Syracuse had 20 first downs, converted twice on two forth down attempts, earned 385 total yards (270 passing, 115 rushing), and put up 41 points. Not a bad day against any team. Greg Paulus (21/28, 270yds, 2 TD, 0 INT) had an excellent day by the numbers, but really he just went out there and did his job. Delone Carter didn’t have the yardage he should have (72yds), but he did have four total touchdowns, which is a big day for him. What the offense did not do was convert on third downs, only doing so once out of eight third down opportunities. Really, this is the only troublesome thing about this offense currently though. The offensive line deserves some kudos for protecting Greg Paulus enough to throw some fakes in and hit Marcus Sales in stride for a big touchdown in the second half. Additionally they opened a huge hole for Delone Carter to score a big touchdown in the third as well. The biggest interesting statistic is that 11 different receivers got the ball in this game. Overall, a fine day for the offense.
I honestly wanted to give this team a fail here. Allowing a team from 1-AA to get as many first downs as your team is frankly unacceptable. However, if this was a normal team they would have only gotten a C or something like that. Therefore, they don’t quite deserve a fail. After all, they did end up winning the game. Because of that, they get a pass from me on this one. However, if they allow 430 total yards next week, we are looking at an awful long afternoon. Two interceptions help though, from Doug Hogue and Kevyn Scott.
When you let Maine recover two onside kicks and convert a couple of fake punts you have not done your job. Rob Long punted well, Ryan LICHTENSTEIN hit two field goals and all the extra points. You’ll only remember seeing the Syracuse special teams running helpless as Maine converted a fourth down. That is a fail.
This is barely a fail, but this is Maine. The stakes are low and we got a win, but being real for a moment, how do you not prepare your team for all the trickery that you should have known a team with nothing to lose that is inferior would use? Coach Bob Casullo, the special teams coach, should have prepared his team, and should have known the Maine personal enough to at least spot the second fake punt and other such things. Also, how do you not get your team to give the intensity they needed to in the first half. Also, am I the only one that felt that the play calling in the first half was too conservative? There is a difference between playing safe and playing effective. When you know Mike Williams is faster than any defensive player Maine has, take some shots. Too conservative for mine, and apparently the game’s taste, as Syracuse was down at the half.
Look, this was a win. I take a lot of grief from my friends for being too easy on the team in my grades, but I just handed out two fails here. Maine should not have had this game at the half, nor should they have been allowed to gain that many yards or put up that many points. I give credit to Maine. Clearly they are one of the better teams in 1-AA, but clearly Syracuse did fall into the mentality of looking past this team, and Syracuse cannot take a half of football off like that. This is a pass, just because it was a win.
Syracuse now looks to open conference play versus South Florida this coming Saturday at high noon for a Homecoming affair. This will be a true test to see how good this Syracuse, and to an extent South Florida, really is. It will not be an easy game, so we will find out what this team is made of and if they can respond when they are down, or conversely if they can hold a lead against a very good team. For now, they can rejoice, along with us fans, in the fact that this is a .500 team. And with a win, comes time to flip a banner.
|Last week's ballot|
Greg Paulus is doing just a fine job, thanks.
Welcome to the fifth edition of Monday Morning Quarterback here at Orange::44. This last Saturday’s game against UMaine was nothing short of boring, with flashes of OhMyGodAreWeLosingToMaine? As such, this MMQB will be short, to the point, and probably not worth a read. But if you stick with it—like those who stuck with the game Saturday night (all nearly 4 hours of it)—then God Bless You.
Despite the team’s overall lack of anything worth noting, especially during the first half of the game, Greg Paulus put together a nice little game for himself in his fourth ever start as a quarterback. On the day, he connected on 21 of 28 attempts for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns. Much of those yards, especially the longer completions, came in the second half. Despite Delone Carter’s monster game (TD-wise, not yards-wise) Syracuse was not running the ball well. Especially in the first half. Sadly it took until halftime for Syracuse to make the proper adjustments on offense, but that’s probably a coaching problem rather than a QB problem.
Here’s a couple of great stats: Greg Paulus was not sacked and not intercepted this entire game. Here’s a horrible stat: Syracuse was 1 for 8 on third downs.
