Editor’s Note: The following article is a weekly feature from Orange::44 correspondent John Brennan (twitter @jbren) that runs every Monday morning during the football season called Monday Morning Quarterback, assessing the quarterback situation of Syracuse football.
Welcome to the fourteenth and final edition of Monday Morning Quarterback for the 2009 season here at Orange::44.
Greg Paulus was the starting quarterback for Syracuse for the first eleven games. The twelfth, and final game, against UConn, would also belong to him. Paulus ended the season, and ended his career, with possibly his best game. Greg threw 24 of 32 for a whopping 296 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He was also the team’s second leading rusher, with 28 yards.
Still, he was sharing snaps with Ryan Nassib. Stat-wise, Nassib had a pretty good game too, with 7 of 9 for 64 yards and a touchdown pass of his own. However, he also lost 19 yards on the ground. Throughout this game, it seemed pretty clear to me who the better quarterback was, and which QB would put this team in the best position to win the game. Unfortunately, the coaching staff still had “packages” for Nassib. More often than not, Nassib was in the game to hand off the ball, or to run an option play. The option was very ineffective in this one, including a decent pitch from Nassib to Delone Carter that was bobbled, recovered by UConn, and brought in for a defensive touchdown. While I applaud the coaches for digging the option out of the playbook and switching things up, it was pretty evident the past couple weeks that the QBs, the backs, and the line are not very comfortable with it.
In the absence of a superstar receiver, Greg and Ryan really got the ball to whomever they could. In total on Saturday, 10 different Orangemen had receptions. The most frequent targets were Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales (140 yards and 89 yards, respectively). To have a team that versatile really says something about how this team has evolved and how it has adjusted how it does things in the face of adversity (injuries, cry baby quitters, etc.). Lemon (freshman) and Sales (sophomore) are young, so if this game – and really, their level of play the past couple weeks – is any indication of what they could be capable of, then I think the receiving corps will be all right moving into the future. One more note about the receivers: Greg Paulus found Lavar Lobdell for a touchdown in the 4th quarter, for Lobdell’s first (and ultimately only) touchdown reception of his career. Paulus and Lobdell were teammates back at Christian Brothers Academy, and it seems fitting that they both end their college careers finally hooking up for a touchdown. Congratulations!
So the 2009 campaign is in the books. If you were to ask me, “John, do you think the Greg Paulus experiment was successful? Was it worth it?” well, then, I could have to answer each in the affirmative. Greg Paulus ends the year with the greatest number of completions in a season in Syracuse history, and the best completion percentage in a season in Syracuse history. He has, as Coach K said a few weeks back, left his DNA on this football program (CSI is checking it out with those special lights). He has been the leader of this team; he has shown a great work ethic; he has shared his knowledge with others. And he, along with Head Coach Doug Marrone, reinvigorated a dilapidated program. Now, sure, he wasn’t perfect. He threw an awful lot of picks, particularly given the situations. Better decision-making against Minnesota could have bumped that result into the Win column. And then what would the season have turned out to be? Would we have been waiting by our TVs to find out which bowl Syracuse would be going to? Who knows – this is the stuff of imagination. But let’s say Greg Paulus never comes to Syracuse. Let’s say Ryan Nassib, who was the main guy coming out of the Spring practices, is the 2009 Quarterback for Syracuse University. Would Syracuse have won four games? More? Less? Of course, we’ll never know, but I’ll offer my two cents. Less. Time and time again, Ryan Nassib proved to me that he cannot be the consistent, every-snap quarterback this team needs. He’s too inaccurate. That’s it and that’s all. Maybe this is something he can work on during the off-season and be better next year? I don’t know.
And that does bring us to next year. Who will be the face of the 2010 Orangemen? I guess by default, right now you have to say Ryan Nassib. But, as I’ve been hinting at for the past several weeks, you’ve got to believe Charley Loeb is in the mix. As a redshirt freshman next year, if he’s any good, he will have the opportunity to begin to build a mighty legacy at Syracuse. I think nearly every Syracuse fan finally believes this program is heading in the right direction. Charley Loeb could be the next piece to that puzzle.
The Weekly QB Watch
Based upon absolutely nothing except my gut feeling, the probability of starting the 2010 season is as follows:
Charley Loeb – 99%
Ryan Nassib – 0%
Other – 1%
Evidently, I don’t like Ryan Nassib.
Author’s note: This is the final Monday Morning Quarterback for the 2009 football season. It’s been fun. Thank you all for logging on each Monday morning (or whenever) to read me ramble on. I hope I will have the opportunity to bring the column back for the 2010 campaign. So, until spring practice, look for my other content here at Orange::44, and as always, GO ORANGE!
Kevin: The running game, very simply - UConn's offensive line pounded Notre Dame up and down the field. Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon combined for 245 yards on the ground, and only Navy rushed for more yards against the Fighting Irish this year. It's telling that, with UConn down by 3 and the ball at midfield with 5:00 to go, Randy Edsall called 11 straight running plays to score the game-winning touchdown twice, despite the homer referee job set up the tying field goal.
