Well….that sucked. Syracuse lost to a Cincinnati team without Zach Collaros 30-13 in the Carrier Dome this afternoon. It was flat out an abysmal performance. The same Cincinnati team that only managed three points last week against Rutgers, scored 30 points on Syracuse which had an extra week of preparation. Gone is Marrone’s undefeated record after a bye. Seemingly gone, thought mathematically still possible, are the Orange’s bowl hopes. Gone is the amazing, triumphant feeling across Syracuse nation after the West Virginia game. It makes one question how this team won five games with how bad they’ve been the last four games. It marks the first four game losing streak in the Doug Marrone era.
The Orange offense was bad. They showed flashes of being able to run the ball, but were far too inconsistent. Nassib had a poor game, often staring down his primary read, and not going through his progressions. He missed open receivers down field several times in this game. When he did find guys down field, too many critical drops, in what seems to be a theme this year. At what point do you start questioning wide receiver coach Rob Moore? How about offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hacket? Too predictable, too inconsistent, not enough execution. Coach Marrone said after the game that he put in the most basic game plan you could have, and they still executed poorly. Lots of questions, and seemingly no answers.
Why can’t they tackle anyone? I know Pead is a good player, but that’s no excuse. They missed countless tackles today, and that directly led to Cincinnati points. But the most baffling thing to me was the fact that Cincinnati was basically running the same stuff over and over and over, and the Orange had no answer. Every single time Pead lined up outside at WR, they threw him a quick screen, and every time the Orange seemed surprised by it. There was no adjustment to that, and it burned the Orange big time, especially on the 69 yard TD in the 4th quarter that sealed it. Similarly, on the Cincinnati touchdown drive at the end of the first half, they ran the stretch play to the right side of their line several plays in a row, and yet it wasn’t stopped. As much praise as Shafer has gotten as defensive coordinator here, there are some themes that have taken shape over the last few years. Syracuse can’t stop wide receiver screens. Part of the reason is because the corners are frequently 10-15 yards off the line of scrimmage at the snap. This makes it far too easy to throw it out there quick and get 5-7 yards before contact. There has been no adjustment to that in the last three years. Especially when you’re playing teams with quarterbacks who are not great passers.
Just as Pead burned the Orange defense, he did the same on special teams, returning punts very well to flip field position. The worst was the opening kick-off of the second half, where Cincinnati returned it 75 yards to the Syracuse 30. Most of this was because of poor tackling, and lack of gap discipline. Early in the season, the Orange kick-returners were very good. Since the West Virginia game, they’ve been bad. Every time they get out to the 20, they stop and dance instead of picking a lane and exploding. They seem to miss the seams that are there, and run into piles. I can’t remember the last return that brought Syracuse outside the 30.
I’m not going to get into a lot of specifics. But I want to mention two things. First I want to state I am in no way making officiating an excuse for why Syracuse lost. Cincinnati outplayed Syracuse, and was the better team. Period. But that does not mean we should ignore some bad officiating. One of the single worst calls I’ve ever seen happened in the third quarter. At the time, Cincinnati was up 20-6 and had a third and 4 from the Syracuse 44. Munchie Legaux (one of the best names in all of sports) threw an incomplete pass down the sideline intended for Isaiah Pead. On the play, the ball was thrown over Pead’s head and was clearly uncatchable. Not only that, Pead clearly shoved Shmarko Thomas in an effort to prevent an interception. A penalty was rightly thrown. The officials then got together and called pass interference on #23, which is Pead’s number. However, they called it on #23 of the defense, and gave Cincinnati a first down. Instead of punting, that directly led to a Cincinnati field goal. The problem was, Syracuse only has one #23 on their team, and he’s not a defensive player. He’s running back Tyson Gulley who’s out for the season with an injury, and has been for several games. He wasn’t even in the stadium, let alone dressed. Yet, the officials called it on Syracuse #23. The only logical explanation is that they called pass interference on #23, but when they huddled to discuss it, forget which team #23 was on. Either that, or they just made up the call. There’s no way anyone watching that play can argue there was anything close to pass interference on Syracuse. It was an absolutely horrific call. In the fourth quarter, it was the difference between a one and two score game. It ended up not mattering, but it very well could have. And the fact that it ended up not mattering is not a reason to ignore it. The other issue is something the Cincinnati left guard did every single play Cincinnati had the ball. They would line up, he’d put his hand down and get set. Then, a few seconds later, he’d turn around and look at the QB, then move his arm and tap the center to signal snapping the ball. That’s a false start. The rule is once a lineman puts his hand down, he can not move at all. It was frustrating to watch.
