#5/7 (BCS #8) Cincinnati enters the Carrier Dome undefeated after seven games. This team is no joke. While starting QB Tony Pike is out, the backup Zach Collaros has been just as effective. In his last game he played very well (15/17, 253yds, 3 TD, 0 INT) and should continue to lead the team effectively. He has a hell of a target to throw to in WR Mardy Gilyard (47rec, 674yds, 14.3avg, 8 TD), and a decent back to hand off to in RB Isaiah Pead (57car, 368yds, 6.5avg, 5 TD). This offense is potent and effective, averaging 458.6ypg, good enough for 7th in the NCAA. They are also 2nd in the NCAA in points, averaging 40.7ppg. Good lord. Syracuse, meanwhile, gets back their #1 target in Mike Williams (45rec, 712yds, 15.8ypc, 6 TD) fresh off a one game suspension. Additionally, after last week it is clear that WR Marcus Sales (12rec, 142yds, 11.8ypc, 3 TD) is an excellent #2 target. Don’t forget about RB Delone Carter (130car, 530yds, 4.1avg, 8 TD) fresh off a career day against Akron, rushing for 170 yards and three touchdowns. This game is going to come down to the defenses though. Syracuse’s rush defense is phenomenal. 6th in the NCAA phenomenal to be specific. But the secondary will have a lot of trouble keeping up with Gilyard and the rest of Cincy’s receivers, just like every other team Syracuse has faced. I don’t think there is any way Syracuse can stop Cincinnati on Saturday through the air. However, if Syracuse can pressure Collaros, as well as force some turnovers, Syracuse has a great chance of making the game respectable. While my head flirts with thoughts of Syracuse once again upsetting a top ten team, this is just not the Syracuse team to do it. A closer game than most expect will do wonders for the minds of the team and fans though. Either way, Cincy should roll in this one. Cincinnati over Syracuse 41 to 27.
Even though the odds are slim, don’t lose hope that an upset isn’t within our grasp. As we have learned from this season so far, anything on the field can happen. Including a shit ton of turnovers. Unfortunately, despite Syracuse’s record on October 31st, this Halloween will probably be full of nightmares for Syracuse and their fans. But if you come to the Dome this weekend for a steal of a ticket price (definitely talking to you students), you should have a good time despite what is happening on the field. Have a safe and fun Halloween, and we’ll see you on the other side. Not many tweets will be had this weekend due to our costuming up, but we’ll have our standard coverage come next week.
Syracuse Is Beaten By Cincinnati
Syracuse gets destroyed by Cincinnati, even using a backup quarterback no less. Assuming (yes, I know this is a lot of assuming, but for the sake of the article come follow along) that Cincinnati then runs out the season beating every other conference opponent and Illinois, they should have a very good chance to play for the National Championship, which for the Big East would mean an awful lot. Chances are this would indirectly benefit Syracuse in the next few years because the overall conference will be in a better position. Additionally, playing in a National Championship would add strength to the Big East’s argument to remain a BCS conference in the future (if the BCS is still around). Syracuse will not have a bad loss, as Syracuse is supposed to lose this game. The team moves on, hopefully putting on a strong showing against a far superior team.
The problem: You are actively rooting against Syracuse University.
Syracuse Beats Cincinnati
Syracuse loves being the spoiler. Syracuse manages to beat Cincinnati unexpectedly giving them four wins. Additionally, Syracuse wins my predicted games of Louisville and Rutgers. The Orange get their biggest marquee win in several years, probably dating back to 2002. Syracuse becomes bowl eligible for the first time since 2004, and attends some marginal bowl, possibly getting some recruiting help, a small pay out, and respect from the nation far superior to last year. However, they would probably lose in that bowl game. Cincinnati loses the ability to play in the National Championship, possibly dooming the league to be a second tier BCS league for the next decade.
The problem: You are actively rooting against the conference, and possibly hurting Syracuse in the long run.
Granted I realize that I am exaggerating and taking the examples to the extreme, but these are very real possibilities. At this point can you see a team that remains on Cincinnati’s schedule that has a clear advantage over Cincinnati? Would Cincinnati’s chances to be in the National Championship not be gone if Syracuse wins? Clearly these situations could play out as I have stated earlier. It is certainly an interesting debate.
So there you have the possibilities laid out for you. Should you root for or against Syracuse this Saturday? I’ll leave you to make up your own mind. Either way I’m going to be in the Dome, in costume, acting like a huge jackass. Always the safe play to avoid any ethical dilemmas.
Editor’s Note: Just as a reminder for basketball articles, if statistics are not labeled it is the field goal shooting from the floor, then three point shooting, and then total points.
* Syracuse started out in man-to-man defense, but they also played a fair amount of 2-3 zone. This team looks again like it will be slightly better at man defense than the zone this season.
* James Southerland is a very good player. He was 7-7 from the floor and 5-5 on 3 point shots for 19 points in 14 minutes of work.