Way too many times in this game, Paulus would lead the team down the field, stringing together some completions and some nice runs, and then get just outside the red zone (or maybe not even that close) and sputter. The team walked away with 3-points a couple times, which was nice. Looking at the stats, Syracuse only punted 3 times, which I find appalling, but I guess it is what it is. Maybe because the game was so long, it just seemed like we saw Rob Long punt more.
In Stallion news, we saw the offense run it a few times with Ryan Nassib. Interestingly enough, we also saw Greg Paulus in during the Stallion. Personally I think this is the last piece of the puzzle in terms of being able to use the Stallion to its maximum. Opposing defenses won’t know exactly what to expect, no matter who comes out with a hand towel hanging from his waist. This could come in extremely useful for the upcoming Big East slate.
Looking ahead to this week’s matchup against the South Florida Bulls, Greg Paulus gets to see his first Big East action. He’ll really have to step up his game, not necessarily stat-wise (though 400 yards and 5 TDs would be nice), but from a team leader point of view. If he can keep his poise and confidence on the field, I hope it’ll rub off on his teammates and Syracuse can stay competitive in this one. With Syracuse being a perennial doormat lately, and USF increasingly getting better (and with USF coming off a huge win at Florida State last week), it’s quite possible that this is USF’s trap game. Syracuse can be competitive if it believes it can win.
The Weekly QB Watch
Going into the upcoming game against the South Florida Bulls, the probability of starting is as follows:
Greg Paulus – 100%
Ryan Nassib – 0%
Cam Dantley – 0%
Charley Loeb – 0%
Other – 0%
Greg Paulus will need to give me a reason otherwise.
This is a more interesting matchup than you might initially think. Yes, Maine is a 1-AA school, but they do have some talent, and as a program they have done some damage at the 1-A level before. Maine uses a two headed quarterback system with QBs Warren Smith (18/29, 212yds, 1 TD, 2 INT) and Michael Brusko (18/26, 141yds, 1 TD, 1 INT). They are not nearly as talented as quarterbacks Syracuse has faced thus far though. However, they do have a solid running back in sophomore Derrick Session (63car, 314yds, 5.0avg, 3 TD). Defensively, they have some players, and have limited their opponents to 54 points total in three games. The big matchups will be the two lines up front. Syracuse will have to get pressure on the quarterbacks like they did against Northwestern, as well as stopping the run. Similarly, the offensive line of Syracuse will have to protect Greg on the blind side, as well as open up bigger holes for Delone Carter to run though. This should be easier, as 1-AA players are typically smaller than the normal opponents Syracuse faces. However, Maine could get creative and surprise the Orange and cause some turnovers. Ball security was a problem last week, and if it is again, Syracuse will have a long day. However, this should not be the case as Marrone has worked with the team all week on it, and there should be little to stop the chemistry of Greg Paulus and Mike Williams continuing. Look for a big day for the Syracuse offense and continue this win streak to two games. Syracuse over Maine 34 to 10.
I’ll be back in Syracuse for this night cap so look for me (@BH_Orange44) and Correspondent John Brennan (@jbren) on Twitter live from the Carrier Dome. Most may not make sense though, as our tailgate starts up promptly at 2:00pm, plenty of time for my liver to marinate. This should be a very enjoyable game to watch for Syracuse fans pending some epic collapse or mistakes galore, so enjoy this one if you can.
Nunes: That we are actually "not bad," just as we suspected. We're officially in a position where we can win games against mediocre teams and challenge decent teams at home. It's not much, but for Syracuse, it's a huge improvement.
I think most of us (except you) went into this game feeling like Syracuse could win. It was nice to be proven right for once (sucks to be you, though). Had we lost the game in a similar fashion to the way we lost to Minnesota, if would have felt like we were still stuck behind this wall we just can't get around and it would have stuck with us all season.
Not to mention the fact that being 1-2 at this point in the season is HUGELY different than being 0-3, especially with the chance to go 2-2 this week. And that with attendance quickly sagging, the win will likely slow that trend (Maine drop-off notwithstanding). That win was so huge.
