Inexperienced offensive line eases some concerns against Northwestern
Doug Marrone admitted he was worried.
The right side of his offensive line was completely new, with right guard Ivan Foy and right tackle Lou Alexander starting after never playing in a game with Syracuse. On the left side, Sean Hickey filled the injured Justin Pugh’s spot at left tackle. He, too, had never seen any playing time with the Orange after an injury-riddle start to his collegiate career.
But at least Hickey had the experienced Zack Chibane lining up next to him at left guard.
Through training camp, Marrone said Foy and Alexander had plenty of work to, with inconsistency being a culprit throughout the preseason. The Syracuse head coach raved about Hickey’s progress, though, and insisted he had no concerns about how he would perform protecting quarterback Ryan Nassib’s blindside.
Overall, the line played well in the Orange’s 42-41 loss to Northwestern Saturday. Nassib was only sacked once, and his 470 passing yards wouldn’t have been possible if his line didn’t allow him to have ample time in the pocket.
After the game, Marrone said during his press conference that he wasn’t telling how he truly felt about the line during camp, particularly the right side.
“He got the blindside of the quarterback there and they’ve got some pretty good rushers on that team. They were mixing it up pretty good inside, outside. I tell you what, he didn’t play like a guy playing his first game from what I saw on the sideline.”
Doug Marrone, SU head coach
“I had a concern for those kids,” Marrone said. “There’s a lot of consistency during practice and I was trying to fight in myself to find out was it inconsistency because you’re playing against the same players all the time and they really know you in and out. But we had four kids playing.”
Foy rotated with Rob Trudo at guard, and Andy Phillips rotated with Alexander at right tackle.
Alexander’s inexperience did prove costly when he committed a couple of false start penalties that hurt Syracuse in a game where penalties and mental mistakes were all too common.
Throughout the preseason, Marrone spoke glowingly about Hickey’s work ethic, progress and his ability to recover so well after serious knee injuries. After Saturday’s game, Marrone’s praise continued.
“He got the blindside of the quarterback there and they’ve got some pretty good rushers on that team,” Marrone said. “They were mixing it up pretty good inside, outside. I tell you what, he didn’t play like a guy playing his first game from what I saw on the sideline.”
Overall, Marrone’s concerns going into the game had to be lessened after it. Sure, there were some miscues, but overall, the Northwestern defense really never managed to break through the line.
The key, though, is keeping that up against teams much better than the Wildcats, starting next Saturday against Southern California.
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