How Does Pat March’s Suspension Affect Syracuse’s Offense vs. UNC?

Monday, Apr 08, 2024 at 1:28 am by Sports Editor

By Sam Corcoran | @The_SamCorcoran

Syracuse’s 18-17 loss to Cornell last week was devastating in more ways than one. In terms of a morale loss, the Cuse’s defeat marked its third overtime loss this season in as many games. The Orange also blew a seven-goal lead and allowed the Big Red to net seven unanswered to take the lead before that OT period, and any loss could dramatically impact SU come Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament.

But one loss on the personnel side will bring immediate impacts for Syracuse, particularly in its next game vs. North Carolina. In the first quarter vs. Cornell, Offensive Coordinator Pat March was ejected for arguing an offsides call with the officials.

Per NCAA rules, the ejection also constitutes a one-game suspension for March, meaning he won’t be on the sidelines when the Orange battle the Tar Heels on Saturday.

Syracuse’s offense changed drastically in the time following March’s ejection against Cornell. In the second half, the Orange netted three goals compared to the Big Red’s eight. When adding in the two overtime frames, SU was outshot 34-14, failed to clear four separate times, and went 2-7 in the fourth quarter. The stats show that coach March’s absence affected the game dramatically, a sentiment that head coach Gary Gait agrees with.

“He does a tremendous job and is excellent at what he does,” Gait said. “It’s tough to [replace March] when he works so closely with the offense.”

With March out for the Orange’s next match in Chapel Hill, Gait is set to call the offense – something he’s never had to do during his tenure before Tuesday (he took over offensive play-calling duties against Cornell on Tuesday for the final three quarters).

It feels fitting that Gait’s challenge as offensive play-caller comes against one of his biggest rivals, and also a coach he knows very well. North Carolina Defensive Coordinator Dave Pietramala joined UNC this past offseason after two seasons as Gait’s defensive coordinator. Back in their playing days, the two battled numerous times in the late 80s (Gait with SU, Pietramala with Johns Hopkins), including in the 1989 National Championship. Pietramala held Gait to two goals, but Syracuse came out victorious.

As for Pietramala’s new defense, the Tar Heels rank top-10 nationwide in scoring defense and ground balls – a group that could give Gait’s recently-inconsistent offense a handful on Saturday when the two sides face off at 1 p.m.