* I have always thought that Scoop Jardine was a flop. However, he actually impressed me with his much improved ball handling skills. He broke a couple of ankles. Too bad he couldn’t finish with a nice shot from the floor. He did draw several fouls and made 8-10 from the free throw line. He finished with ten points in 18 minutes. More impressive was his 11 assists, which came in all sorts of scenarios.
* Andy Rautins will be expected to carry the shooting load for this team from behind the arc. Sadly he is not as clutch as other great Syracuse players. He was stone cold in this game finishing only 1-7 and 0-4 from the floor. As my good friend Matt Glaude points out during the game, he will have cold games this year, but he is pretty good at defending on the floor, and that is a critical part of his game. I agree completely.
* Both Arinze Onuaku and Rick Jackson are better inside the paint. Rick Jackson took a while to get going, and you could tell he had a lot more off season rust than Onuaku, but he was pretty good. Onuaku was powerful and always seemed to be in the right place to rebound. Our inside game will be better than last year.
* Kris Joseph was also improved from last year. That is how this whole thing should work.
* I’ve said it in past years, but one of the keys to a great basketball team is the ability to consistently make mid-range jump shots. This team failed to show that they could do that in this contest. Hopefully it was just a cold shooting day, but the ability to hit a mid-range jumper is a very underrated skill in basketball at any level.
* The starting line-up was Brandon Triche, Andy Rautins, Wes Johnson, Rick Jackson, and Arinze Onuaku. Your guess is as good as mine if this will be your starters come opening day against Albany.
* Speaking of Triche, he played well delivering the ball to other players and shooting. He disappeared in this game so we will have to see if he delivers in the next game.
* Interestingly enough, Wes Johnson lead the team in blocks with four. Jackson had one and Onuaku had none.
Obviously we will know a bit more about this team in the next exhibition game versus Le Moyne, but this is a good start. This team will be pretty good and they will be pretty entertaining this season. This should be a relief for anyone panicking about losing Jonny Flynn. This was a nice (fake) win for Syracuse, and the team will be fun to see what they can achieve with the players they have.
Labels: The Blog Broke Again
Today's tip of the hat goes to the Marketing Department at SU Athletics. I guess I shouldn't be THAT happy for them, for finally implementing something that should have happened years ago, but baby steps are always appreciated. For the first time I can remember (and I base this on the time since I began freshman year in Fall '00), all Syracuse University students will be admitted to the football game this weekend for free. Sure, they need that pesky, hard to come by SUID -- so for the students going out drinking on Friday night, you might want to keep your SUID in a safe place.
It was difficult to tell what the student attendance was for last week's game against Akron, because it was Family Weekend (fka Parents' Weekend), so there was no student section. But I think we all know what the student section attendance was for the West Virginia game: let's just say I've had more people show up to a marching band party in my basement on Ackerman. So from a marketing standpoint, this makes perfect sense: dwindling student attendance + a noon game + Halloween weekend + the best team in the conference (or possibly the country, if Doug Marrone is to be believed) = free admission.
So of course, I'll add to the cliche "Now there's no excuse" mantra. I also expect to see some great Halloween costumes at the Dome. Please don't dress as bleachers. Also, you're all gonna get schooled by the costumes Brian and I have. This mystery prize being discussed: we own it.
On a different topic, what's ultimately better for Syracuse: beating Cincinnati to stay in the hunt for a possible bowl berth, or Cincinnati winning out for a shot at a BCS Championship?
Editor's Note: Unbelievable that for once we are chronicling the exact opposite of a daily disaster. For once SU Athletics got it right.
As I predicted, Delone Carter did have a season high. What I did not predict would be his career high day. He finished with 30 carries, 170 yards, 5.7ypc, and three touchdowns. Greg Paulus (12/17, 105yds, 1 TD, 0 INT) had a good game. Not a great game, but a good game. He did what he needed to do. But he could have played better. With Mike Williams out, someone needed to step up, and that person was Marcus Sales. He finished with six catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Not as dynamic of a receiver, he did what was asked of him, and played well. Syracuse earned 339 total yards on the day, including a season high of 234 rushing yards. They also gained 20 first downs. Ball security is still an issue as well. What is really troubling was only converting 2-9 on third down conversions. Syracuse still has trouble converting on third downs and that will be the downfall of this offensive unit until it is somehow corrected. 2-9 against Akron spells certain doom against the cream of the Big East crop.
Akron had 0 rush yards on the day. We knew Syracuse’s rush defense was solid, but this just proves it. The defense also caused two turnovers. They pressured the quarterback, and on several third down attempts, sacked the quarterback. Syracuse also limited Akron to only 1-11 on third down conversions. Also, in reality, they only allowed seven points in this game. The defense looked good, but as I said at the time we were only playing Akron after all. But in grading them on their performance, it was an excellent day. They earn their highest grade of the season.
The pride of the team a year ago has because a unit that disappoints. Special Teams gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown. Ryan LICHTENSTEIN also missed a 39 yard field goal attempt. He was then benched in the second half. Syracuse also allowed great field position on several of Akron’s kick and punt returns. Rob Long had a good day punting, doing it three times for 109 yards, all behind the 20. LICHTENSTEIN also punted once on a fake field goal (which everyone spotted a mile away, but hey it worked) and it was pinned at the one. While there were some good things that happened, mostly Special Teams disappointed on the day.
