Behind Sean Tucker’s historic 5 touchdown performance
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Syracuse running back Sean Tucker rebounded from a 54-yard performance against Rutgers, recording five touchdowns for 253 total yards in Orange’s 62-24 win over UAlbany. He did most of that in the first half, only appearing for a single record in the third quarter.
“It was good to see him complete a few races and then be extremely explosive in the throwing game and being able to bring those balls into midfield and turn those passes into homers,” said head coach Dino. Babers on Tucker’s game. .
Tucker’s performance was one touchdown from matching Jim Brown’s 1956 program record for most scores by a non-quarterback. Although the performance came against a school in the Championship soccer division, Tucker’s numbers helped SU score the most points in a game since 2018.
Here’s a breakdown of three of Tucker’s first-half scores, and the blocking concepts that gave him a record-breaking game:
Syracuse had worked inside the 10-yard line, converting on a fourth down two games earlier. The Orange had four receivers on the line of scrimmage, placing Tucker on the left side of the field with three others.
This setup brought the majority of Albany’s defenders to the left side of the pitch, creating the perfect opportunity for a counter run. SU also had a blocking advantage as the Great Danes had four defensemen on the defensive line, one less than Syracuse’s five offensive linemen. All Tucker had to do was wait for the blocks to materialize and his teammates to guide him to the end zone.
“He was very patient while waiting for the holes to open,” said offensive lineman Chris Bleich. “As soon as he saw the hole, he just took it and went looking for it.”
The game was designed for Tucker to bounce outside to the right sideline as the offensive line attempted to push the defense this way. But center Airon Servais, who had not started in that post since 2019, were unable to dump their man down, closing the space available for Tucker. The running back quickly noticed the hole was plugged, stepping hard inside to pass the line of scrimmage. Albany’s defenders were still moving to the right and Tucker’s move completely stopped them in their tracks. But it was too late and Tucker dodged a tackle as he entered the end zone.
Later in the quarter, Syracuse made a quarterback shuffle after Tommy DeVito received a heavy blow trying to rush for a run, putting Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader in the game. The Orange mimicked his previous setup of Tucker’s first scoring, positioning him sideways with three receiving targets. Tight end Maximilian Mang also strapped on to the line as an additional blocker.
But like the last game, Syracuse fled to the strong side of the pitch. Courtney Jackson made a screen pass to freeze a linebacker, leaving six players in the box for SU to block – the exact number of players the Orange had on their own line.
Syracuse left the strong defensive end as Mang moved up to the second tier. This made the game more of a play option than an outer zone race, and Shrader made the right decision. As Danes defensive end Jared Verse did not chase Tucker, Shrader handed him the ball. Tucker walked horizontally, this time to the left side of the field.
He waited for Matthew Bergeron and Bleich to come on their blocks, and the two offensive linemen forced their defenders in opposite directions. It created a tiny space that Tucker could squeeze into. He took a hard step up the field, heading for the 45-yard SU line. With a perfectly executed block by Jackson, Tucker only had rear safety to beat.
Instead of worrying about avoiding defenders, Tucker looked down and kept his knees high as he ran 56 yards home.
Awakening from the dead
After Shrader had a communication problem with Servais, the ensuing snap reached 25 yards into the backfield, turning a second and run into a third and 28. In these situations, the orange racing screen shifts to either Taj Harris either to a running back to get a few yards before repelling the ball. With Harris out of the game, Tucker was the recipient.
Directly after the snap, Tucker threw his hands up at the line of scrimmage to pretend he was blocking blitzes as Shrader backed up to pass the ball. But just after passing the line of scrimmage, Tucker turned around, simultaneously running to the numbers on the right side of the pitch.
Tucker said he’s spent much of the offseason working on his receiving skills, catching balls so he can be as much of a threat in the passing game as he is the rush attack. He finished with 121 passing yards off those screen attempts in the game, 11 yards short than he was on the ground.
“On the passing side, blocking the offensive line on screen allowed me to focus on the ball and get back on the field,” Tucker said.
On this play, Tucker again caught up with a failed mission from his offensive line when he was supposed to continue on the sidelines. But out of his peripheral vision, Tucker noticed Albany’s safety trying to beat him for him. Tucker therefore changed course.
Instead of staying on the numbers, Tucker cut through the middle of the field, avoiding the bodies flying towards him. He used his offensive linemen for 15 receiving yards, but they couldn’t keep up with him. Tucker was determined to get into the end zone, cutting on the outside as another Albany defensive back tried to meet him on the spot. He passed Tyler Carswell at the 10-yard line, avoiding another diving body for his third score of the night.
Posted on September 20, 2021 at 10:13 p.m.
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