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Syracuse - Akron Postgame Reactions OR Great Start

Marrone likes it when you start the season with a win. So do we.
Editor's Note: Just as a refresher, as well as for new readers, we break down every football game and grade each unit's performance, giving each a letter grade. We then tabulate those grades and give a GPA for the week. At the end of the season we will tabulate all of the games up and give a final grade for the season based on each week's performance. All statistics given will be from that particular week. Feel free to dispute the grades given via the comments section.
Syracuse fans knew it was important for Syracuse, especially starting out on the road, to make a good impression in the first game. Syracuse beat Akron in the Carrier Dome last season, but this was a new team and a new year. Despite Syracuse on paper looking like the better team, they still needed to prove it on the field. And they did. Led by a stingy defense and some nice plays, Syracuse wins their first opening game since 2003 by beating Akron 29 to three.

Considering that it was Ryan Nassib's (17/27, 229yds, 2 TD 1 INT) first day as the starter for Syracuse University it was a pretty good day. He generally looked good out there, making nice passes, and rarely tried to force a play. He unwisely tried to force the ball up the middle too often, which eventually led to the interception that he never should have thrown, but overall he made good decisions. He also rushed for 58 yards and looked a lot more mobile out there than some of the QB's Syracuse has had in the past few years. Delone Carter (26car, 91yds, 3.5avg. 1 TD) didn't explode like expected, but he still had a solid day, being a workhorse out there. Van Chew and Alec Lemon proved to be the most reliable receivers out there, and were frequent targets of Nassib. Chew and newcomer Aaron Weaver each had a touchdown on the day. Despite a ball security problem of having three fumbles, two of them lost, it was a good day for the offense overall, and a nice effort to start the year out with. 431 total yards of offense and 29 points is never a bad thing.
Anytime you never allow your opponent to score a touchdown is a great day of work. The defense held Akron to just 166 total yards and only 55 rushing. Akron only managed nine first downs, were 4-17 on third down conversions, and 0-1 on a fourth down attempt. The secondary still had some small lapses that were inconsequential in the grand scheme because the quarterback made bad throws, but overall it was a good effort by the secondary on the day. They do look improved. The defensive line and linebackers were just as good as advertised. This unit will be very solid if they are not forced to be on the field all game long because the offense cannot move the ball. A great effort by the defense on the day.
Special Teams
Initially I wanted to give this unit a higher grade. They managed to block a field goal attempt and run the ball back for a touchdown. They also got somewhat decent field position on punt and kick returns, and Rob "Heisman" Long had a 70 yard boot at one point. However, Mike Holmes clearly needs to be told when to try to receive a punt and when not to. He muffed a few balls and were luckily bailed out by other alert members of Syracuse, or Akron committing catch interference. Additionally, there was a botched snap on an extra point attempt that resulted in a failed two point conversion attempt, and a completely missed extra point. Kicker Ross Krautman got the nod today, going 1/1 on field goals (47yds), and 2/3 on extra points. Long had 224 total punt yards on five punts, averaged 44.8, and had two touchbacks and one inside the 20 yard line. Sadly just an average day in total for the special teams unit, a unit that needed to vastly improve from last season.
Honestly, because Syracuse was in control for the majority of this game there were not too many critical coaching decisions that needed to be made in this game. The game plan was solid from both an offensive and defensive point of view. The secondary needs some more coaching to prevent people from getting beat, but otherwise both the offensive and defensive sets that were called worked well against Akron.
B (3.15)
This was a very solid day for Syracuse on all sides of the ball. This is the kind of statement game Syracuse needed to make. Although Akron is a MAC team that is picked to finish near the bottom of the league, unlike some other conference heavies that floundered against lesser teams, Syracuse went out and dominated on both offense and defense. They put points on the board, and prevented Akron from doing the same. This game was out of Akron's reach really in the third quarter, and Syracuse looked more physical and dominant from start to finish. A good way to start a season for Syracuse.
Syracuse is now tied for first place in the Big East standings, as they did their part to protect the image of the league. Next Syracuse will go West young men to Seattle to visit the Washington Huskies and play a game against a Heisman candidate in QB Jake Locker. But before that Syracuse will saver their first opening win since 2003, and the lowest points they have allowed since a blanking of Buffalo at home in 2005. A solid win and a fun game to watch as the Orange really played well for their first go of 2010.


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