I think the one problem I have discovered about Doug Marrone is he is just too conservative a football coach for my taste. Now there is no way I think we should go for it on fourth down on our own 27 yard line, but when you have rushed well all day and it is fourth and inches in opposing territory, why would you not go for it? The “draw you offside play” never works in college and Syracuse tried it and then went and punted after a time out. Later on, on a fourth and long, Syracuse opts to run the ball, ala the Coach P era of “run, run, pass, punt” ball. With Mike Williams out, and a holy defense, Syracuse needed to run the ball all day and should have. But on a third and long you should pass the ball to try and convert, not run a QB keeper. Overall, a vanilla and generally unimpressive day from the coaching staff.
This was a win, and overall the team played well against Akron (as they should have), but we should have played better in several areas. Although this was a suspension Saturday, Syracuse missed a lot of opportunities to put this game away early and failed to. The team played well enough to win this game though, so they escape with a victory and an adequate grade. But this just goes to show the grading works. They did not deserve a big grade in this one because of all the mistakes and inadequacies. They merely squeak by for another week, biding their time for Cincinnati.
Syracuse now focuses on the best of the conference, Cincinnati, coming in on Halloween. For now though, Syracuse earns another win and brings them closer to a reputable season. Currently Syracuse has the same number of wins as last season. With five games remaining there is plenty of chance to do more with less, and yes even a bowl is possible. Crazy, right?
* There are no deltas because I didn't submit a ballot last week. Sorry about that.
* Kansas lost so I finally don't have to put them in my poll. Finally. I knew they were not for real.
* The Big East gets well represented in my poll, with Pittsburgh, West Virginia, and Cincinnati now all in. Cincinnati moves up to five in my poll, even though the BCS is currently screwing them.
* TCU makes a big jump after a big win in Utah.
* Slots 22-25 were hard to pick, as none of those teams really deserve to be ranked. But you gotta fill out 25, so I did the best I could.
* Think I suck? Let me know. Thanks to the folks who alerted me to my dumb inclusion of Georgia last ballot.
If Syracuse just runs the ball, this whole column becomes academic
Welcome to the ninth edition of Monday Morning Quarterback here at Orange::44. This edition was so awesome that you had to wait until almost Tuesday morning to get it!
It was good to get back into things and see Greg Paulus settle down against the Akron Zips, beating them 28-14. The big shocker here wasn’t the fact that Paulus was starting the game – it was that his #1 receiver, Mike Williams, was suspended for the game. I knew that translated into “Syracuse is gonna run the ball today,” before the game even started. And run the ball they did! But I’m not gonna talk about that here, since this is a quarterback article.
In the limited “packages” that did call for Paulus to pass the ball, he did relatively well: 12 of 17 for 105 yards, 1 TD, and no INTs. None. Zip. Oh, bad pun. Meanwhile, Ryan Nassib’s only passing attempt was right through the hands of would-be receiver Cody Catalina, who was wide open running to the end zone. I actually thought it was a good throw, Cody just didn’t catch it.
But at any rate, Nassib received quite a few snaps in this game, sometimes alternating snaps with Paulus. I didn’t like this play-calling. It’s one thing to put in Nassib to run the Stallion. Or even to run an occasional pass play. But it’s quite another to put him in purely to hand off the ball. That’s how he was used in this game.
Of course, this was a run-first game anyway. So had the situation been different (i.e. Mike Williams playing, or not playing Akron), one wonders whether the play-calling would have been different? Would Nassib have been sent in to hand off the ball? These are tremendous questions for which we may never have an answer.
One thing seemed clear, though. Greg Paulus is definitely Doug Marrone’s guy. He played well enough to keep his job, and, quite frankly, the job is his to lose from here on out.
And that brings me to this week’s matchup against the Cincinnati Bearcats. And this isn’t just any Cincy; this is a Top 10 Cincy. Maybe even a Top 5, depending who you ask. So, Greg, not to put the pressure on you or anything, but you’re gonna have to play a perfect game. Mistakes will translate into fans calling for Nassib. Maybe ultimately, that’s not fair. Cincy is better than Syracuse. Cincy should beat Syracuse. Cincy should outperform Syracuse. So if that’s what we Syracuse fans see on the field on Saturday, we shouldn’t be surprised. We shouldn’t call for Nassib. Necessarily.
Unless and until Syracuse is mathematically eliminated from bowl contention, they should be trying to win every game. Not that they shouldn’t anyway, but once you’re out of it, it’s OK to start experimenting, in my opinion. So, until that time, you put the guy out there that can win the game for you. I’ve been saying that for several weeks now, just like Doug Marrone has. And he’s pretty damn confident that Greg Paulus is that guy. And based on what I saw this past Saturday – and like I said, we know what the play-calling was – I think Greg is that guy.