The second-overtime drive was perfectly fitting: run all the time, run all the way. It's exhilarating to think that UConn's big guys beat the hell out of the Irish up and down the field with two and three-star offensive line recruits.
One other note is that despite a slow start, UConn just sort of slowly grinded its way back into the game. And it was nice that the biggest play of the game (regulation edition) was a Jordan Todman kick-return TD. Special teams has cost us more than one game this season (and almost did again Saturday, seeing as Dave Teggart missed the game-winning FG), so it was nice to get some positive out of that group.
2. Orange::44: What do you see is the strength of this team that people that don't normally follow UConn could possibly miss?
Kevin: Well, it's not exactly a secret that UConn's strength is the running game, but what seems to have been overlooked is that the offensive line is a fairly elite unit.
Here are the sizes of UConn's offensive line: LT Mike Ryan (6-5, 324), LG Eric Kuraczea (6-2, 333), C Moe Petrus (6-2, 288), RG Zach Hurd (6-7, 315), RT Mike Hicks (6-6, 323).
They are monstrous. And they're young. Four of those five starters from last week's game will be back next season, along with Jimmy Bennett, one of UConn's better recruiting gets over the last couple years, and Mathieu Oliver, a left guard who got the offensive game ball last week.
It's not a coincidence that the running game is as productive as it is (174 yards per game, despite Edsall discovering the forward pass sometime in the last 12 months) even after losing a first-round NFL Draft pick like Donald Brown (UConn had an otherworldly 216 rush yards per game last year).
Dixon and Todman are good backs, for sure, but they get a lot of help from the big guys in front of them.
3. Orange::44: Syracuse is coming off it's own impressive win. What are your impressions of Syracuse and the direction the program is going?
Kevin: You suck and I hate you. But you beat Rutgers last week, who sucks and I hate them more, so I approve.
But seriously, the 'Cuse has looked like something resembling a football team this year. We all appreciate you not embarrassing the Big East in the OOC. And the fact that y'all are a play or two away from being 6-5 with the bare cupboard left by Greg Robinson is pretty outstanding and a credit to Marrone. I hope you guys get good again - while it's nice to have the automatic W most years, it's much more fun for us to play you when you have a pulse. (Besides, Louisville can still be our automatic W.)
Not that we don't enjoy beating the hell out of you, like the last two years. But those wins are like how we all love beating the hell out of St. John's in basketball - are you really accomplishing anything? The "Beat St. John's Club" is extremely non-exclusive.
Unlike St. John's though, you seem to have the right guy in charge, so I think you guys will be right back in the mix within a few years.
4. Orange::44: The key match up in this game on Saturday is?
Kevin: UConn offensive line vs. Syracuse front seven. I'm harping on the O-line, yeah, but I was rather surprised to see that Syracuse is allowing just 92 yards per game on the ground. That's a little less worrisome than it might have been last year, because the passing game is now utterly competent.
But still, if UConn can establish the run against a solid run defense, things will be looking really good for the Huskies. Also, if that happens, beware the Tyler Lorenzen Memorial Play-Action Pass. It works at least once a game.
5. Orange::44: How do you see Connecticut's season ending?
Kevin: Two more wins at home, and then a satisfying bowl win in St. Petersburg or Toronto. After all the tragedy and heartbreak of this season, they deserve a happy ending. Syracuse is a winnable game, and South Florida in a cold East Hartford night game is a dream matchup. I believe 7-5, 3-4, would be enough to send UConn to those prestigious non-Pizza Bowls.
As for me, if that happens, I will be leading the charge on the "UConn as Big East favorite in 2010" front. You heard it here first.
6. Orange::44: Do you think Cincinnati will win the league, or is Pitt going to pull the upset?
Kevin: I'm in awe of Cincinnati's offense. The UConn-Cincinnati game reminded me of when the Jets play Peyton Manning and the Colts. Frustrating yet beautiful to watch the other team's precision, fluidity and excellence.
If anyone could slow them down in this league, it'd be Pitt, though. And UConn did show that you can score on the Bearcats.
Still, I think Cincinnati's the better team, and I can't imagine a world in which the Wannstache adorns the Orange Bowl program cover, so I'll say Cincinnati 41, Pitt 34.
7. Orange::44: Finally, basketball is under way. How will Connecticut do this season and when is Calhoun going to crawl in a hole and die?
Kevin: I'm cautiously optimistic that UConn will be OK this year. We've got some young, talented kids and a nice returning core from last year. The big veteran three of Kemba Walker, Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson will rock other teams' world and then not call them the next morning. Our freshman center Alex Oriakhi looks like a keeper, and there's some potential among the freshmen. You will hear Dickie V use the word "athletic" 754 times tonight when we play Duke in the Preseason NIT final.
The real key is 6-10 Ater Majok, who joins the team in about three weeks. Calhoun's been hyping this kid up forever, and the book on him is that he's a wing with center size. That being said, just about no one has seen him play in a game in the two years since he committed to UConn and thus we're all clueless about what to expect. Majok tried out for the NBA Draft, but found out he was not anywhere close to ready.