So the Orange play Pittsburgh next week, who’s also 5-6. Winner is bowl eligible. I’m not sure how Syracuse goes in there and wins that game with how they’ve been playing. Sure there’s always a chance, but who really expects it? If they do lose, it will mark a 5 game losing streak, and a 5-7 record after a 5-2 start. It’s unbelievable how far this team has fallen since the West Virginia game.
This Penn State situation is disgusting and shocking. I haven’t commented on it yet because it was hard for me to put in appropriate words exactly what I thought of the people involved. However, I stumbled upon an article on nowhereplans.com written by a Penn State alum that I thought was worth sharing. I’ve copied the article below:
Today I was sitting in the break room at one of my many jobs when a girl I work with asked me, “So what do you think of the whole thing with Penn State?” It was about the fifteenth time I had been asked the question; the fourteenth time, the tone with which I answered it was dripping with exasperation. I had just gotten to the point where I was tired of answering it, tired of having to think about it, tired of having to verbalize my feelings on the enormous scandal that has plunged my alma mater into shame.
On this occasion, though, I gave her a sincere answer.
I told her that at Penn State, there is an air about the entire place of being just a little bit better than everyone else. And to find out that it’s not, and in fact that it’s worse than anyone could have possibly imagined, is shocking.
And that was where I trailed off, and cast my eyes toward the floor.
The shock is built on a foundation of more emotions than I have time to write about, everything from blinding rage to a staggering inability to comprehend everything I’m hearing in the news. The amount and type of misconduct that was allowed to proliferate at the university, the decision of athletic officials and the administration to simply sweep the issue under the rug while issuing a toothless ban, the failure of a graduate assistant and the head football coach (a man who is said to be of tremendous moral fiber) to follow up the allegations with local police… The amount of negligence is hard to believe to begin with, and almost impossible to believe from an institution held in such high regard by so many.
If the allegations are true, every Penn State alum who has walked the campus over the past 15 years will have to come to terms with the fact that they were lied to every single day of their enrollment. Their tuition dollars helped bankroll the lie. The university, seeking to avoid scandal, addressed the matter only in whispers audible only to them. By not acting, school officials were complicit in Jerry Sandusky’s alleged crimes. Their silence allowed a pattern of abuse to develop and flourish. They chose the reputation of a school legend over the children whose lives he was ruining.
In putting the football program over right and wrong, the university was badly missing the point. But so too is the current student body, many of who have taken to the streets of State College to riot (or rally or whatever you want to call it, it’s the same stupid mob they form every time they’re emotional about anything) even as I type. They are protesting what looks to be the imminent departure of Joe Paterno, not wanting the school’s greatest icon to meet disgrace. In the process they are destroying the last vestiges of Penn State’s integrity, valuing the reputation of a school legend over any and all else. It doesn’t matter to them that Paterno’s judgment, informing school officials and letting it go at that, put more children in harm’s way.
Even if the students understood why Paterno had to go, a total administrative overhaul would not be sufficient. Undoing the damage begins at weeding the program of those complicit, but the damage itself can never be completely repaired. Children were subjected to abuse for years and years and years; that’s a reality that isn’t going away. If the school doesn’t make it a priority to take care of the victims, and if it doesn’t take it upon itself to rise from the ashes and lead the crusade against sexual abuse, then here again the university is missing the point. The only way Penn State can save itself is to come to peace with its past and look to the future for the chance to make amends.
Instead, the school is on the defensive, trying desperately to save its image even as it foots the legal bills for two former employees facing criminal charges in connection with Sandusky’s investigation. Penn State expects the student body to pay for the defense of two men whose actions have no defense. It expects students to pay for how others went horribly wrong.