The Weekly QB Watch
Going into the upcoming game against the Cincinnati Bearcats, the probability of starting is as follows:
Greg Paulus – 100%
Ryan Nassib – 0%
Cam Dantley – 0%
Charley Loeb – 0%
Other – 0%
Akron enters the game having one lowly win over Morgan State and that's it. And man, they have problems. Too numerous to mention. I’ll just stick to the statistics. Their quarterback, who has only played two games, is Patrick Nicely (hehe P. Nicely). He only had 298 yards, 0 TD, and 2 INT on the year. Their RB getting the most calls last week was DeVoe Torrence (13car, 90yds, 0 TD), who had an alright day carrying the ball, but failed to reach the end zone. He happens to have zero TD’s on the year. Moral of the story, this Akron team may have several of the players they did last year in a team that beat Syracuse, but this team seems to not be able to produce on the field this year. Syracuse is a more talented team and has more talented players in virtually every position. This should be a game that Syracuse handles well. Although there are shifts to the Syracuse offensive line, Delone Carter should have a nice day rushing and might eclipse his season best. Additionally Greg Paulus should have no trouble passing on this Akron defense as long as he effectively checks down to other receivers that could be open past his primary target in any given play. Also expect to see Ryan Nassib come in and take several snaps by virtue of him being mixed in or the fact we are up so much. Either way, expect a big day from Williams, Carter, and the Syracuse offense as a whole. Syracuse could get burned on some long pass attempts, but SU’s offense will have a productive day and should win this one handily. Syracuse over Akron (in sadly a revenge game) 37 to 13.
As always, I and Orange::44 Correspondent John Brennan will be on hand and on twitter (@BH_Orange44 and @JBren respectively). Tune into the game if you can on Time Warner Cable Sports or ESPN360 at 3:30pm. This should be the easiest game Syracuse will play this season, despite playing Maine, so you should see some good highlights from this one. New BlogPoll ballot and postgame reactions should be out Monday. Stay tuned for the usual #BeatAkron nonsense as well.
As I said on Twitter earlier this week, I find the entire Midnight Madness thing stupid and pointless. Not the idea per say (although it is very pointless), but I find the overall execution pretty dumb. Especially at Syracuse, as per the mission statement. Similar to what I said to Matt on his radio show about “Ernie Davis Legends Field”, it’s a nice idea and poor execution. This year’s Midnight Madness (which I also hate because it isn’t actually at midnight or even at like 11pm) was a lot of filler, and little substance. The opposite of a Hoffman hotdog really. About the only cool thing was the fact that GMac hit a half court show. The “practice” element really does nothing, nor do you really get to see anything worthwhile as a fan. Frankly, I think it would be more advantageous to just have an open practice some day, instead of having this entire affair, and then have the team sign autographs afterwards. Also, shame on SU Athletics for giving away a ton of tickets and saying the event was sold out. Yet another half assed marketing ploy from a half witted marketing department. The basketball team is beloved and talented. It sells itself folks.
I was sad to hear over the weekend that University of Connecticut starting corner back Jasper Howard was fatally stabbed outside of the UConn Student Union on Saturday night. This is really the saddest story for college football this season as by all accounts Jasper Howard was a good person who looked at UConn as an opportunity for him and his family. The first person in his family to go to college, he was hoping to use school and football as a change to lift his family up. The State Police investigative unit is gathering evidence and arrests have been made and more will be forth coming. Either way, for as much shit as I give Connecticut, this is a huge tragedy and Orange::44 sends our thoughts out to the friends and family of Howard and the entire Connecticut football team. No college student should have to experience a tragedy like this. We’ll keep you up to date as much as possible on the forthcoming prosecutions.
Greg Paulus will get the nod this week, but the leash is clearly becoming shorter for Paulus. Frankly, it should not be that hard to move the ball on Akron, but if it becomes so, look for Ryan Nassib to come in again off the bench and hook up with Mike Williams. For now, Paulus is the starting QB, but if he has another game like he did against West Virginia he won’t be for long.
While Syracuse is a disappointing 2-4 (0-2), we are exactly where I predicted the team to be. The only difference between what has actually happened and what I predicted is that we lost the Minnesota game but won the Northwestern game. Even though the last two games have been disappointing, moral of the story is that the team is right where they probably should be in terms of wins and losses. The team underachieved against West Virginia, but Syracuse should bounce back with two solid weeks of practice and a fairly easy game against Akron. I still predict wins coming against Louisville and Rutgers, so look for the team to perform well in those games. Probably not as well in the rest against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Connecticut.
Big East Standings
After the big Thursday night tilt against South Florida, Cincinnati is still undefeated and the team to beat in the Big East. Pittsburgh and West Virginia are next in line, both undefeated in the conference. USF and Connecticut are both 1-1 in the league, and Syracuse, Rutgers, and Louisville round out the bottom three. Either way, this league is turning out right about as expected as well. Cincinnati is still the surprise of the league, and probably the nation, and they are a damn good football team and seem almost unstoppable in earning their second straight league championship and BCS berth. If they keep winning and other teams such as Texas, Florida, or Boise State get a loss, there is no way that Cincinnati should be kept out of the title game, as they currently are fifth in the BCS standings.