If Majok is as good as Calhoun says he is, I think this team could have Elite Eight/Final Four potential. If he's nowhere close, I still think there's enough talent to get out of the first weekend, but it'll be tough to move on past that.
And I'm getting pretty confident that Calhoun will never die. Alternatively, when the day ultimately comes, I think he'll wake up 30 seconds into his embalming and demand a substitute undertaker.
Thanks again to Kevin and here’s hoping that Calhoun retires soon!
Sadly, or gladly depending on the point of view, I will not be making the trip to East Hartford for the first time in two appearances. That just means I won’t be cold, drunk and sad because I’m in
A programming note: I’ll have a recap of the weekend, including UNC, as well as this game coming tonight or tomorrow. Stay tund.
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 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.
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.
|Last week's ballot|
Are you sure we can't scrape up another season of eligibility somewhere?
Welcome to the thirteenth edition of Monday Morning Quarterback here at Orange::44.
In last week’s article, I described how it was time to get Ryan Nassib in the game, to start him, to get him a ton of reps. Head Coach Doug Marrone disagreed with me. And by the end of the first quarter Saturday against Rutgers, I, too, disagreed with me.
Greg Paulus started this game, and early on, was in a clear two-QB system with Nassib. They practically traded snaps. But it was clear to the 36k in attendance that Paulus was the better of the two. By the second half, we were wondering why they even put Nassib back in.
Paulus finished the day with a great stat line: 13 of 16 for 142 yards, a touchdown, and no interceptions. Nassib’s line is much more underwhelming: 4 of 6 for 69 yards. One of Nassib’s completions was a 21-yard pass to a wide open Marcus Sales just short of the end zone. It was a great catch because of what Sales had to do to catch it. As I have written in a previous article, Nassib tends to not throw the ball accurately; as if he’s purposely throwing to a spot 5 yards away from the receiver. Such was the case on the Sales reception; Nassib horrifically underthrew the ball so Sales had to come back a bit and dive for it. Due to the NCAA tackle rules, Sales’ contact with the ground meant he was down and couldn’t pick up additional yards after catch. A better thrown ball that didn’t require a diving catch, and Sales can easily walk into the end zone on this play.
And really, this is the huge difference, execution-wise, between Nassib and Paulus. Nassib is just not accurate. This is okay when there are superstars as receivers, and the superstars can make the crappy QB look good. But Syracuse’s current receiving corps just isn’t the cream of the crop. They need a good QB to make the QB look good. Hopefully you follow the logic there.
So where does this lead us? One more game left in the 2009 campaign, against the hated UConn Huskies. While there aren’t must-win games anymore, how incredibly awesome did you feel at the end of that Rutgers game, coming away with a win? All other things aside, every Syracuse fan wants Doug Marrone & Co. to walk away from Rentschler Field with a W. That said, Greg Paulus will round out the schedule having started each Syracuse game this year. Why? Because Doug Marrone knew the whole time that even though Syracuse won’t win every game it plays, Greg Paulus gives the team the greatest chance of winning. Doug, I agree. Obviously Nassib will get his share of packages, but this is Greg Paulus’ team. I think there’s some bad blood between Marrone and Nassib. Or Nassib practices like he plays – inaccurately. God, I hope, for next year’s sake, that Charley Loeb is as good playing as he is good looking (according to some, I don’t know, I don’t judge those things).
The Weekly QB Watch
Going into the final game of the 2009 season, the probability of starting is as follows:
Greg Paulus – 100%
Ryan Nassib – 0%
Cam Dantley – 0%
Charley Loeb – 0%
Other – 0%
Rutgers, fresh off their crushing defeat of South Florida 31-0, enters the Carrier Dome ready to earn win #8 on the season. After beating the likes of Howard, Florida International, and Texas Southern in the non-conference slate, they have gone on to beat Connecticut and South Florida in the conference slate, but lost to Cincinnati on opening day and a very good Pittsburgh team over a month ago. This team is a bit of a conundrum to me at the moment, as I did not think they have been good at all this season, then they go and blow the doors off of USF. The statistics are not that great for either team, but Rutgers manages to score points. QB Tom Savage (109/198, 1535yds, 10 TD, 2 INT) has been good enough this season to have Rutgers keep winning games they should. Meanwhile, Syracuse has got problems man. They just lost another key defense player for the year in Derrell Smith, who led the team in tackles and sacks. Just great. Syracuse will be hard pressed to put pressure on the quarterback and stop the above average rush attack from Rutgers. However, this game should still be won through the air by Rutgers, in what will be an ugly game not in terms of the score, but it terms of how anemic Syracuse will probably be, and how tragic some breaks will go. Rutgers over Syracuse in this one, 31 to 13.
I’m going to this game, which is apparently the only way you can see it if you don’t have ESPN360. This game is not even being broadcast on Time Warner Cable Sports. Frankly I think I’m going hate being here, because it would be like knowing a car wreck will happen, and being powerless to stop it, but nevertheless I am a fan and it is Senior Day, so I will sit and cheer. I make no promises on my sobriety or depression levels. At least they were kind enough to put it at 3:30pm instead of noon. Either way, tune into myself and Orange::44 Correspondent on Twitter as per usual (@BH_Orange44 and @JBren) as we will probably be drunk and hilarious. Or just bitter. We aren’t exactly sure yet. Either way it will be something I’m sure. Hopefully the basketball team can get another big win and ease the pain.