Putting the pieces together has been completely overwhelming, and in the process I’ve lost faith in everything I once had absolute trust in. I can’t trust that the university will do the right thing, that officials will take their lumps and then do everything necessary to restore the school’s name. If this evening’s actions are any indication, I can’t trust that students or alumni will recognize the necessity of such an action. I want to believe that Penn State is still a great place to learn and grow up, that the people running it will do right by students past and present, but I can’t have faith in that either.
In fact, it’s hard for me to imagine ever having that faith again. How can I believe in an institution that would rather pretend a terrible crime didn’t happen rather than try to stop it? How can I root for a football team whose success blinded the judgment of so many? How can I ever walk by Old Main again and still believe that it stands as a symbol of knowledge, integrity and excellence?
I want to believe that Penn State is still exactly as I remember it, the finest school in the finest place in the world. But now I know that isn’t true.
Earlier in this article I wrote of a Penn State superiority, and it’s a superiority I felt every single day, for no other reason than an extreme pride in where I came from. The football team hangs its hat on the slogan “Success With Honor,” which could apply to much of the student body. I believed that one day I would embody that motto. I believed in it because I believed in Penn State.
Now, I’m not really sure what it means, if it means anything at all. Success there may be. But there certainly will be no honor.
To make sure I give proper credit, here’s a link to the full article: http://www.nowhereplans.com/etc/the-shame/
Per Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician blog, 4-star TE Ron Thompson from Southfield, Michigan has committed to Syracuse. This could easily be the biggest recruit Marrone had nabbed. Amidst all the negativity from the last two games, this is welcome news for Cuse fans. Thompson also had offers from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Vanderbilt. Here’s a link from Nunes Magician.
I’ve teamed up with coast2coasthoops.com to run their Syracuse basketball blog. Here’s a link to the site:
As you can see, there isn’t a ton of content on it now, but I will be taking over and writing articles starting tomorrow. That site is 100% dedicated to Syracuse basketball. This site will remain 100% dedicated to Syracuse football. They will be sister sites, both of which I will run and write for.
The benefit of the Nation of Orange site is it has forums, so we can chat about things other than the articles I post, you can suggest topics, maybe even have live forum posts during games to get instant reaction. It’s also backed by coast2coasthoops.com which gives me access to lots of other content, such as recruit interviews (and the ability to conduct them myself going forward). I hope everyone who’s taken an interest in this blog will join me there as well. My goal is to make it the most informative place on the web for Syracuse basketball and recruiting news.
I want to thank everyone for supporting my current blog, and look forward to your support on this new one as well. The Nation of Orange site will have a lot of recruiting news, and current team news as well. It will also include game previews and recaps. I’m very exciting and I think this is great news for all Syracuse fans!
Nation of Orange also has it’s own facebook and twitter accounts, both of which I will be running. Here they are:
SU fell 28-21 to UConn today. There were a variety of factors that contributed to this loss. I will discuss them each independently, in no particular order.
Simply put, the officiating in the second half of this game was really bad. There was a personal foul called on Phillip Thomas during UConn’s last drive that was abysmal. But mostly, it was the lack of calls that was so disturbing. UConn’s offensive line manhandled the Syracuse defensive line in the second half. And I mean, literally manhandled them. Grabbing jerseys, locking arms, and sometimes tackling them to the ground. It was nearly every play in the second half where blatant holding occurred. It wasn’t called once. There were two that I want to point out specifically, but rest assured, it happened much more than these two occurrences. On the Connecticut touchdown that tied it at 21, Dan Vaughan came out to stop the toss play. The UConn o-lineman grabbed him by the arm, and yanked him backwards from behind, which directly led to the TD. On third and 12 deep in Syracuse territory, the UConn QB dropped back, and a Syracuse player was coming in off a stunt with a clear path to him. Then, he was grabbed and pulled sideways, opening up a passing lane for a completion. Terrible.
Failure to Convert Turnovers to Points
Syracuse forced 5 turnovers in the first half, and got exactly ZERO points off of them. The worst was at the end of the half when Phillip Thomas grabbed his second INT, and Syracuse had a chip-shot 34 yard field goal. Krautman shanked it bad. SU should’ve had a lead going into the half, but instead was tied. Failure to convert those turnovers into points and create some distance between them and UConn did them in.
Failure to Make Key Stops
Syracuse had the lead 14-7, and 21-14 in the second half. Neither time did the defense step up and make a stop to get the offense the ball back with a lead. The run defense was also bad in the second half. Now the holding mentioned above was a big reason, but so was poor tackling and poor gap discipline.