This has nothing to do with Syracuse but is an interesting sports story. As some of you loyal readers know I was in Boston this past weekend helping with a friend’s charity poker tournament to raise money for juvenile diabetes. It was a nice event and I dealt cards for the tournament, which was enjoyable. The interesting part was that the hotel where it stayed was the Tennessee Titan’s hotel as they were in town to play the Patriots the next day. Had a brief conversation with the injured Jevon Kearse, saw Chris Johnson with his pants way down come in and pop a balloon, and saw them generally up past their curfew. Sadly no sighting of Keith Bulluck, the Titan’s only player from Syracuse on the roster. In case you missed it, the Titans were destroyed the next day. If you’d like to help fight juvenile diabetes, check out JDRF.
I’ll be blogging on the regular again, including my usual predictions tomorrow, BlogPoll ballot and report card next week. Until then, remember to not miss curfew.
Welcome to the eighth edition of Monday Morning Quarterback here at Orange::44.
Coming off a huge victory over the Bye Week, the Syracuse Orangemen are ready to see some real action again. And theoretically, the upcoming game against the Akron Zips should get them halfway there. But just where is this team and the quarterback situation, a week after nearly everyone was calling for Greg Paulus’ head?
I think people don’t feel any differently than they did a week ago. Doug Marrone still wants Greg Paulus to start against Akron. So do I. And no doubt many of you out there think it’s time to let Ryan Nassib take that opening snap. A week off may not have changed people’s opinions, but it hopefully has given people a chance to separate themselves from the West Virginia loss and hopefully cool down a bit.
Look, the bottom line here is that Syracuse needs to beat Akron. There’s a lot riding on this game: revenge from last year; a chance to go 3-4 on the season; gaining some momentum going into the Cincinnati game; saving my Nachos Grande from total destruction. And to that end, I really don’t care who lines up at quarterback, at the beginning, middle, or end of the game. As long as that person leads Syracuse to victory.
Victory. That’s what Doug Marrone is looking for. So obviously he will use the players that can best position the team for victory. Without even thinking about it, he knew that Greg Paulus taking that first snap would be a winning formula for the Akron game. OK, fine, I’ll take that. And what if that’s not working? In goes Nassib. It’s an easy switch, really. You go up to Greg and say “Hey, stay here,” and then go up to Ryan and say “Go kick some kangaroo ass!”
I alluded to this last week, and I still believe in it: Greg Paulus will be on a short leash. This is game #7, and this team simply cannot afford to wait until game #11 or #12 for Greg to shake off the rust. If it’s not off by now, then let’s say the Paulus Experiment had mixed results, cut our losses, and throw Nassib in the game. For someone to be the starting quarterback, that means that the coach thinks he can best lead the team to victory. It means he has the confidence of his offense. It means he has confidence in himself that he’s the #1 QB on the team. And I think those are all important things.
But do I think it truly matters whether Paulus or Nassib starts the game? No. Because they will both see action in every game from here on out (barring injuries, God forbid!). I think it will be interesting to see, when it eventually does happen, what Nassib will look like as the starting QB. Will he step up his game with the boost of confidence he’ll have?
And let’s not forget just how good Greg Paulus has been this year. His completion percentage of 63.9 sits atop the Syracuse all-time list. In average yards per game, he ranks 6th, at 197.8. That’s all pretty impressive. Sure sure, I know about the 10 INTs vs. only 8 TDs. And I know that the 10 INTs have been very ill-timed (not that there’s ever a great time for an INT). I know it’s the mistakes that make us scream with reckless abandon. And I know you can put up Heisman-like stats and lose a bunch of games and be considered a failure at QB. Because the most important stat as a QB isn’t completion percentage, or yards, or touchdowns. It’s wins. And right now, Greg Paulus only has 2.
So I get it. I know why I’m in the minority in wanting Greg to stay out there as the starting QB. But if Greg’s most important stat doesn’t become a 3 by about 6:30PM this Saturday, then I think it’s time to usher in the Ryan Nassib Era.
The Weekly QB Watch
Going into the upcoming game against the Akron Zips, the probability of starting is as follows:
Greg Paulus – 100%
Ryan Nassib – 0%
Cam Dantley – 0%
Charley Loeb – 0%
Other – 0%
Doug Marrone said so. But even if he hadn’t, I would still pick him as the starter. Maybe not 100% though. Maybe 85%. Assuming Greg doesn’t completely collapse, I do think he’ll take at least 75% of the snaps against Akron. But if Syracuse doesn’t score on its opening drive, look for Nassib to suit up real fast.