Yahoo! News is reporting via the Associated Press that the Cincy QB was severely scolded by Hamilton County Municipal Court Judge Bernie Bouchard for failing to start a program on the dangers of underage drinking after he was caught using a fake ID at a bar near the Cincinnati campus. "Got it? Are we clear? You're not going to get another chance” the judge said to him. If Collaros fails to complete the program he faces 180 days in jail, which the judge seems more than willing to impose. He has until December 7th to begin the program that was assigned on October 5th.
Now I am not going to pretend like I never had a beer south of proper. However, that being said, I never tried to go to a bar before I was actually 21 either. You have to be smart if you are going to attempt breaking the law, and clearly having a fake ID is not. It’s hard to get a passable fake ID anyway, but what bouncer is not completely on the look out for this kind of stuff? This is the reason Maggie’s is now closed at Syracuse, and why Konrad’s no longer exists. Bars get in trouble when they let underage kids in, so they specifically do everything they can to stop that. Just a dumb move from a student at an institution of higher learning. Then he gets a sweetheart deal, and puts it off? Not smart my friend. And kudos to the judge for putting his foot down. You do the crime, you should do the time, in this case in a program that will allow your record to be sealed. I’m sure he’ll have it done soon.
Booze, booze, booze. That’s all the crime we’ve had to report this season. Hopefully UConn will step up their game with some assaults and marijuana possessions soon.
I am continually astounded at how much better Scoop Jardine this season than any of his previous work. He absolutely sucked and was good for a lot of turnovers, and he really cost Syracuse at Georgetown in the 2007-2008 season. But he was excellent in this game, as he has been. He led Syracuse with 22 points in 27 minutes on the floor. He also had six rebounds, six assists, and four steals, with only one turnover. He was a big reason Syracuse did so well in the transition game.
Similarly, Brandon Triche also played well. While he only had nine points, he defended well, hit shots in timely situations, and passed well on the floor. He is still a freshman and is learning, but he is coming along nicely. Nice to see there won’t be another Sean Williams on the roster.
Wesley Johnson also played well. The transfer had 17 points, 11 rebounds, and six blocks. Delivered as advertised again. He is a high riser and an excellent defender.
Arinze Onuaku had an absolutely sick hook shot in this game. Just filthy how good it was right over the defender. He finished with 12 points. Similarly, Rick Jackson had an outstanding pivot post move and finished with eight points, six rebounds, and four assists.
Andy Rautins finished with eight points, four assists, and two steals. He had an outstanding day on defense and played well in transition. That is before he hurt his ankle again. He walked right off the court after, but had some swelling. Frankly I think he will be playing later today, but we’ll see.
Syracuse obviously shot well from the floor, shooting 57.1% from the floor, while California only shot 40%. Additionally, Syracuse limited a typically great shooting team from behind the arc to only 30% (6-20). Syracuse shot 9-23 (39.1%). Syracuse was outrebounded in this game, which is odd as Syracuse had a taller and more athletic team. California had 42 rebounds, 15 offensive, and Syracuse only had 37 and five respectively. Finally, Syracuse led massively in steals and blocks. Syracuse had ten and nine, while Cal only had four and one. That is extremely solid defense.
Speaking of Syracuse’s defense, it obviously caused several turnovers. 15 to be exact. This defense frustrated Cal and was so active that it obviously stifled Cal’s three point shooting as well, as it has all season. This is the kind of defense that wins conferences. If the team can remain this energetic for every game, this team will be hard to score on.
Syracuse played an excellent game and will be rewarded with playing the #4 team in the nation, and the defending National Champions, North Carolina. Syracuse will have their hands full, but they had trouble putting away Ohio State, therefore Syracuse has a real possibility to pull another upset, this time against a top five team. Additionally Syracuse will represent the Big East in a battle against on of the ACC’s best teams. Always a drama filled situation when this occurs. Should be a good one, and if Syracuse plays well again this will be an excellent game to watch. Stay tuned for my usual preview later.
1. Orange::44: Rutgers looked unstoppable against South Florida last week. Was this surprising for you, as your team has only looked alright in Big East play?
Jon: Not in the sense that I didn't think USF was any good this year, beyond the fact that they usually don't play Rutgers well, and tank in the second half (while RU usually gets better late in the year). It was a surprise that the game was that much of a blowout, but it was crazy to think that the Bulls would win, or even make it a game. Part of the final score was on USF just not showing up, but the Rutgers defense is pretty good this year, and the young skill guys on offense may be finally putting it together.
