Syracuse running back Antwon Bailey had a nice string of games going after finding a good rhythm. The starts and stops in the run game early in the season seemed to be a thing of the past when Bailey put together four straight 100-yard rushing games.
But in consecutive losses, Bailey has 120 combined yards on the ground. He was held to 70 against Louisville and 50 against UConn. Whether a byproduct of teams loading the box to stop him or having to play come-from-behind football, the Orange have been unable to pound the ball the way they like.
They hope to change that Friday night against USF.
"I think sometimes we get out of character at times," Bailey said in a phone interview this week. "It doesn't matter if there has been a different scheme the team's been playing or the game or the situation, we have to get back to playing Syracuse football."
Syracuse is 4-1 when Bailey rushes for 100 yards this season; 1-3 when he does not. That should not be too surprising, considering teams have a much better chance for success when they can run the ball.
When asked what has been happening the past two games, Bailey said, "I definitely think that's been a big focus of our opponents, to stop our run because that's a big part of who we are and what we do and how we set the tone of the game. Teams have been keying in on that, but it also has to do with us. We've got to be able to fight through that and not let teams dictate what we do."
USF played exceptionally well against the run last week, holding Rutgers to minus-7 yards. The Bulls also have shown the ability to be opportunistic, so Bailey and his teammates will have to protect the football better than they did last week when they had five turnovers in a loss to UConn. Bailey had one himself on a bad exchange with quarterback Ryan Nassib. The two have worked extra this week in practice to ensure that does not happen again.