I’ve finally given an actual failing grade for one of these, I was that upset with their performance. Ryan Nassib deserves some credit. He got thrown into the game in the second half and played like he was a starter. He was calm and cool in the pocket, made good decisions, and his arm was dead on accurate. That cannot be said for Greg Paulus who played terrible in the first half. He ran all around, failed to see open receivers, under threw the ball, and just looked like a third rate QB. The horrific number of drops was also outrageous. Donte Davis had one of the absolute worst drops I have seen in a game in a few years. Mike Williams was about the only receiver in this game that didn’t have some sort of horrific drop it seems. The offensive line was about the only good unit for the offense, and that is saying something. They only finish with 222 total yards (150 passing, 72 rush), but the big statistic is Syracuse 0-11 on third down conversions. Just a terrible day for the offense, and easily the worst game we have seen out of the offense all year.
Nothing special here, but nothing too egregious like the offense’s ineptitude. The secondary was predictably burned several times, but other times they managed to hold their ground. They were helped out in the second half by several WVU drops, but sometimes they did have good coverage and made receivers miss. They allowed 385 total yards from WVU however, and let Syracuse get down 27-0 at the half. They did manage to force and recover a WVU fumble though, and limited Jarrett Brown’s rushing as they were supposed to. Either way, we knew WVU was a better team, so this defensive effort was probably expected and they managed to not give up any horrifically huge plays like in the USF game. So a better job, but still much to improve.
Ryan LICHTENSTEIN did not attempt any field goals, but he did have two extra point attempts. One of which was missed. A fitting way to end SU’s first scoring drive in the second half. Rob Long punted very well though. He booted nine times for a total of 381 yards, and four were pinned behind the 20. Unfortunately WVU could almost move the ball at will. Mike Jones and Averin Collier did a nice job on kick returns though, putting Syracuse in good field position several times. Nothing special here either, and missing an extra point is NEVER good.
When you know that West Virginia has a shaky secondary like Syracuse, and you have Mike Williams as a receiver, why would you not throw the ball more. Also, after getting a ten yard holding penalty on first down, would you call a run up the middle? Coach P would have. This staff did as well. Either way, Marrone’s obsession with having a balanced attack of 50/50 run and pass is a pipe dream. Syracuse should go to the air early and often until other teams prove they can stop the attack. Of course I say this assuming that our QB’s will not throw directly at the opposing defenders, and that is a big assumption. Either way you get my point about the play calling. If you fail to exploit the weaknesses of the opposing teams, it is basically handing the game over. Unacceptable, and Marrone should know this.
This game was a huge step back for the team. It was miserable to watch in the Dome, miserable to see on television I’m guessing, and miserable execution on the field. Again, I called this game a loss, but I also thought this Syracuse team would make some plays. Instead they seemed unprepared and not ready to play. Syracuse looked like a last place team again, and that is not going to help the program at all.
We start a new section on the postgame reactions this week, in which I discuss various odds and ends to the game day.
First, A+ to the Syracuse University Marching Band, the Pride of the Orange, for their work on Saturday. They were scheduled to play their usual half time but had to call the audible because of course Syracuse’s marketing people cannot plan anything out correctly so of course the halftime dedication of the field took too long. Instead they played a postgame show, and it was outstanding. Easily one of the best performances I have seen from a college band. As a former member and staff member I am once again very proud to be associated with the SUMB. This may sound like I’m just blowing sunshine, but I am usually overly critical of them, and this time they delivered.
D to the Carrier Dome for playing “We’re Not Gonna Take It” after every single WVU score, and “Start Me Up” when Syracuse started every drive. Carrier Dome, it doesn’t work, sounds stupid, and we already have a band.
B+ to the Carrier Dome staff that made the switch from the four slotted beer carriers to the two slotted ones. At least the environment will be slightly saved by the efforts. I blame our video for the change.
B+ to the Syracuse Twitterati who by the end of the game was just changing Ben Folds lyrics to fit Syracuse. It made me smile at the end of a horrific game.
B+ to the WVU fans in the Dome. Usually they are rowdy or obnoxious, but I think they were generally reasonable and under control for once. Good for you guys.
D to the first down thing that WVU does on every single first down. It is just stupid, and I’m surprised more WVU fans don’t think so as well.
F to the Student Section. I know it is a nooner, but give me a break. There were more kids at the Maine game and I’m sure they were mostly drinking all day and they still showed up. Shame on the students this week, who I guess are more fair weather than the Syracuse community.
Syracuse now heads into a much needed bye week. Maybe they will regroup against the much easier Akron team they will face in two weeks. They should, as even DOCTOR Gross knows Syracuse should beat Akron 100 out of 100 times. If not, you will see an even further drop in bodies in the seats. Marrone has a lot of work to do in the short run.
Welcome to the seventh edition of Monday Morning Quarterback here at Orange::44.
If “Ernie Davis Legends Field” is meant to honor mostly Ernie Davis, but also all Syracuse football legends, surely Greg Paulus was not playing his way onto that list. The kid just seemed like he had zero confidence in this game, and the play calling from the sideline seemed to reflect the same nonconfidence. I may have just made that word up, but my wordsmithing is still more effort than we saw from Greg this week.
