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Nunes::44 - 12/4/07

Remember when Syracuse could run an option?
It is that time again folks. We chat with our good friend MariusJanulisForThree of Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. Last week, my answers to his questions appeared over on his site here, so that means we are back in my house. I asked a couple football questions and you can just feel the angst in his words. Enjoy!
1. Orange::44: What are your feelings on the UMass game? Do you think defense is the problem, something completely different, or a combination of both?

Nunes: Admittedly, I'm coming at this from the point of view of someone who didn't actually watch the game. From what I've read and seen, I can probably give you six or seven contributing factors that the team needs to work on, but at the end of the day it really is as simple as playing better defense. They can figure out whose team it is, who the go-to guy is, how to rebound more consistently, how to keep their emotions in check, etc., and nothing would change if they don't tighten up on defense.

In a way I think that UMass game is going to be a defining game for the season. It proved we can run up the score but it also proved we can give up the points just the same. Considering UMass just lost to IUPUI, what concerns me is not so much that we lost to them but how we're going to match up against better teams with better athletes in the next few weeks.

2. Orange::44: Because of the UMass loss, are you concerned with this team playing the rigors of a Big East schedule, or is it way too early to even remotely start to panic?

Nunes: It's never too early to start panicking! Yes, I'm concerned. The Tulane game felt like a stopgap. It controlled the bleeding for now but Virginia might rip the band-aid right back off this Wednesday. And if that's the case, what's gonna happen when G'town and Pittsburgh come a-callin'? What we have going for us is that the Big East is a little top heavy, or so it seems. So we should be able to feast on South Florida (twice), Rutgers, DePaul and Cincy. But we've got G’town and Nova twice, that's disconcerting. The good news is that we ease into the Big East. We don't play a top-tier team until late-January (Nova).

I'm concerned, but hopeful. We learn something new about this team every game. And I gotta say, even when we lose its fun to learn along with these guys. I don't feel that sense of dread that came with each loss last year, when you felt like every falter was a disappointment. This year, it feels like a learning process for the players and the fans.

Except for that guy who was taunting Devendorf...apparently he knows everything already.

3. Orange::44: We have had a little time to digest this football season and the keeping of Greg Robinson. What was the one story from this football season that flew under most of the radar, but deserves some more attention?

Nunes: Probably the development of Andrew Robinson as the quarterback and leader of this team. Did he prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that before he leaves Syracuse he will have returned us to glory?

Mmmmmm...not totally.

Don't get me wrong, he did a good job with what he had to work with. And in a couple games (L'ville, Cincy) the guy threw down some gaudy stats. But, and I've said this before, right now he's got a very Eli Manning-esque feel to him. You can tell all the tools are there and you even get to see them from time to time. But I wouldn't say I feel comfortable with him yet. I don't trust him, I think that's it.

Granted, behind that offensive line I don't think Colt Brennan would have looked very trustworthy either. But Robinson is not absolved of all of his mistakes because of the line. He's young and he's growing so by no means am I saying he's not my guy anymore but I just think his development in the off-season and early next year is vital to the program's immediate success.

Having Cam Dantley around to look over Andrew's shoulder is going to help as well. I don't think Dantley is a better choice, but he's just good enough to be a reminder to Andrew that he needs to keep it together.

4. Orange::44: Despite what you think of Greg Robinson as football coach, in just the way Gross handled the whole thing, have you lost all confidence in the head of the Athletic Department?

Nunes: You assume I HAD confidence in the head of the Athletic Department to begin with.

Well I wouldn't say I've lost all confidence but it just seems like the guy continues to make questionable decisions that end up making the story bigger than it needed to be. He turned the Mike Hopkins announcement into a mini-drama. He turned the swimming and diving program issue into a controversy that, to my understanding, was completely avoidable. And now he turned what should have been a quick announcement into a prolonged media watch that let speculation run wild and implied that his office didn't have control over the situation.

I think that Gross' biggest problem is that now that he's made some enemies (perceived or not), he's digging in and making every decision a calculated one. And when you factor in that his job may officially be on the line now, that's a dangerous stance to have. He's a man with a great deal of power over the Syracuse sports programs and his thought process is absolutely influenced by "how does this decision ensure that I keep my job."