2. Orange::44: Greg Paulus and Mike Williams were electric in this game. Is Williams' dropsies a thing of the past?
Nunes: Remains to be seen. Who’s to say why Williams, and most of the Syracuse receivers, were suffering through the dropsies. Obviously, Mike's proven that it was an exception and not the rule. If I were one of the other SU receivers, especially the young ones, I'd be working with Mike every chance I got to harness that "thing" he's got going for him.
When was the last time you could look at a QB-WR combo that had such a great game for SU? I honestly don't remember. Maybe Robinson-Williams two years ago. But that feels like ten years ago at this point.
3. Orange::44: What is different about this year's defense that makes them so successful?
Nunes: Conditioning and scheme. The two areas we expected Greg Robinson to take care of the most where his two biggest weaknesses as a head coach. We complained til we were orange in the face last year about how unconditioned this team looked. By the 3rd quarter they were almost always gassed. Now, there's an extra gear that a lot of these guys are kicking in and it's showing.
Plus, and I will say this until I'm orange in the face this year, Syracuse got an absolute STEAL on Scott Shafer. Assuming he sticks around for another couple years, he's going to turn this defense into a monster. Aside from one bad year in Michigan (which was probably less his fault and more RichRod), he's defenses have always been stellar and he's proven that an "attack" defense isn't just hyperbole, it's a real thing.
Of course, SU still has a lot of issues defensively, namely in the backfield. But based on what's available...it's been night and day.
4. Orange::44: Matt Grothe is done for the year. Several other Big East schools, save Cincinnati, are looking down. Suddenly, this season looks completely different for Syracuse, right?
Nunes: Yeah its funny. Everyone seems very quick to point out that the Big East is down overall but when you ask them to turn that into wins for Syracuse, they're still very hesitant. But aside from Cincy, can you honestly tell me any team in the conference looks like a shoe-in to beat the Orange?
USF just lost the #1 passer (stat-wise) in Big East history. Pitt is 3-0 but very untested. Rutgers laid an egg against the only real competition it's played so far. Louisville is nothing special. UConn is frisky but not imposing. West Virginia is way down.
I'm not saying SU should go 5-2 in the Big East. But I think for the most part, the Orange have the opportunity to win some football games, especially given what we've seen of them so far.
5. Orange::44: Doug Marrone is pretty stoic on the sidelines, but he is typically a straight shooter in press conferences. Did you want to see him be more excited after that first win?
Nunes: I thought his reaction was perfect. He was pleased but he acted like he's been there before. He's a big picture guy. He knows that one win is nice but it's not the final destination. His mindset seems to be "Great, we won one, now let's win the rest." And that's what we want. A guy who's not satisfied with "flashes." We want a guy who's not satisfied until we go 12-0. That's Dougles.
6. Orange::44: We've talked about Twitter the last few weeks. What do you think will be the next big thing for bloggers?
Nunes: Good question. I really feel like chats are dying a not-so-slow death. I'd like to see the comments morph into something else if that's possible. I look at blogs as mini-communities and the readers influence what's happening as much as the writers do in some senses.
Twitter has been such a great tool for that because it levels the playing field. We're no longer on my blog and you're the commenter. Now we're both on common ground, sharing the same info.
I'm sure the Next Big Thing is already happening. I look forward to jumping on its bandwagon six months late when it happens.
7. Orange::44: Finally, if you could share a luxury box with anyone while watching a Syracuse game who would it be and why?
Sounds corny but I would love to get all of the folks from the Syracuse blogs and radio and get us all together in a luxury box to watch a game together. All of those personalities in one room, making jokes, celebrating, eating way more than they should (we're bloggers after all), I just think it would be a fantastic atmosphere.
1. Orange::44: For those of us not familiar with Maine Football, what should we know about this team? How have they traditionally done in the FCS?
Rich Kimball: Maine has made three trips to the FCS/1-AA playoffs since 2001. In '01 & '02, the Bears won first round games at McNeese State & Appalachian State before losing in the national quarterfinals. Last year Maine lost in the first round to Northern Iowa. The Bears have seven former players on active NFL rosters, tops among FCS teams, including San Diego LB Stephen Cooper, Mike DeVito of the Jets, Jacksonville Special Teams standout Montell Owens, and Pro-Bowler Lofa Tatupu who played his freshman year at Maine before transferring to USC.