Paulus finished five of nine for 30 yards and an interception before being pulled from the game during halftime. Clearly the worst game of his short career. For a kid who either didn’t have the confidence going into the game, or who lost it all by throwing a stupid interception on Syracuse’s first drive, the stars were just not aligned for Paulus. Or, they were, but in a bad way. At any rate, this first drive of Syracuse was actually the most productive of the game for Paulus, who had brought the team down the field 34 yards before tossing it up. So maybe he did have some confidence going in; but it was surely lost with the INT. Paulus’ remaining drives in the half were 3 plays for 6 yards, 3 plays for 6 yards, 3 plays for -7 yards, 4 plays for 17 yards, and 3 plays for 3 yards. For those counting at home, that’s four 3-and-out’s.
As I alluded to earlier, I think that the play calling significantly changed as well. It seemed like Syracuse was a run-first team. Now granted, DC3 et al are good backs; I agree we should be a run-first team. Those “legends” we honored with big block letters at mid-field are mostly running backs, let’s be honest. But let’s also be honest about the ineffectiveness of the offensive line. They’re too inexperienced (and, frankly, to sucky) to allow Syracuse to be a run-first team. And with the relative success Greg Paulus has had up until Saturday’s game, clearly I think Syracuse had established itself as a pass-first team. But that playbook went out the window.
Doug Marrone, being the realist he is, knew he had to make some halftime adjustments. Of course, I would hope anyone would see that when you go into the half down 27-0. Thus, Ryan Nassib got the call up to start the second half at quarterback, and the job for the rest of the game was his to lose. Nassib put up decent numbers: 7 of 16 for 120 yards and 2 touchdowns, including an awesome 50-yard TD pass to Mike Williams on what I believe was a play fake. I dunno, I was only half paying attention to the second half, because I had gotten it in my head that it was all junk time. Plus I really wanted a nap. More on that later. What I did pay attention to, however, was one thing I liked about Nassib and one thing I hate about the receivers. Strong throws, and dropsies, respectively. If we can get the O-line to hold strong, the receivers to run their routes and not slather up with butter, and Nassib to continue to fire those balls across the field, then I see bright things for the future. But that’s a lot of ifs.
So, bottom line is that Syracuse lost 34-13. However, Syracuse won the 2nd half, so that was nice. Too bad that counts for Jack. But, does Nassib’s insertion into the game for the entire second half create that dreaded 11-letter c-word? With quarterback in front of it? If you said concussion, you’re wrong. That’s 10 letters. If you said constipation, maybe you’re right but I have no way of confirming that (plus it’s 12 letters). I’m talking about a quarterback controversy.
I guess when I first started the MMQB, I did so with the assumption that Greg Paulus would not be the hands-down unanimous pick for QB for the entire season. Even if his performance level remained high, you knew at some point Ryan Nassib (or someone else for that matter) would work their way into the conversation, even if only for the simple reason that next year, there is no Greg Paulus. Next year is Ryan Nassib or Charley Loeb or whomever else may come along. Hell, we could get another point guard, right? The fact of the matter is that if I’m Doug Marrone, I’ve got to get somebody else some meaningful game experience under center.
And now might be the best time to do it. All joking aside, the calendar for this Saturday says “Bye,” and we all know this isn’t a real team, so we get the week off. Syracuse then returns to action on October 24 against Akron in the Dome @ Ernie Davis Legends Field (now required nomenclature when mentioning football at the Dome). In theory Akron should be a winnable game. Doug Marrone has already announced that Greg Paulus will start that game. Fine. So be it. But you’ve got to think that he’s on a very short leash. Because quite frankly, I think we should spook the Cincinnati Bearcats on Halloween by starting Ryan Nassib. Honestly, Cincy’s playing fantastic football right now, and not even the brightest Syracuse optimist should think there’s a realistic shot at an Orange victory on October 31. So why not let Nassib start that game? It gives him the confidence of starting, the experience of playing in a big game against a big name opponent, and the determination to go out there and just play because, hey, you’ve got nothing to lose.
And that’s not to take anything away from Greg Paulus. I would want Greg to get a lot of snaps in that game. He shouldn’t be thrown to the sidelines and forgotten, just because we want to start planning for next year. Oh jeez, there I go. “Next year” is rearing its ugly head. Come on, John, we’re halfway through the season! And we don’t have a head coach who thinks about next year; he thinks about what it will take to win this week. Or next week if we have a bye. But who’s to say that Ryan Nassib isn’t the right choice to lead Syracuse to victory against the Bearcats?
Or maybe I’m still just getting ahead of myself. The next game, after the bye week, is the Akron Zips. Greg Paulus will start that game. This much has been confirmed. But know this: Ryan Nassib will play in that game. A lot, probably. And I’ll be OK with that. I’ll be great with a Syracuse win, no matter who starts or who gets more snaps or who plays the entire second half.
The Weekly QB Watch
Going into the upcoming game against the Byeweek Bungalows, the probability of starting is as follows:
Greg Paulus – 0%
Ryan Nassib – 0%
Cam Dantley – 0%
Charley Loeb – 0%
Other – 0%
Obviously all zeroes with no game to start. Check back next week for a look ahead to the game against the Akron Zips.
