Syracuse went from averaging 76.7 yards on the ground in the first three games of the season to 160.8 in the last four.
So what happened?
I had a chance to catch up with Syracuse offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett after practice Wednesday night and asked. More specifically, I asked what has allowed Antwon Bailey to run for 100 yards in four straight games. Syracuse had a season-high 194 yards against the Mountaineers, and Bailey had season-highs for total yards (125) and yards per carry (5.7).
Hackett blames the slow start "100 percent" on himself.
"There were times when maybe I got out of it or we needed to throw a little more," Hackett said. "But really, the run game is a unique thing to call because if you get a 1-yard gain or a 2-yard gain, you struggle because you think, 'I have to do something else. It’s not good enough,' instead of saying, 'Keep pounding it, then it’s gotta pop.' I really buckled down, Coach (Doug) Marrone and I really locked in to what we wanted to accomplish in the run game. The line has gotten so much better. They know we’re going to run the ball now, and we'll keep going until we get it great because it’s going to be devastating when it happens. 'Twon is a great runner. He has great vision and can do a lot of different things. We've got to keep giving him those touches. If that keeps going on, we’re going to be successful."
Why has the offensive line gotten better?
"Everybody wants to pass, but when you run the ball, you allow the line to do what they do best and that’s hit somebody," Hackett said. "When you run the ball, you take a little breather off the quarterback. He's not worried about getting hit or where he has to go with the ball. It really takes pressure off everybody. The backs love it, so you allow a lot of guys to do what they do best and everybody takes a breath and gets re-energized."