FB : Graham breaks out; Syracuse uses running back trio

first_img Comments Published on October 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @Michael_Cohen13 Dorian Graham needed only one cut on his way to a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. His blockers took care of the rest, ensuring that the Syracuse wide receiver raced untouched to the end zone with a trail of Mountaineers in his wake.‘I want to give credit to all my teammates on the kickoff return team,’ Graham said. ‘They did a good job executing blocks and opening up a hole. What I just saw is a hole you could drive a truck through. And like coach told me to do, I just took it straight up.’With 8:41 remaining in the first half of Friday’s blowout win over West Virginia, Graham fielded a kickoff halfway between the left hash mark and the left sideline. He burst upfield, exploding through a hole 5 yards wide courtesy of huge blocks by Jeremiah Kobena on his right and Siriki Diabate on his left.As he broke out across the 30-yard line, defensive end Torrey Ball sealed off the left side with a pivotal block on West Virginia free safety Eain Smith.Mountaineers cornerback Pat Miller raced toward Graham from the right side and was the last obstacle between the SU senior and the end zone. Graham planted his left foot in the ground and cut back behind Miller to the right, sending Miller sprinting past without laying a hand on Graham.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHe sprinted downfield and outran multiple West Virginia defenders to reach the end zone for SU’s first kickoff return for a touchdown since 2008.‘The coaches put a lot of trust in me, and when my number is called I just have to make plays,’ Graham said.In addition to his stellar special teams play, Graham also led the Syracuse wide receivers in receptions and yards Saturday. His 66 yards on five catches was more than the production of starting wide receivers Van Chew and Alec Lemon combined.Graham, a former cornerback, struggled in 2010 during his first year as a wideout and dropped a slew of passes. But Saturday, he showed an ability to make the tough catch, which is a great sign for the Orange.On a second-and-8 play midway through the third quarter, quarterback Ryan Nassib looked for Graham on a slant cutting in from the left side of the offense. It wasn’t open, and as Nassib was flushed out of the pocket, his throw on the run was behind Graham.But the SU receiver made a nice adjustment to reach back and haul it in to pick up a first down.Earlier in the game, Graham caught a pass along the left sideline with a defender closing in and alertly juked right to scamper down the sideline for a 27-yard gain.‘A guy like Dorian, that was inching his way slowly into play time, you couldn’t get him the touches,’ SU offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. ‘Now, all of a sudden, he got a couple, and his confidence goes up. He sees the big picture. Now, all of a sudden, you get that real big swag and you realize, ‘Wow. Now it’s starting to roll.”Tailback rotation effective for SyracuseThree games after Antwon Bailey and Prince-Tyson Gulley combined for the best game of the season by SU’s running backs, the new-look backfield seems to be hitting its stride.With Gulley out for the season with a broken collarbone, Syracuse was left with a hole in the No. 2 spot behind Bailey. And after three games of toying with a rotation in an attempt to define roles on the field, Friday’s triumph over West Virginia employed a three-back system brilliantly.Bailey, sophomore Jerome Smith and freshman Adonis Ameen-Moore combined for 36 carries and 178 yards. All three averaged at least 3.8 yards per carry, and not a single one of the 36 rushing attempts resulted in a negative yardage.‘So you’ve got all these three different guys that are completely different,’ SU offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. ‘It’s hard for a defense to be able to adjust to that. And those guys are coming down the field hard. … It allows you to really be able to run the ball.’Friday’s game saw each of the three backs with a clearly defined role for the Syracuse offense. Bailey is without question the feature back, and his 125 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries proved that. And he is also the big-play threat of the three, as evidenced by his 50-yard burst down the left sideline midway through the fourth quarter.Smith was productive on his nine carries, gaining 34 yards. He showed the ability to run between the tackles in a physical manner, but he also threw in a move or two to beat a defender.And Ameen-Moore, like Hackett said, is a bruiser. His five carries for 19 yards punished the Mountaineers defenders, dragging them for two, three and four extra yards on each play.‘When the offense gets rolling it is hard to stop,’ left tackle Justin Pugh said. ‘All of our backs were really running hard out there. You could see that look in their eyes that said, ‘Here they go again.’ It kind of helps you as an offense and motivates you even more. It was a good thing to go out there and just play hard-nosed football tonight.’[email protected]center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img