2. Orange::44: What was the key to the turnaround? What has Rutgers playing so well as of late?
Jon: Was there a turnaround? Rutgers beat the bad and average teams on its schedule, and lost to the good ones. Cincinnati was the first game of the season, and not only could they be the best team in the Big East, but Rutgers didn't even have a prayer with Dom Natale's turnover meltdown at quarterback. I don't think that they were all that bad to begin with, and they may not be that good now. RU did destroy USF, but was very fortunate to beat UConn on a last-second, miracle play from Tim Brown. They haven't shown enough to be in the top 25 yet, not with how the offense has played this year. That being said, it's a little of column A, and a little of column B, because the entire team is steadily improving week to week. Particularly with the freshmen starting at QB, WR, and RB. Rutgers is a generally solid team in all, with various strengths and weaknesses with respect to certain matchups.
3. Orange::44: Is QB Tom Savage "the guy" at Rutgers in the next few years, or do you see someone else coming in and being a better leader for the team?
Jon: There's little debate there. Not only has Savage looked good for a true freshman, but he doesn't have any legitimate competition on the horizon. Backup D.C. Jefferson might have turned into a good QB, but he was moved to TE because of depth issues, and eventually took over the starting job there. Rutgers won't have anyone else nearly as good as Savage over the next few years, so they'll be in big trouble if and when he misses time. Savage has all physical tools you look for in a blue chip QB (watch out for his surprising scrambling ability), and has impressed early with his leadership and decision making. He still needs to improve his accuracy and get better touch on his passes, learn more of the playbook, and develop a rapport with the team's younger receivers. I don't know if he's capable of winning a game by himself yet, but he's not killing the offense with turnovers, and his deep ball is starting to garner respect from opposing secondaries. You can never be absolutely certain with how a player will progress over his tenure, but the early results are promising.
4. Orange::44: What will Rutgers' game plan be heading into the Dome this Saturday? How much success do you see Rutgers earning?
Jon: Rutgers currently ranks 4th in the nation in sacks. Some of that is the result of playing a terrible out of conference schedule, but they've done well in Big East play too, and that aspect is always a strength of Greg Schiano's defenses. They're going to go after Greg Paulus early and often, with lots of disguised blitzes and twists/stunts up front, and hope that putting eight and nine in the box can stifle Delone Carter to some extent. They'll want to clog up his passing lanes, speed up his delivery, and make him hear footsteps in the pocket. This scheme is as aggressive as it gets. It's always tough to play in the Carrier Dome, so I see them trying to get momentum early by going after a few punt blocks (can't go about spotting two touchdowns again). Devin McCourty has had a great year at corner, but he's really stood out on special teams, with a few blocks/forced fumbles, and big returns.
I think it's interesting that while SU does get a lot of sacks on defense, they're one of the worst in defensive passing efficiency in the country. Even though you'd think the natural move here would be to run the ball and keep the defense fresh and rested, I want to pass, pass, pass. Couple quick strikes to get Savage into a rhythm, then get the ball downfield to Brown and Sanu, keeping things up tempo and trying to build up an early lead. That could force Syracuse into pass-only mode, take away Carter, and let the DL tee off on Paulus.
However, it's impossible to emphasize enough how poorly the Rutgers OL has played this year. They were supposed to pretty good, and they were a weakness until the USF game. Natale at QB was always a roll of the dice, so the line was the biggest reason that the team didn't live up to their early expectations.
5. Orange::44: Let's be honest, Rutgers' non-conference schedule is a huge joke, and has been the last few years. Do you actually like that Schiano schedules cup cakes like the likes of Howard, Morgan State, and Texas Southern, or do you not give a good care about it?
Jon: Hate it, hate it, hate it. What happened was that Rutgers expanded the stadium this year, even though the athletic department didn't have enough money on hand in the near term. Promised state assistance fell through because of New Jersey's fiscal crisis, so they raised ticket prices, and absolutely had to have 7 home games to pay off the construction bonds. Navy canceled on them to play Ohio State for a big payday, so I can sort of understand replacing them with FIU on short notice. The TSU game really does piss everyone off though. The old athletic director put them in an impossible position by not doing enough long-term scheduling (canceled ND series may have had something to do with that), and insisting on playing Army in a yearly home and home series.
Surprise surprise, you can't really get a good opponent on short notice. Not that it would have even been decent, but RU was close to bringing in Indiana before Virginia offered them more money. My preference then would have been to swallow their pride and play a road game against a top team. Now, Star-Ledger beatwriter Tom Luicci used Arkansas as an example, and said that they offered Rutgers $1.3 million for a game in Fayetteville with no return trip, and the A.D. said no because they can make $1.5 million per home date with the new expanded stadium. Me, I would have taken that offer, simply because it's better to make Arkansas pay for a good game, than to make Rutgers fans pay for a glorified scrimmage that none of them care about.
The new athletic director knows what's up, and he's scheduling better OOC games in the future with the likes of Penn State, Miami, and UCLA, and is starting to get back to the long-term strategy that Rutgers had abandoned in recent years. The scheduling won't get better for at least three years though - not until those deals start up, and Army is finally off the schedule. I think fan support is pretty good still, but it's not Penn State. People don't want to pay $70 a ticket to see a cupcake. The big loss in the opener deflated the fanbase for a while, and that really hurt attendance against the midseason stretch of cupcakes. Hopefully, now the athletic department knows that everyone is sick to death of that nonsense.
