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Monday Morning QB - 10/5/09

South Florida's game ball goes to Greg Paulus
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 sixth edition of Monday Morning Quarterback here at Orange::44.

Last week I said Greg Paulus would need to give me a reason to think otherwise on him being our go-to guy at quarterback. He took me up on that offer.

Or, at least, that’s how I felt during and immediately after Saturday’s 34-20 loss to the Bulls. Seven turnovers by the offense, including five INTs thrown by Paulus (one a pick 6). If there was a Greg Paulus that sucked, then this must have been it, right?

Well, maybe this is one of those cases where cooler heads prevail, because after having some reflection time, I still feel pretty damn good about Greg Paulus. I mean, after all, he was 25 of 46 for 269 yards passing, along with two TD throws to Mike Williams. Maybe that completion rate leaves something to be desired, but let’s consider that stat for a second. 46 attempts and 25 completions! That’s a lot, no matter who you’re talking about!

And then you consider another stat. Syracuse had 14 offensive possessions. Seven ended in turnovers, four in scores, and two in punts. Paulus & Company were moving the ball Saturday afternoon! In fact, they went 9 of 15 on third down conversions, which boggles my mind!

Then you consider just how good the South Florida defense is. Now I’m not saying that Syracuse exploited them or anything, but let’s face it: Syracuse was able to make a lot work. Take away the takeaways, and Syracuse probably wins. Maybe I didn’t think this at 4pm Saturday afternoon, but this head has cooled.

So why the seven turnovers? I blame a good, experienced defense taking on a work-in-progress offense. Should Syracuse protect the ball better? Of course. Should the offensive line give Paulus more time? You bet. Should Paulus make better decisions? No doubt. There are all things to improve upon, not simply failures. Did they cost Syracuse the game? Probably. But if they continue to work hard on fixing those issues, and continue to perform well otherwise, there’s no reason why this team cannot compete in the rest of these games. Even the Halloween matchup against Cincinnati. I said compete, not necessarily win.

One more thing worth mentioning about this game against South Florida. The running game needs work. 30 attempts for 75 yards means that Greg Paulus just has that much more weight on his shoulders. I know it’s cliché to say that a good running game allows you to have a good passing game; but clichés are true for a reason. Now sure, up against a great rush defense you’re gonna alter your game plan. Hell, look what Syracuse did to Penn State. But I think the biggest factor in the pass-run disparity is the O-line. I don’t think it’s Delone Carter or Antwon Bailey (maybe it’s Mike Jones, but let’s face it, he needs to be running down the field before he gets the ball). Again, room for improvement. We’ll leave it at that.

Coming up this Saturday, at noon unfortunately, is a matchup with the West Virginia Mountaineers. I see two similar teams. Both tried hard this past weekend to lose their games by committing turnovers; only Syracuse was successful in that depressing endeavor. I expect both teams to focus on ball control in practice this week, because let’s face it, you never want turnovers to be THE reason you lose a game. If Syracuse makes progress in the areas mentioned above (progress, not a total fix – I’m not unrealistic here) then I think Syracuse has a shot. And hell, let’s just say that Greg Paulus had “First Big East game” jitters and blame the 5 INTs on that. Now that he’s got that out of the way, the Mountaineers can just be another Northwestern. Right?

The Weekly QB Watch
Going into the upcoming game against the West Virginia Mountaineers, the probability of starting is as follows:
Greg Paulus – 100%
Ryan Nassib – 0%
Cam Dantley – 0%
Charley Loeb – 0%
Other – 0%

Since none of the other QBs on the roster saw any significant time in Saturday’s game, I think it’s safe to say we’ll just stick with Greg. Honestly, he’ll probably have to be injured to not start at this point.
Note: Greg, please don’t get injured.

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