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Ohhh, so that is how it looks when the Dome is full. I almost forgot.
It all led up to this. Since last December people in Syracuse, alumni, and students have waited to see what the future of the program would look like. The Carrier Dome was packed, excitement was peaked, and the teams took the field. When it was all said and done the Dome emptied disappointed, but hopeful. The game was entertaining, the Dome was full until the end, and excitement was palpable in the air. However, Minnesota ended the day on top after overtime, 23 to 20. The report card format is back, so let’s get to the grades for our opening week experiment.

Offense
B
This offense was leaps and bounds better than last season, but the second half looked much like a second half of last year. The story of this game will be missed opportunities in the second half. If Syracuse would have caught a ball here, or gotten an extra yard there, this game would have turned out much different in terms of a win or a loss. QB Greg Paulus (19/31, 167yds, 1 TD, 1 INT, sacked 3 times), save for throwing an INT in overtime, played a near perfect game, doing exactly what he was supposed to do. He surely would have had more yards were it not for several drops by wide receivers. Mike Williams (7rec, 94yds, 13.4avg, 1 TD) was fantastic when he made a catch, earning yards after contact and shaking off defenders. His touchdown streak technically continues. However, he missed opportunities and had some drops in the second half, failing to help Syracuse score and allowed the Minnesota offense back on the field. Delone Carter (23car, 88yds, 3.8avg, 1 TD) had a nice day, but he needs to find more lanes to run through. Because Paulus was so agile and mobile, it may have covered up troubling inadequacies on the offensive line. We will know more about how good our offensive line is as the season develops.

Defense
B+
Limiting Minnesota to only 5-17 on third down conversions is a victory in and of itself. Last year, that number would have easily been ten or 11 at minimum. It goes to show that this defense has strongly benefited from a new coaching staff, as most of these players are the same as last year. The defense played well in this game, but you could tell they were tired at the end of the game due to the fact the Syracuse offense could not make a play late in this game. The cornerbacks and safeties have to play better, especially against dynamic wide receivers, such as what they faced in Eric Decker. The team has to adjust and learn from what Cincy had done in the game and attempt to cover better, despite being more fatigued. All in all though, the defense did well and should build upon their successes in weeks to come.

Special Teams
A-
Other than one punt that was slightly shanked, you could not ask for much more from the special teams unit. Walk on kicker (and my new favorite player) Ryan Lichtenstein was perfect, hitting both field goals he was asked to kick from 23 and 42 yards out, putting him as the frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy. He also hit two extra point tries. Punter Rob Long played well, punting eight times for 367 yards total, 45.9 yards on average, and three behind the 20. Kick returns were the big surprise, other than Lichtenstein’s success, for the unit. Mike Jones had five returns for 154 yards, averaging 30.8 yards, the longest of which was 79 yards to pick the Dome up after the disastrous first drive for Syracuse and the score of Minnesota. Good day all around.

Coaching
B-
It was not a good start for Doug Marrone. They held the offense too late on the sideline, causing them to rush to get the play off. There was a high snap and a turnover leading to seven Minnesota points. That was the fault of the center slightly, but mostly the coaches for not being ready to go. After that, the coordinators and Marrone called a nice game. Syracuse should have called a time out on the final Minnesota drive as WR Eric Decker was basically single handedly responsible for getting in field goal range. They should have regrouped or perhaps called a different defensive package to try to stop the passing attack. Hence why they get the worst grade of the day. But really, this was way better than the previous era, as evident in almost every way you could measure such things.

GPA
B (3.13)
Syracuse failed to win the game, when they easily could have. But despite the loss, this was not your typical “Syracuse is terrible” loss we have all seen the past few years. This was not a terrible Syracuse team. This was a good Syracuse team that failed to make plays late in the game, and allowed a good opponent to come back and win the game in overtime. This was a new era in Syracuse football, which is something that Syracuse fans, Big East fans, and probably even just football fans were waiting to see. I’ll take a loss like this versus any number of blowouts over the past four years any day of the week.

Syracuse will next travel to Happy Valley this Saturday to take on Penn State in a game that will surely be a loss for Syracuse. But I will be glued to see every exciting moment and moderate Syracuse success that we will hopefully get used to this season. Either way, I thought this game would be decided by a field goal, and it ultimately was. Greg Paulus, save for one bad decision, played a heck of a ballgame, and the coaches seem to know what they are doing once again. I am satisfied for now, but some interval of improvement needs to be made week to week. Doug Marrone should see to that.

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2 Responses to “Minnesota - Syraucse Postgame Reactions OR That'll Do, Greg. That'll Do.”

  1. # Anonymous josh

    I'm not sure about the coaching grade of B-, I think it's a bit generous. I'd give them a B for the first half (which was mostly fine, save for that first play) but a C- for the second half, where the offense in particular sputtered to a stop after Minnesota made halftime adjustments and Marrone & Co were not able to counter-adjust. The play-calling in the 2nd half was tough. That was one of G-Rob's (many) issues, assuming that something which worked in the first quarter would still work in the fourth. I have faith, though, that the current staff are not so blinkered as the previous administration, and that they will realize this is an area in which they (rather than the players) need to improve.  

  2. # Blogger Brian Harrison

    Josh,
    I don't disagree with your assessment. The second half is where you have to respond. But let's face it, the players did not help. They didn't make plays. Mike Williams was especially open several times, Paulus threw it, and Williams dropped it. Coaches can't do much about that.  

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