6. Orange::44: Are you heading to the Carrier Dome this weekend? If you are, what are your plans while visiting Syracuse, and if not, what is it you enjoy about seeing a game in Piscataway?
Jon: Nope, although apparently Rutgers sold out its visiting allotment again. It has nothing to do with preferring Piscataway, I don't have the time to make the entire trip and back. There's a good stadium atmosphere at Rutgers now, and it's been fun to watch that grow from when they had to force all the freshmen to go to the Buffalo game during my orientation. That gives it a bit of personal aspect to me - having followed the team when they weren't very good, essentially "growing up" with the team during my college years, and watching them get to double digit wins as a senior. It was satisfying to stick with something, and get a payoff in the end.
Piscataway itself, it's a suburban town; there's not all that much to do (although, New Brunswick is right across the river, and it's near a lot of more interesting places). The upside is that there is a lot of room for a good tailgating atmosphere on game days. The crowd can get going when needed, and the stadium has undergone a lot of changes. Any visitors who hadn't been there in a while would be surprised, although I only have only a couple of other live football games (college or pro) to compare it with.
7. Orange::44: Finally, Rutgers basketball has not been great the last few years. Is there buzz starting to surround the hoops program again, or are you just waiting for them to escort Fred Hill out of town? Sell the program to me.
Jon: Can't sell the program, beyond thinking that they do have some talent, and will be somewhat better than last year's miserable result. Mike Rosario and Greg Echenique looked good as freshmen last year, and they have some interesting transfers coming in with Jonny Mitchell and Jim Beatty. Problem is, not only is the Big East strong and deep, but there's no reason to have any confidence in Fred Hill's abilities as a coach or developer of talent. He can recruit them (well, he did before this year), but then guys come to campus and stagnate and regress. Now even the good metro talent have written off the program, and recruiting was supposed to be Hill's calling card.
In fact, Rutgers basketball is probably now worse than the football program ever was under Terry Shea (Schiano's predecessor), although it doesn't get nearly as much attention or headlines because it's a football school where basketball takes a back seat. Did you know that only Northwestern and Oregon State have longer NCAA tournament droughts? Because really, that's what it's all about. NIT bids are for suckers, and I cringe every time I see those banners in the RAC. Which, by the way has turned into what the Carrier Dome is for football; a once-proud facility stripped of its magical powers by a bumbling gang of fools.
Hill simply has to go. I'd love to be wrong there; he's a local, and returned to campus as the prodigal son who actually wanted the job, but he's not getting it done. By year three, there has to be some semblance of progress, but they keep hitting new lows. I understand not doing anything in-conference, but they're getting regularly waxed by MAAC teams. Now, because the athletic department still doesn't really have any money (although they're making some progress on fundraising), word is that not only is Hill 100% safe through this year, but he'll get a fifth season to screw things up even further. You know, really tighten the noose. And that scares the hell out of me. The RAC is a ghost town, the practice facilities and locker room blow, and the fans have given up entirely. Things haven't been this bad in decades. All keeping Hill on does is delay the inevitable. They're further putting off rebuilding, and ceding any chances of bringing in a hot candidate this year like Fran McCaffery from Siena.
A lot of focus has been placed on the quarterback situation at Syracuse, but without Delone Carter Syracuse would have not performed as well in this game or several others this season. Delone Carter (28att, 129yds, 4.6avg, 1 TD) had a nice day and looked unstoppable on several run plays during the day. Greg Paulus (12/16, 89yds, 0 TD, 1 INT) looked alright on this day, but without a major target to throw to, he gives up too easily on a play, got sacked several times, and tried to run way too much. It was an exercise in futility in passing on this day, and just to make sure Syracuse couldn’t come back, Marcus Sales tipped the ball to the L’ville defender to effectively end the game for Syracuse. Just dreadful. While Paulus did not sink this game for Syracuse, he didn’t overtly help either.
While Syracuse held Louisville to only 151 total yards, a decade low for Louisville, they could not stop Louisville when they needed to. The secondary, save for one interception that led to Syracuse’s touchdown, was dreadful in the fourth quarter. They are still not able to finish a game. This allowed Louisville to march down the field and score to put them up by one point. While the defense held Louisville to only 34 rushing yards, again, Syracuse could not stop Louisville through the air. Had Syracuse won this game, it could have been one of the best grades the defense gets all year. But it was not meant to be.
Syracuse missed an extra point. Extra points should be automatic. Always and forever, extra points should be automatic. Sadly the hold was not good, and Syracuse missed it. Of course, unlike Northwestern earlier in the Dome when they botch a special teams play it ends up in the end zone, Syracuse just fails to convert. Additionally, although it did not count, Syracuse let Louisville run a punt return back. Then, before they started their final drive Syracuse again let them have a massive punt return to set up their final scoring drive. While Rob Long punted extremely well in this game, and even Ryan LICHTENSTEIN had a nice pooch kick, Syracuse’s return coverage was dreadful in this game. Returns for Syracuse were good, including the last return to set up the failed final drive for Syracuse, but they started well in range that they should have been able to at least kick another game winning field goal.