Another Slow/Sloppy Start
When UConn was trying to set a record for most turnovers in a half, Syracuse was falling all over themselves. Nassib was missing open receivers, the offense was falling all over itself, and turning it over themselves. That may have been the worst quarter of football I’ve ever seen.
As I mentioned above, the missed FG was bad. But what was even worse was the kickoff coverage. They got out of their lanes, and missed tackles. UConn started with the ball near midfield (or better) every time after a kickoff. Krautman kicking it out of bounds didn’t help either. Easily the worst performance by this group all season.
Some Bright Spots
Nick Provo played very well in the second half, and is now the record holder for more catches by a TE in a single season in SU history. He’s been VERY good this season.
Nassib found a nice rhythm, and played well in the second half, save the late INT.
Dorian Graham was very good, especially on the reverses. It was a key play to the offense getting some rhythm.
Alec Lemon finished with 9 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown. He was spectacular today, making big catches and yards after the catch. He had one drop early, but was very reliable all day.
The loss today sets up a huge game Friday night against South Florida. It may be our “easiest” game left and best chance to become bowl eligible. And make no mistake, bowl eligibility is in serious doubt now.
ESPN is not off to a great start this morning. First, they listed the BCS standings, and apparently think Oklahoma State is so good, it should be ranked twice:
Then, on the info for the game, they state, “Tino Sunseri threw for a career high 419 yards for UConn in a loss at Pittsburgh.” Ummm… Last I checked, Sunseri was the Pitt quarterback who threw for 419 yards AGAINST UConn, not for them. UConn’s quarterbacks have barely thrown for that all year. Well done by the worldwide leader.
Today’s tilt against UConn is a swing game for the rest of the season. If they win, they become bowl eligible and remain in the Big East title hunt (albeit most likely having to win out to have a shot). If they lose, that’s two losses in a row against inferior teams, and all the early season doubt comes back. They are then in real danger of losing out and missing a bowl. Knowing how this game could create momentum, good or bad, for the rest of the season, here are my keys to a victory today:
Control the Line of Scrimmage
Connecticut has two things going for it. A good running game, and a very good defensive line. Syracuse needs to control the line of scrimmage on each side of the ball. If they do this, everything else should fall into place rather easily. Stop the Huskies’ running game, and force their quarterback (whichever one of the two they play) to make plays. Both Husky quarterbacks have proven they can’t win a game this year. They’ve been far below average. I’d feel really good about the Orange chances if the game is in their hands. Deon Goggins and Chandler Jones are key here. They must get penetration early and often. Hit the running backs in the back field, and be physical at the line of scrimmage. On offense, the offensive line needs to rebound from a horrific performance last week. Open up running lanes for Bailey, and give Nassib time. The Connecticut secondary is bad. I mean really bad. If Nassib has ANY time to throw, he will pick them apart. I look for a bounce back performance from this group, as they help the Orange offense get back on track. Give Bailey some creases, and he will exploit them. UConn doesn’t have the linebackers to be able to shut him down once he gets to that level.
Make the Plays as they Present Themselves
Last week, there were a few plays to be made that Syracuse didn’t capitalize on. The fumble return for a TD negated by an ill-timed timeout. Van Chew open down field a couple of times that Nassib missed. West wide open in the endzone that Nassib missed. An open Provo for a TD that Nassib never saw and therefore never made the throw. The fumbled punt return that SU couldn’t recover. Point is, as bad as last week was, there were opportunities. Problem was, NONE were taken advantage of. Today they must be. Nassib must make the throws that are there and capitalize on open receivers. The defense must be opportunistic and create the turnovers that are there.
Twelve penalties last week, including three personal fouls in the first quarter. Legit penalties or not, this simply cannot happen again. I expect a more disciplined Syracuse team, more like the one we’ve seen in every other game penalty wise. This is not a team that is penalized a lot prior to last week. Marrone will have this corrected, and he needs to. Syracuse can not afford to shoot themselves in the foot, and give UConn big plays via the penalty.