2. Orange::44: Who are the players that will have the most impact for Maine on the field this Saturday?
Rich: One of Maine's top offensive players, All-American fullback Jared Turcotte will not play. He has surgery this week for a groin injury and is out indefinitely. The Bears have used a quarterback rotation the last couple of weeks, led by 3rd Team All-American Michael Bruskoa sophomore transfer from Iona, Warren Smith. Maine also features a solid running back combination with sophomores Derek Sesson and Roosevelt Boone. Landis Williams and Desmond Randall have been the team's top receivers. On defense, Senior DE Jordan Stevens is off to a strong start, along with LB Brandon McLaughlin and safeties Trevor Coston and Jarrron McMillian.
3. Orange::44: What is your opinion of the Greg Paulus experiment, and what do you think of his performance thus far?
Rich: Personally, I think the Greg Paulus experiment is great for college sports. To have a young man of his tremendous talent get the chance to have one more year of athletic eligibility is something that I'm sure has generated a lot of excitement for Orange fans, and even the Maine fans have been talking about it, having watched his exploits at Duke the past four years.
4. Orange::44: What do you see is the biggest match up for the game Saturday night?
Rich: Maine has struggled to find an offensive rhythm with Jared Turcotte out of action and it won't get any easier against a tough BCS foe. I think the ability of the Bears fairly young line to keep guys like Arthur Jones and Jared Kimmel out of the backfield will be key, but most of all, Maine will need to try and find some offensive balance. On defense, Maine will be challenged in pass coverage, with some talented receivers like Williams and Davis to contend with. The Bears will probably try and keep things fairly simple, maybe trying to put some pressure on Paulus and of course, trying to contain the running of Delone Carter. For Maine to stay competitive, they'll have to play mistake-free football, get good field position and maintain a healthy time of possession.
5. Orange::44: Do you see this game being close, or will the players on Syracuse be too much for Maine to handle?
Rich: This is the sixth straight year that Maine has played a BCS opponent. In their first match-up, they beat Mississippi State 9-7...the next year they trailed Nebraska 15-7 and were driving for a score in the 4th quarter, before eventually falling 22-7. After a close game with Boston College the next year, they've been hammered in the last two "step-up" games, including a 40-3 loss at Iowa last year. Maine won't be intimidated, but it is a young team, still searching for an offensive identity. Obviously, Syracuse is a huge favorite, but the Bears have shown great resiliency the past few years, and they're a hungry bunch after a disappointing loss at Albany last week. Maine will take some comfort in the fact that four CAA teams have wins over BCS teams this year and UMass just missed beating Kansas State, so they're certainly not going out there expecting to lose.
6. Orange::44: Finally, Syracuse has a prominent school of broadcasting. Being a professional in the field, what is the best thing about being the play-by-play announcer?
Rich: I've been doing the play-by-play for Maine for thirteen years on radio and covered the team on television for many years before that. For me, radio play-by-play is the most enjoyable aspect of broadcasting. The chance to paint a picture for listeners, to try and make them not only feel like they're a part of the game, but to really help them visualize what's happening is great fun, and while I've covered many sports, nothing matches the week-in and week-out excitement of college football.
Editor’s Note: Rich Kimball is in his thirteenth season as the voice of University of Maine Football. He has been selected twice as Maine's Sportscaster of the Year by the National Association of sportscasters and Sportswriters and has won numerous play-by-awards from the Associated Press and the Maine Association of Broadcasters. Rich also holds a Master's Degree in Educational Leadership from the University of Maine and works as the Freshman Coordinator at Brewer (Maine) High School and is a veteran stage actor who has appeared in over sixty professional productions in the past fifteen years.
