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Monday Morning QB - 9/21/09

Greg, Greg, He's Our Man, If He Can't Do It...

Editor’s Note: The following article is a new weekly feature from Orange::44 correspondent John Brennan (twitter @jbren) that will run every Monday morning called Monday Morning Quarterback, assessing the quarterback situation of the Syracuse football team on a week by week basis.

Welcome to the fourth edition of Monday Morning Quarterback here at Orange::44. For the first time in the Doug Marrone Era, and the first time this season, Syracuse has won a football game! Saturday night’s thriller at the Carrier Dome ended with an Orange victory, 37-34. And clearly, starting quarterback Greg Paulus had a lot to do with it. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

The game began with Syracuse winning the toss and electing to receive. Paulus led the offense down the field, but a failure to convert on a crucial third down (more on this epidemic later) forced the Orangemen to kick a field goal. Obviously, 3 points on your opening drive is better than none. But even better than that, Northwestern fumbles the ball on their opening snap, and Syracuse recovers deep in Wildcat territory. Greg Paulus picks up his first rushing touchdown, and Syracuse is up 10-0. Just like that.

Later on in the first quarter, Paulus executes a flawless throw deep downfield to Mike Williams, who decided to act like a real receiver and not only catch a ball thrown right at him, but run it in for a 66-yard touchdown. Syracuse up 17-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Those are some of the big highlights. I’m sure you watched the game, so I won’t go through all of them. Greg Paulus went on to finish the day 24 of 35 for a whopping 346 yards, two touchdowns plus the one he ran in himself, and one interception. Clearly the best game of his short college career. Absent from the game was Ryan Nassib in any sort of traditional quarterback role – in fact, we never saw the Wildc---I mean the Stallion—until the third quarter. And a few snaps of it was all we would see. Fact is, Paulus was just too damn effective Saturday night for the coaches to want to mix things up. The old “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” theory.

That said, there were still some concerning aspects to this offense. Another game, and another futile showing on third down situations: two of twelve. Anyone who has watched this team over the past several years knows that third down inefficiency has plagued the program. Is there a quick fix? Obviously not, otherwise Doug Marrone & Co. would have found it by now. But I challenge Greg Paulus and his offense to improve on this stat throughout the season. There’s a dozen Insomnia Cookies in it for him.

Many of you may question the wisdom of Greg Paulus throwing for the end zone with 9 seconds left in the first half after a Northwestern turnover. I myself thought the situation was very clear: you’re in field goal range but there’s 9 seconds left and you’ve got a time out, so you take a shot at the end zone, and if that doesn’t work out, you get 3 and go into halftime with your head held high. The fact that Paulus threw an INT doesn’t change that philosophy, even with 20/20 hindsight. That’s gotta be the strategy 100 times out of 100. OK, maybe a situation might change that, but in this situation, that’s what you do. Greg, you’ll get no flack from me for that INT.

Sadly throughout this game, Syracuse was one bad snap away from total disaster. Jim McKenzie just for some reason wasn’t getting it done. I mean, the guy’s a biochem major, a Member of the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll every semester, 2007 and 2008 BIG EAST All-Academic Team selection – so I’ve got a lot of respect for him. And to have overcome the initial bad snap against Minnesota two weeks ago and perform as well as he has says something about his determination. That said, he was awful in this game. And I think he’d probably tell you that. I gotta tip my hat to Paulus for sticking with it and minimizing the damage. I believe it was the opening drive for Syracuse, third down, and Paulus takes a bad snap from McKenzie that rolls 10-15 yards backwards. Paulus runs back, scoops it up, rolls left and then throws it away. Smart for a couple reasons: it saved a potential turnover, and it kept field position in field goal range, which was the end result of that drive. So kudos to Greg on that. Some of the other bad snaps unfortunately did result in sacks or fumbles. I wouldn’t say I’m worried about this situation, but I’m concerned. And I’m sure the coaching staff is concerned, and McKenzie is concerned, and Paulus is concerned. Concern can lead to correction, and that’s what I want. They’ll be hard at work on this, I’m sure.

Looking ahead to this week’s match-up against the Maine Black Bears, clearly Greg Paulus is our guy. He’ll start the game, he’ll finish the game, and he’ll take a majority of the snaps in between. Short of an epic collapse, look for Paulus to put up similar offensive numbers. Not that the numbers are offensive—they’re actually quite pleasant—but you know what I mean. Maine just isn’t on the same level as Syracuse (no, really, like they’re even classified differently!) so I anticipate Paulus just picking apart the secondary (much the same way opposing teams do to Syracuse).

The Weekly QB Watch
Going into the upcoming game against the Maine Black Bears, the probability of starting is as follows:
Greg Paulus – 100%
Ryan Nassib – 0%
Cam Dantley – 0%
Charley Loeb – 0%
Other – 0%
Back to the original all or nothing numbers. Come on, tell me I’m wrong.

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