I think there are two things that are going to define the rest of Gross' time here. Number one, how he deals with the football program next season if they aren't good (he'll have to move swiftly, possibly even fire Robinson mid-season). Number two, if an issue ever arises publicly with Boeheim (as I fully expect it to at some point). In a public spat with Boeheim, Gross couldn't possibly win.

So to answer the original question...I have a little bit of confidence in Gross to do the right things moving forward, but I will not be shocked in the least if his time at Syracuse ends horribly.

5. Orange::44: If it is possible, name your MVP for the Syracuse Football Team, and your LVP for the player who underachieved the most. Select a player for both offense and defense if you can, and of course your reasons why.

Nunes: Offensive MVP - Gotta be Mike Williams. Broke the school record for consecutive games with a TD (9). Finished the year with 10 touchdowns for the season, third best finish in school history. Caught 60 passes overall, matching Kevin Johnson's record. And he finished the year with a 160 yard, TD performance against Cincinnati. Williams was the spark plug for this offense and for this team. Brushed off an early-season malaise and become really the only dependable position player out there. Robinson-to-Williams has the potential to become the best tandem in the history of SU football.

Offensive LVP - I can only choose one person? Cause I can't. I have to go with the offensive line. The one area where Syracuse needed improvement more than anything actually regressed. The running game was beyond atrocious and Andrew Robinson found his way to the floor more times than I can remember. If this isn't priority #1 in the off-season, I don't know what is.

Defensive MVP - Since Special Teams is technically part of defense, I'm going to cheat and go with Max Suter. Following in the footsteps of Quentin Spotwood, freshman Suter shone in the kick return department like no one before him. He become the Orange’s all-time single-season leader in kick return yards...in the 7th game of the season. Then, all he did was break the NCAA record for most kickoff return yards in a single season with 1,299 yards. I don't think people have appreciated this guy anywhere near as much as they should have.

Defensive LVP - I'm actually going to give this to Greg Robinson. He's a "defensive genius" and this is what he has to show for himself? Blame the talent if you want but great coaches can make things work with lesser talent. The defense looks awfully overmatched at times, to the point of comedy. I just don't see how someone schooled in the world of defense would let this happen, especially after last season.

6. Orange::44: Finally, the BCS was ridiculous this season. What do you think of the National Championship matchup and how bad does it suck that Pittsburgh managed to beat West Virginia, ending the chance for a Big East school to play for the title?

Nunes: You know what really sucked about that Pitt win? It completed a week that included Louisville doing some damage control by beating Rutgers. All the other teams in the conference are going bowling. That means every single team in the Big East had something late in the season they could point to and say "See, things are looking up" except Syracuse. There truly couldn't be a worse time for us to be in the situation we're currently in.

It's a shame the Big East won't get a shot to represent in the title game. But now the conference needs to win most of its bowl games to keep up appearances and then Tranghese needs to work his magic so a Big East team never has to settle for the Meineke Car Care Bowl after going 9-3 again (Sorry, Cincy).

I mean, it goes without saying that the BCS is a disaster. The shame of it is that we've entered the era where people don't seem to fight it anymore. They've beaten us down into accepting it. I did realize this week that no AP writer has the right to bad-mouth the BCS though. They're just as shady, moving LSU up 5 spots just cause of popular opinion. Reminds me of a few years ago when they dropped Cal 5-6 spots to ensure that Texas would play in the Rose Bowl cause Mack Brown pouted. That's the real problem, even if you "fixed" the BCS, the pollsters and bowl games would still find a way to make it as impartial as possible. It's infuriating to even think about, I'm taking a nap.
Editor’s Note: This is another installment in the ongoing collaboration between Orange::44 and Nunes/Magician. Every other Tuesday Nunes::44 will appear here, while the following week Orange::44/Magician will appear on his site. Until then, enjoy Nunes/Magician articles and stay tuned to Orange::44 for complete postgame coverage from every Syracuse game.

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