I’m not going to be too, too critical of the coaching staff, because really the issues in this game were not bad play calls or poor planning, but failed execution by the players on the field. That being said, they did fail in many areas, specifically special teams coverage. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised of Doug Marrone fired Special Teams Coach Bob Casullo just to save some face. I bet he won’t, but it could be a good idea. Either way, there was nothing novel in this game for Syracuse. Offensively they ran the ball until they were stopped, and threw when they had to. However, when it is third and long, why do teams run up the middle ever? Take a shot at converting or at least getting a chunk of yards back. Additionally, there were a ton of penalties for Syracuse in this game. In that regard the team was not overly prepared.
This is easily one of the most depressing games I have witnessed. Syracuse could have won this game, or at least had several opportunities to stop Louisville, but they failed to make even the most basic of plays and allowed Louisville to go ahead, and then end Syracuse’s final drive. I was helpless to sit and watch Syracuse squander opportunity after opportunity and find ways to lost this game and play down to Louisville. Frankly I am embarrassed Syracuse was involved in this game. This is a low of low points for a program that started out with lofty expectation and much improvement. But with talent missing from quitting and injury, this team is just unable to win games they could have in week 1.
Syracuse will now turn to Rutgers this week, also a winnable game in week 1, but after their drubbing of USF this past week, this looks like a drubbing is coming for Syracuse, unless some lucky breaks that have escaped Syracuse all year suddenly appear. This game was so notably bad that Orange::44 got some prime national coverage thanks to Yahoo!’s college football blog Dr. Saturday. Even they recognize how tough this stuff is to stomach week in and week out. Our good friend Sean from Nunes/Magician also appears. It’s been a tough couple of weeks, so it will be nice to turn our focus to some basketball in the next few days. Anything is a welcome distraction from the current disaster and last place team that we now have.
|Last week's ballot|
It's time for a change.
Welcome to the twelfth edition of Monday Morning Quarterback here at Orange::44. This will be short and painless, unlike the game against the Cardinals.
Syracuse will not be bowling this year. With a loss this past Saturday against the Louisville Cardinals, Syracuse clinched another losing season and knocked itself out of bowl contention. And what led to this loss? A lack of offense. Clearly, this team misses Mike Williams. With the rest of the receiving corps sucking a big one, Syracuse had to rely on running the ball.
Greg Paulus ended the game with a fantastic stat line: 12 of 16 for 89 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception. When I say fantastic, I obviously mean shitty. Not his fault, just nobody to throw to. Ryan Nassib, in the few snaps he received, didn’t do any better: 2 of 5 for 21 yards.
So what does this mean? It means that Doug Marrone still thinks Greg Paulus is the guy that can best lead this team to victory. Quite frankly, he might not even like Ryan Nassib. I think we’ll get a better idea of that in these final two games of the season.
Now that we’re not in “must win” mode, it’s the proverbial time to start thinking about next year. Obviously, Greg Paulus is not part of next year’s picture. And in the interests of having something to talk about, I’m gonna create a quarterback controversy right now: Charley Loeb vs. Ryan Nassib.
I think it’s time to give the ball to Ryan Nassib and give him the vast majority of the snaps. Whether he’s the guy next year or whether it’s Charley Loeb, Ryan needs to get as much experience as he can right now. Charley obviously won’t be getting that, due to the red shirt, but it’s important for Ryan to get more experience. Quite frankly, I’m really anxious to see Charley Loeb play, and I’m curious as to how he’s been looking in practice.
As for Greg Paulus: thanks. You brought a buzz to the program, overall had a pretty good year, and while they didn’t always translate into wins, you put up some decent numbers. But your time here is done. You knew this was only a one-year gig anyway, and now that Syracuse will be home for the holidays, we don’t *need* you to help us win. Because winning right now isn’t a priority (assuming it has been up until now). Help these kids learn the game, help them learn your leadership qualities. But I don’t think we need your services under center at this point.
The Weekly QB Watch
Going into the upcoming game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, the probability of starting is as follows:
Ryan Nassib – 60%
Greg Paulus – 40%
Cam Dantley – 0%
Charley Loeb – 0%
Other – 0%
Both teams have exact same records entering the game. Louisville is currently led by freshman QB Will Stein (43/78, 450yds, 0 TD, 1 INT) who has only started three games in his career. Their running back Victor Anderson (86att, 480yds, 5.6avg, 5 TD) is decent as well. Syracuse and Louisville are fairly close in total yards, passing yards and rushing yards. They also average within a point of each other, with Syracuse averaging 20 points a game, and Louisville 19. I’m saying this; Syracuse should win this game despite being a shell of its former team just mere weeks ago. Syracuse is just north of Louisville in terms of offensive talent. Additionally, Syracuse is currently better at the quarterback position, even though it is a close race. That is also knowing that Greg Paulus and Ryan Nassib will split time. It would seem to be that Louisville’s rookie quarterback is just too inconsistent to be able to exploit the sub-par secondary of Syracuse. Therefore, if Syracuse can stop giving up too much through the air via the long ball, Syracuse should win the game. Syracuse over Louisville yet again 24 to 17.