Play with Emotion
Last week the team was flat. They looked like they weren’t into the game. Now Louisville had something to do with that, but let’s get back to the Syracuse football team that was emotional and looked like they loved playing the game. We all know the story about Coach P, so UConn will have plenty of emotion going for them today. Not to mention, they are a desperate team (3-5), and a loss likely means no bowl for them. They NEED this game more than Syracuse does. Syracuse must match their intensity and play like their season is on the line. Because it very well could be.
With news that Boise State’s board has given them permission to join the Big East, the question remains, how long until they become official members? Then how long until they leave without ever playing a game? My bet is, Boise has hired TCU’s athletic department as consultants on how to use the Big East as a stepping stone to another BCS conference that might actually be around in a couple years.
I’m not convinced Boise will ever play a game in the Big East. But it will be very interesting to see how this plays out. The Big East is looking to add Navy, Air Force, Boise State, UCF, SMU, and Houston. The Big EAST would have teams in Texas, Idaho, Colorado, Illinois, and Wisconsin. As the Big East turns will continue next week….
Well….that sucked. I was going to leave it as just that, as that sentence just about sums up the whole game. But in the interest of being a little more thorough, I’d like to break down the game into three parts.
Part 1: Louisville played well
Let’s give credit where credit is due. As Syracuse fans, we clearly see things through Orange tinted glasses. So when SU is dominated as they were, we tend to focus more on the things we did poorly rather than what the other team did well. Louisville did a lot of things well in this game. They dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, especially on defense. The inside running game was non-existent, as the Cardinals frequently broke into the backfield. For an Orange offense that had zero negative plays against West Virginia, they had several against Louisville. Quick penetration was the name of the game for the Cardinals. They blitzed well, disguised coverages, and made life miserable for the Syracuse offensive line. I was very impressed with freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as well. He showed a lot of poise and showed a lot of potential. He’s going to be a really good one in a couple years.
Part 2: Syracuse played poorly
As good as Syracuse played against West Virginia, that’s how bad they played against Louisville. The running lanes that were there for Bailey last week, weren’t there against the Cardinals. Their defensive line proved to be too much for the Orange. Nassib had no time to throw most of the game. The performance by the offensive line was abysmal. It was shocking considering it appeared they had been getting stronger game after game, and looked like they had turned a corner against the Moutaineers. Then there’s the play of Ryan Nassib. He had one of his worst games of his career. There were two plays in particular that sum up his game. He had Van Chew open down the sideline for a sure big game and possible touchdown, but overthrew him by a few yards. Later in the game, he had Jarrod West wide open in the endzone and overthrew him by a few yards. If those two plays are converted, it could’ve been a tie game going into the 4th quarter, and then who knows what happens. Yes his offensive line played poorly, and yes he had no running game. But he’s got to find ways to make plays in those situations. That’s what big time quarterbacks do. Whenever there was a window and a play to be made, he missed the throw. He’s got to be better than that. I was also very disappointed in the play of the secondary. There’s no excuse for getting lost in coverage as often as they did, against an offense that has struggled to score all year.
Part 3: The officiating
Simply put, it was atrocious in this game. Syracuse had a lot of penalties, and some were valid. There were a bunch more that weren’t. For example, they called an unnecessary roughness penalty on Jeremiah Kobena during a fumble in the first quarter. He was trying to rip the ball out from the bottom of the pile, and they called that unnecessary roughness. If that’s unnecessary roughness, so is every fumble that’s ever occurred at any level of football. Not to mention, Louisville’s first touchdown pass was CLEAR offensive pass interference. Right in front of the official, no call. Inexcusable. I also counted at least 8 times when Louisville’s offensive line clearly held a Syracuse defensive lineman without a call. Each led to good gains for the Cardinals. There was also the third and long that Louisville converted on a play where the receiver stepped out of bounds then came back in and was the first to touch the ball. A clear penalty. The flag was initially thrown, but picked up because the officials claimed he was forced out. Upon further review of the play, no contact was made by the Syracuse defender. These types of things were a common theme throughout the game.
All in all, it was as ugly a game as you could imagine from an Orange perspective. This makes the UConn game that much more important. It could make or break the rest of the season. We’ve now seen how this team reacts to a huge win. Let’s see what resilience they have in reacting to a terrible loss.