As a side note to all this quarterback controversy, did anyone catch Cam Dantley and Andrew Robinson on Syracuse Sidelines this past week? They were putting on the happy faces about their new lives not being the starting quarterback this season, but you could tell, they wanted to be out there in Greg’s shoes. But good job of foreshadowing, Time Warner Cable Sports!
|Last week's ballot|
West Virginia, fresh off four fumbles lost in a mostly close win against Colorado, enters the Carrier Dome looking to earn a nice conference win against rival Syracuse and keep that cute little rivalry trophy that has never been in the possession of Syracuse since I entered school there. I could tell you statistics like WVU ranks 13th in the country in total yards with 465.3ypg or that while Syracuse averages 94 rush yards a game, WVU averages 208.5. But frankly these statistics are not going to matter much. This game is going to be a shootout. Syracuse, and by Syracuse I mean Greg Paulus and Mike Williams, are going to do everything to make sure that Syracuse gets on the board. WVU QB Jarrett Brown will also try to stretch the field vertically. Syracuse’s defense will probably allow a few running plays, but WVU and RB Noel Devine, who burned SU last season late in the game, will probably not have the same success this year. If Syracuse can contain Brown like they did BJ Daniels last week, Syracuse has a very good chance of ending up on top. But let’s face it, Syracuse’s secondary sucks. That being said, so does WVU. This game is going to be an air show. The difference will be who can outlast the other team and not throw interceptions. While I do not think Paulus will throw nearly as many, he will probably toss one up when he shouldn’t. Either way, West Virginia is just a slightly better team right now than Syracuse is. So I think that this game will go much like last week, although probably not as tragic or lopsided. Syracuse will make a respectable showing on the scoreboard. Hell, Syracuse might even win this. I’m just not that confident, and therefore will stick with my original pre-season call of the loss here. Syracuse loses to West Virginia 35 to 24.
Today is a day that I have waited for though. Not only will this weekend be fun, as several of my good friends will be in town for this match, but today is #BeatWVU day on Twitter. While I realize that sounded ridiculous, several WVU sources have called down the thunder of the Syracuse faithful. Today should be epic, so if you are on Twitter, be sure to check out that hashtag above. It will surely fill you with all the WVU hate you can stand just in time for the weekend. I’ll be in the Dome as per usual on Saturday at nooner (Editor’s Note: Christ these nooners are killing me slowly), so check out @BH_Orange44 and Orange::44 Correspondent John Brennan at @JBren as well. One thing is for sure, you can expect several ridiculous photos of some of the… “colorful” WVU fans that will be in attendance. Meanwhile, I’ll see you on the Twitter.
PS: WVU, you better bring the guy Mountaineer. Leave that amateur, chick Mountaineer in Morgantown. I gotta be able to yell “your mascot is just a dude with a gun."
They looked alright in the first half, and dreadful in the second. Overall it was not a bad outing for the offense as a whole, earning 344 total yards, 23 first downs, and 9-15 first downs. But as you know the turnovers, seven total, were asinine. While Mike Williams (13 catches, 186yds, 14.3avg, 2 TD) is putting a legitimate All-Big East campaign together, he cannot do it along. Delone Carter had only 43 yards. The next closest receiver only had 27 yards. This is a problem. The turnovers really killed this entire team though, and they earn a middle grade for being a middle unit.
It is the same for the defense, because the situation is the same. Syracuse can stop the run. Syracuse cannot stop the pass. While USF got 125 rush yards total, only 68 came from RB Mike Ford. Syracuse also caused three turnovers, which is very good. But you knew as soon as Syracuse gave up an 85 yard pass on USF’s first offensive play of the second half, it was all downhill from there. The secondary is just dreadful. I can’t say that enough. Back in 2005 it was the offensive line. Today, it is the secondary. Start recruiting Doug.
Nothing too special, but they did their job. Rob Long only punted twice, because you do not need to punt when you just pass the other team the ball. However, he punted one beautifully behind the 20. Ryan LICHTENSTEIN hit both field goals attempts, the longest of which was 40 yards, and two of two extra points. Nothing else is worth noting. There were no epic collapses from the unit this week, so kudos to them.
I think the gameplan for this week was probably fine and correct. I think they prepared for BJ Daniels as well as could have been done, and they did a nice job of containing him. However, every time they had him on the run, the secondary was well off some receiver and they converted. I don’t know what more could have been done by the coaches. It seems that the secondary is just basically talentless at this point.
This game was much like a lot of games last year. The team would have moderate success, the other team would adjust, and then fireworks for them. Sadly the defense was not helped by being on the field several more times because of the seven turnovers the offense had. Syracuse was probably not going to win this game anyway, but being down by only one at the half, and then giving up the ball so many times, it sealed their fate. You cannot win by turning over the ball seven times. You also cannot win without a secondary.
Syracuse takes on West Virginia this Saturday at noon in the Carrier Dome once again. I’ll have more coverage on that tomorrow. For now I’ll attempt to rest so I’ll be able to be there again in person.
|Last week's ballot|
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.