Syracuse needs this win to not only improve team and fan moral, but also to save face in the wins and losses column, as four wins is an improvement over last year. And this win is very reachable, even with the current losses Syracuse has. This game is on the road, which means I’ll be watching in anticipation for what could be another big road win against Louisville. Hopefully that will be the case.
But I’m not here to convince you I’m the biggest SU fan of all time. Merely to illustrate that I understand the premise I’m about to tell you in and out. Too often Syracuse fans get labeled as “fair weather”, several times by me. Usually it is quite warranted, as evident by the many empty bleachers at various games in the Carrier Dome. However, all that said, is there any alumni base more loyal to their school than Syracuse?
I submit that once you graduate from Syracuse University, you become a lifelong advocate for the school, the academic programs, and the sports. What evidence could I possibly have to back this up? Besides my own opinions and habits (and the SU bloggers that graduated from Syracuse know what I mean), you only need to look to the top three sports teams on the hill. Each team, referring to football, basketball, and men’s lacrosse, are coached by men who graduated from Syracuse. Not only that but several assistant coaches are alumni as well. Few other schools, if any, have had the situation where the top three money making sports for the NCAA are occupied by a school’s alumni. And bracketing football Head Coach Doug Marrone because it is his first season at the helm, the programs are very successful because of this fact.
Look no further than Jimmy Boeheim and his staff. The Hall of Famer has four Syracuse graduates on his staff in Bernie Fine, Mike Hopkins, Lazarus Sims, and one Gerry McNamara as a graduate assistant. Turning to lacrosse, the most successful program in Division 1 lacrosse history, Head Coach John Desko is an alumnus, along with each of his three assistant coaches Kevin Donahue, Lelan Rogers, and Roy Simmons III. Both programs are obviously outstanding in their respective sports, and obviously there is something special about them, and the consistency of the various sports, that draws alumni back to coach at Syracuse.
No where else in the college world does this happen. You don’t see Patrick Ewing coming back to be an assistant at his alma mater. Nor does it happen at any other Big East institution. It does not happen at other BCS schools either. It only happens at Syracuse in which so many people that are alumni come back to be associated with the programs. And this happens in various degrees for most alumni. Another big example would, of course, be Carmelo Anthony. He was only at Syracuse for one year, but his experiences, regardless of winning a National Championship, amounted to one of the best experiences in his life. To repay that debt he donated $3 million to help build a state of the art basketball facility. As a private institution, Syracuse does not receive state money for athletic facilities like other state schools, so it must come from somewhere. Carmelo stepped up out of his fondness of Syracuse and $3 million is an awful lot of gratitude.
Of course regular alumni like me experience this kind of feeling about Syracuse. Syracuse alumni occasionally donate money back to the school, but it more readily shows by the number of children that go to Syracuse after their parents did. It shows by the various alumni organizations Syracuse has, and the vast areas where there are clubs. This simple fact is, when it is all said and done, and no matter what happens on the athletic field, Syracuse graduates love their school and take pride in having a degree that says Syracuse.
While it is true that most people are proud of their alma mater, clearly Syracuse wins again. Just to be clear: Suck it Connecticut, Georgetown, and any school not named Syracuse. After all, what would school pride be without a little friendly rivalry?
Andy Rautins was your leading scorer with 22 points, shooting 7-10 from long range. He showed no effects from his ankle injury on Monday. He was active in the zone defense, and had four steals in the game. At one point a Robert Morris player threw him down and on the next ensuing possession after the foul drained a three. He was simply on, and if you read my Twitter account you know I’m looking into season tickets for my mother.
DaShonte Riley led the team with six rebounds in 17 minutes of playing time. However the team as a whole rebounded fairly evenly. Although, overall they only pulled down 36 total, only four more than Robert Morris.
There was balanced scoring in this game as all five starters had scoring in double digits. Wesley Johnson had 15, Arinze Onuaku had 14, Brandon Triche had 12, and Rick Jackson added ten. This is exactly the kind of effort you need from your starting lineup.
Scoop Jardine continues to impress me off the bench in distributing the ball well. He had nine assists along with his six points. More than the young Triche, he does not force as many passes and can dribble the ball very well. He is the perfect spark off the bench that Pace used to provide and we have lacked since.
Syracuse shot the ball extremely well in this game as they shot 58.3% from the floor, and a far better 50% from long range. Conversely, Syracuse limited Robert Morris to 35.5% from the floor, and only 60 points. This was due to the very active and excellent 2-3 Zone defense the team displayed.
Syracuse had 14 blocks, while RoMo had zero. Syracuse also had 17 steals, however they gave the ball up 23 times. Clearly this is a big deal, but to be fair we were in garbage time mode with about 12 minutes to go in the second half. Additionally Robert Morris had 28 turnovers, plus we won by 40, so it was not a big thing. It might be in the future, but with second tier players in the game, it is hard to complain about the turnovers considering the margin we were up.
The team has now played two great games in a row in which they poured on the offense and had solid defense. It is safe to say that the team is on their way to being a very good team. They will get their first gut check (since Le Moyne) playing a very good California team in New York. In the meantime, Syracuse will work to get even better. At least we now expect a good game from this young team.