of sacks, incompletions and a fumble.Mahoney, who finished 10-for-21 with a long of 37 yards, was unable to throw the deep ball, which, coupled with SU’s (3-8, 1-6 Atlantic Coast) inefficiencies on first and second down, led to a 2-for-11 performance on third down and ultimately a 42-29 loss to the Wolfpack (7-4, 3-4) at Carter-Finley Stadium.“Third-and-longs are so difficult to play into period,” offensive coordinator Tim Lester said, “and (the Wolfpack) pinned their ears back.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThroughout the season Lester has stressed that SU needs the run game to set up the pass. With a once-fifth-string quarterback playing in just his third game, Syracuse ran for— excluding a 75-yard Jordan Fredericks touchdown run — 65 yards on 31 carries.While Mahoney finished with his highest completion percentage in a game when he’s attemped more than 20 passes, head coach Scott Shafer said there were four occasions when he had receivers downfield and two or three steps ahead of their defenders.“Yet again it’s another week I missed a lot of shots,” Mahoney said, “and I think the receivers were mad because they were winning (matchups) and I just couldn’t get them the ball.”One of the main focuses at practice this week, Mahoney said, was giving his receivers enough time to get downfield.Regardless, he kept overthrowing them.Fifteen of Mahoney’s throws came after halftime once the Orange was already in a hole. Trailing 28-16 in the third quarter on SU’s own 38, he aired it out to wide receiver Steve Ishmael deep into Wolfpack territory. The ball flew over his head but cornerback Jack Tocho was called for a 15-yard pass interference penalty.N.C. State routinely stacked its defense close to the line of scrimmage and left receivers with one-on-one coverage on the outside.“They were giving us shots,” Mahoney said, “and unfortunately I just didn’t take advantage of all of them.”About two minutes later in the third quarter, Mahoney threw to Ishmael, who had run past midfield, again. Except this time, from SU’s own 21, Ishmael wasn’t dragged down and the ball fell incomplete forcing second-and-10. Then Dontae Strickland was tackled a yard behind the line of scrimmage and Syracuse faced another third-and-long.Mahoney saw N.C. State’s defense lined up in a favorable matchup for the Orange so he changed the routes to exploit it, Lester said. But Mahoney’s inexperience showed again as he went too quickly through his progressions.He threw toward the left side to a receiver crossing the field from left to right. He should have waited for the route to get to the right, Lester said. N.C. State’s Darian Roseboro picked the pass off and scored a touchdown.“I was shocked,” Lester said. “… He ended up underneath on the wrong side of the field. Sometimes you get what you deserve.”It was another failed third down in a game filled with unsuccessful plays.Time and time again, Mahoney was either under too much pressure from the Wolfpack or his inabilities cost him.And after the Orange struggled on first and second downs, Mahoney wasn’t good enough to make up for the previous damage.“No one’s more upset about missing those plays than Zack,” Shafer said. “It’s something he’s got to continue to work on and get better at.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img