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Take all the blame you want Greg, your team still sucked.
Syracuse is clearly a mystery. A true mystery in college football. Rutgers is not as much. While Syracuse played a bad game the previous week on offense, the defense was solid, limiting the Cardinals to a decade low 151 total yards. That continued, but the offense woke up in front of their home crowd. Similarly, my thoughts on the Rutgers blowout of USF were right; USF had a bad day and Rutgers played above their pay grade. This game signaled a return to the expected in more ways than one. Syracuse beats #25 Rutgers handily in the final home game of the season 31 to 13.

Once again we get a game in which the ground game worked exceptionally. This is due to the run blocking of the offensive line. They also protected both QB’s well. Both QB’s performed well on the day statistics wise. Greg Paulus (13/16, 142yds, 1 TD, 0 INT) was on the money all day. While he left the pocked early again, he hit open receivers accurately and found the open men downfield. Ryan Nassib (4/6, 69yds, 0 TD, 0 INT) was not very accurate on the day, but the receivers made up for underthrown or misfired balls by catching them for good gains. The running game was the real show, with three touchdowns being gained on the ground, including a 60 yard TD run by Averin Collier. Antwon Bailey and Delone Carter also had touchdowns. Additionally, eight different receivers had receptions on the day including backup tight end Carl Cutler who only had one, but it was a one yard reception as he was wide open in the end zone for a touchdown. Syracuse had 23 first downs and was 6-14 on third down conversions. They also converted 1-2 on fourth down. The big statistic of the day was the 40:01 time of possession Syracuse had on the day. That is an astounding number, and allowed the defense to succeed as well.

Simply an inspired performance from the Syracuse defense that was understaffed and vastly not believed in by the public. Doug Hogue recorded 6.5 tackles for loss (a school record) and 3.5 sacks. He earned Big East defensive player of the week and a national honor as well. Syracuse’s nine total sacks tied a single game record for Syracuse. The Syracuse defense only allowed 130 total yards from Rutgers (only 26 rushing yards), 19:59 minutes of possession, only allowed 2-11 third down conversions, and had two interceptions. This looked like a defense that could win a bowl game. Mike Holmes had both of the picks. This defense never looked tired because they were rarely on the field. The various packages they implemented hided their blitzes well, and they found success in changing where linebackers or cornerbacks came from. Additionally, the secondary finally looked like a division 1, BCS Conference secondary. They did not give 5 yard buffers to every defender, but rather defended well, save for one pass interference call. They were simply outstanding compared to every other single game they have played in. It was night and day better with this secondary.

Special Teams
Special teams has become the worst part of Syracuse. I get it. When you have players that get injured you need to play the second string guys, which mean the third string players get to do special teams. However, basic things like kick coverage, punt coverage, blocking for field goals, and blocking for punts have to occur. They just have to. You’ll get a blocked punt or field goal once in a while, but for one of each to happen in a game, along with giving up massive yards in kick returns is simply unacceptable at this level of college athletics. I sadly called that punt block, but I regretted it as soon as I saw it was actually going to happen. Luckily the defense was playing so well that only giving up a safety was better than a touchdown. Too bad they also allowed Rutgers to convert a two point attempt to get their score to ten after their only touchdown of the day. It didn’t matter in the end, but it mattered at the time as Syracuse was only up by seven before our final touchdown.

Both the offensive and defensive plans for this game were executed to perfection. Syracuse’s offensive play calling was inspired, showed some new looks in the option attack, used the wildcat formation sparingly, and genuinely seemed to confuse the Rutgers defense and coaches. Also, what was missing from last year’s play calling, and even earlier this season, but was clearly present on this day was that Syracuse was adjusting to what Rutgers gave Syracuse, allowing them to be successful even more. Similarly, when your defense gets nine sacks, you know you are calling the right schemes. Plus a little luck in guessing snap counts never hurts either. However, I cannot give the A in good conscience here because of the massive failings on special teams. What I will give credit on special teams for was after being up by two scores going for the onside kick. People may disagree with me on this point, but the simple fact of the matter is that we have been yearning for this kind of coaching all season. Up by two scores, going for the jugular on that play was a great call to try. Too often we saw when down in a game that Marrone was too conservative on his calls. With nothing to lose and the underdog in the game you have to take some calculated risks to get back into a game or make sure another team doesn’t. Marrone has been hesitant to do this all season save for a fake field goal pooch kick. This was a perfectly called game by Marrone and his staff, save for the preparation of special teams. Also, when your team doesn’t commit any turnovers you know you are doing something right.

B- (2.5)
This was an outstanding game to be at. I’m not going to get into the greater implication of this win in this specific article because I have a weekend recap planned in which I can detail the true level of success that should be out later today. But clearly this was a team playing desperately for respect, trying to protect a legacy by moving the program forward again, and playing for seniors who have given everything they could over the past four years and playing their last game on the field of the Carrier Dome. Everyone played with a purpose, they looked fresh, and played every play like it was their last. This was truly an amazing game to be at as a fan and alumnus, and I am sad that it failed to make it on the television. This is the game, above all others this season, that should truly give the fan base and community enough evidence that the program is heading in the right direction again under Doug Marrone.

Syracuse now turns to their other regional recruiting rival the University of Connecticut. The Orange head to East Hartford on Saturday to take on a team they have never beaten in Rentschler Field. Syracuse would like to end this long and hard season on a positive note to build some momentum for next season. However, even if we fail to win in the Constitution State, this team is one that will be remembered not only as Marrone’s first, or the team Greg Paulus was quarterback of, but a group of players that never gave up on the team, their school, or themselves and played one hell of a final home game in 2009.

Now some other grades:

F- to the Carrier Dome for continuing to the very end in insisting on playing “Start Me Up”. If only the Rolling Stones could write the school and ask them never to play it again.

A+ for getting to watch a Rutgers fan section, completely full, sit with horror and agony for a good 50 minutes of football. It’s not very fun when the shoe is on the other foot is it? However, considering how that used to be the norm for Rutgers fans before 2004, it should be just like riding a bike.

A- for the Rutgers Marching Band making an appearance in the Carrier Dome. Usually one opposing team’s band stops by every year and it was Rutgers’ turn. However C- for their halftime show as it was another Michael Jackson Tribute show, and it wasn’t even half as good as the Syracuse University Marching Band’s MJ show merely weeks before.

Another band related A to the SUMB for having a great season. One of the best in recent years in my opinion. They played and cheered through all eight home games. Six games is bad enough when your team is having a down year, but eight is quite the order, and of course they handled it with grace and professionalism. They even got a well deserved game ball this year. Keep up the good work! Sitrus better be just as good.

B+ to the Syracuse Twitterati for the #BeatRutgers work this week. C- to our Rutgers friends out there for taking it a little too seriously. We’re cool though now. All is forgiven as we won Friday and Saturday.

Sadly, B+ to DOCTOR Gross as I guess it is once again true that we are “New York’s College Team”. He was right, and we now are. This, combined with the basketball team’s weekend, earned us that title for at least a year.

A+ for top notch comedy when, while Rutgers was losing (oh wait that was the whole game) tweeted “See what happens when you pump your own gas!” Outstanding, and the best line of the day.

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