There were many things to be impressed by in this game. The first was the sixth best single game performance by an SU quarterback ever. Greg Paulus (24/35, 346yds, 2 TD, 1 INT) had the best game of his short career by finding Mike Williams (11rec, 209yds, 19.0avg, 1 TD) again and again. Williams also had a career day with 11 receptions and 209 yards. He currently ranks #8 nationally in both receptions per game and receiving yards per game. Delone Carter (18car, 84yds, 4.7avg, 1 TD) also had a nice day, and would have had a better day save for a holding penalty. Syracuse had 471 total yards, and more than Northwestern. Where the offense ruined their grade was ball security and third down conversions. Syracuse fumbled the ball several times, and luckily only lost it once. Additionally, although Syracuse earned 23 first downs, they only converted two of 12 third down opportunities. This is too low, and the ball needs to be more secure. However, you have to be impressed with the offensive performance overall last Saturday.
Syracuse allowed Northwestern to earn 25 first downs, convert six of 14 third downs, and 466 total yards. QB Mike Kafka seemingly had his way with the Syracuse secondary a lot of the game, easily converting those six third downs, and earning three passing touchdowns, one rushing, and one receiving. Yes receiving. Syracuse fell right into the Northwestern trickery and could do nothing to stop it, including missing several tackles. But it is not all bad news. As expected, Syracuse run defense was outstanding, limiting Northwestern to 52 rush yards. Additionally, Syracuse was able to get to Kafka several times early on to cause two fumble turnovers. Also Max Suter had the interception to set up the game winning field goal. Overall though, Kafka had a career night passing, and the secondary still needs to get better.
For the first time in a long time the offense far outshines the special teams. In general there were many things that the special teams has been doing better than they executed in this game. Mike Jones dropped several punts that he elected to fair catch, and luckily recovered. This had not been a problem before though. Rob Long had a fairly good day punting, with five total for 236 yards and two inside the 20. However, he did shank a kickoff that caused Northwestern to start on the 40 yard line. Then there was Ryan Lichtenstein, who had a field goal blocked. However, the saving grace of the special team’s grade is the fact that Lichtenstein made three of four field goals, the longest of which was 43 yards. He also hit a 41 yard attempt with the time winding down to win the game. That saves a far worse grade for this unit this week.
A solid effort from the coaches in this game. The offense utilized different packages that found obvious success in both passing and running the ball. The “Stallion” formation earned the yardage it was supposed to. Generally, the play calling kept Northwestern off their toes enough. The defense was excellent in stopping the run, and continued to find success in pressuring the quarterback. The timing of the ending field goal and the sequence to set up the kick from the middle of the hash marks was perfectly executed. I was skeptical about Marrone taking SU’s last time out early after the Suter interception, but he was smart to plan what to happen depending on the situation, and obviously it worked out for Syracuse. Kudos to the staff in this one.
Syracuse entered the Carrier Dome with expectations of winning their first game, and they did it. While several people picked the Orange in this game, I simply thought that Northwestern was too talented for Syracuse to beat. I was glad to be wrong, and there was no way I could have predicted the welcomed emergence of Mike Williams and Greg Paulus connecting, as well as the ice water veins of Ryan LICHTENSTEIN. Syracuse played a great game, and were well rewarded with their first win.
Syracuse now turns their attention to FCS (1-AA) Maine, who should be a win for Syracuse if Syracuse does not look past this capable opponent. To prepare for this game we will have a very special guest joining me later today to discuss the upcoming match. Stay tuned later today for that, and some information on where you can hear a great interview with Delone Carter. Good stuff on tap today so stick around.
|Last week's ballot|
* Utah also drops out after a loss to Oregon.
* USC drops out after being upset by Washington. They drop eight slots, just above Ohio State on my ballot, a team they beat the week before.
* VaTech makes a nice jump to the top ten after beating ranked Nebraska in a close one. Similarly, Cincinnati jumps three spots after getting a nice road win at Oregon State.
*BYU takes a huge tumble by ten spots. I was in love with this team last week, but the shine has worn off after losing to Florida State at home. Also, FSU back in the poll.
* Just a note, but isn’t LSU the most boring top ten team this season?
* Similarly, Kansas is still hanging around, beating far less opponents. I hate to rank them, but at this point I’m kind of stuck with them until they lose.
*Missouri is in the poll for the first time this year. They have quietly had some nice wins and are undefeated.
*Houston still hanging around after that big win over Okey State and a bye week.
Disagree? Think I’m a stooge? Leave a comment and make the sidebar!