After Syracuse’s 49-23 thrashing of West Virginia last Friday, all seemed to be well in Cuse Nation. Apparently, there’s someone out there who disagrees. A local West Virginia fan took umbrage with some of the festivities at the Dome that night, and sent a letter to the editor to voice said umbrage. Thanks to our friend @Flaminio44 for sending this article to us:
SU displayed poor sportsmanship vs. WVU
The Post-Standard 10/27/2011 9:25 AM
To the Editor:
Having recently moved from West Virginia, we were excited by the prospect of having a new football team to root for. We were enjoying ourselves at the game Friday night when it took an ugly turn. Suddenly, I was no longer embarrassed by the poor performance by the Mountaineers, but mortified by the poor sportsmanship exhibited by Syracuse fans.
I expect to hear insults tossed around in the stands. What I didn’t expect were the “Hey, you suck!” chants — led by the Syracuse cheerleaders themselves; the SU mascot’s performance of “dueling banjos,” mocking the entire state of West Virginia; and the constant close-ups of West Virginia fans on the screen, encouraging 45,000 people to erupt in a chorus of boos in an attempt to further humiliate those who only want to show support for their team.
We’ve attended countless games at WVU. Never did the organization do anything to mock or disparage opposing teams, or single out fans to boo.
There is nothing worse than poor losers, except poor winners. Syracuse may have won the game, but it lost to WVU when it comes to professionalism, graciousness and class. It also lost a group of people who had been considering season tickets for next year. They will find a new team to cheer for.
Really Mr. Koresko? Really? Let’s analyze this step by step. First off, he claims the Syracuse cheerleaders led a “Hey, you suck!” chant towards West Virginia. This is simply false. Syracuse cheerleaders never have, and never will, lead such a chant. Now there is a chant where the crowd yells “Hey!” that I’m sure all fans have participated in at some point. However, adding “you suck” to the end is the choice of the fans, and most commonly the student section. The cheerleaders do not encourage or lead that chant. Secondly, he’s insulted by Otto playing “dueling banjos” which he claims mocks the entire state of West Virginia. As Brent Axe put it on his radio show the other day, you’re really insulted by a giant fuzzy ball playing a fake banjo? Really? As if that’s the first time anyone’s associates banjos with West Virginia. Please. Third, he claims constant close-ups of West Virginia fans encouraging the fans to boo them. What is he talking about? Has he never been to a football game before? Every game Syracuse does promotions during timeouts which show various parts of stands. The Pomco kiss cam is one, the Yancy’s Fancy say cheese cam is another. These are normal promotions done every game, and were not done to encourage booing. When they happen to pan by areas with some WVU fans, the crowd booed. Shocking! He acts like every timeout all they showed in the big screens were WVU fans with a message underneath stating “BOO THEM!!!” What was he expecting? Golf claps? Did he want the crowd to simultaneously say “awe it’ll be ok” in a parent talking to infant type voice? He must’ve been surprised because no fans have ever booed the opposing team and/or its fans before. Then he acts like all of these things were done by the University and sponsored by them specifically to insult and mock WVU. That’s just not correct, not logical, and reasonable.
But the last paragraph is what kills me. He actually said West Virginia won in graciousness, professionalism, and class. Really? You want to go there? Ok I guess we’re going there. Once again, most of what I’m about to say is similar to or the same as Brent Axe’s take on his radio program the other day (On The Block in TheScore1260 2-6pm). But it’s worth reiterating. He wants to talk about class when comparing West Virginia to Syracuse. The “classier” West Virginia is the same West Virginia that has a tradition of burning couches after every win. That’s right. BURNING COUCHES. These are the same fans who have shirts printed out, and worn frequently, that say “West F*****g Virginia” but actually say the F word. In fact, West Virginia had to send out a letter to all fans BEGGING them not to wear that shirt for their recent nationally televised home game against LSU. All class all the time. Lastly, WVU athletic director Oliver Luck stated recently that both Navy and Air Force are better football programs than Syracuse. Classy comment right there. I don’t seem to recall our athletic director sending letters to our fans asking them not to wear shirts with obscenities on them. Nor do I recall burnt couches lining the streets after wins, nor our athletic director ripping their program. West Virginia = class. Would you like to maybe reconsider your statements Mr. Koresko?
Link to full article: Letter to the Editor