Syracuse survives awful 1st half performance; Defeats Detroit 66-55

Scoop Jardine’s 27 points and 8 assists propelled the Orange to a 66-55 victory over Detroit on Tuesday night at the Carrier Dome.  Syracuse outscored Detroit 41-27 in the second half to bounce back from a 28-25 deficit at halftime.

*Hopefully, Tuesday night’s performance was as bad as we will see from this team.  How bad was it???  Let the numbers speak for themselves….36% from the field….23% on 3 pointers….52% from the free throw line.  And those numbers were WAY worse before the team got “hot” in the second half.

*Scoop finished the game with 27 points, 8 assists and 5 steals.  It was a great individual performance.  As Coach Boeheim stated in his post game press conference….without Scoop’s effort, we lose the game.  Fact.

*Rick Jackson was the only other Orange player to show up for this game.  22 rebounds in a collegiate game is a serious number.  And, he did it against a team that has some pretty good size too.

*Kris Joseph is really struggling with his role as “the man” on this team.  We all know that he has got all the talent in the world, but he needs to learn to relax and let his talent take over.  Hitting a few 3 pointers would sure help his confidence.

*The time is now for Brandon Triche to step up and show that all of his god given talent can actually translate to games.  Triche’s play on Tuesday was typical of his career so far at Syracuse.  Inconsistent play with flashes of brilliance sprinkled in.  He had 5 of the team’s 12 turnovers.

*Baye Moussa Keita continues to impress everybody who watches him.  The kid is athletic and active.  Coach Boeheim’s confidence in him seems to be growing with each passing game.

*Fab Melo still has a long way to go.  It WILL happen for him, but he has a lot to learn on both ends of the floor.  I do think that his development as a player will move quickly and I feel confident that he will look like a different player come March.

 *CJ Fair is going to find a specific role in the rotation and play real minutes this year.  He is a good all around player who plays defense and seems to have a knack for being in the right place on the break.  He seems to have a “Josh Pace-like” quality for filling stat sheets.

Syracuse defeats Rutgers for win #7; Bowl eligible for the first time since 2004!

Syracuse’s gritty 13-10 victory over Rutgers on Saturday improved its 2010 overall record to 7-3 and marked the unofficial rebirth of the Syracuse University football program.  The program is bowl eligible for the first time since 2004, and is guaranteed its first winning season since 2001.  The fact that this momentous victory came at the expense of Greg Schiano and Rutgers made it all the more sweet.   

Here is how I graded out the team’s performance in week #10:

OFFENSE

GRADE:  C-

For the second straight week the offense struggled maintaining drives as a result of the O-line’s inability to provide protection against the blitz.  Needless to say, a blueprint has developed as to how to defend against the Orange.  There is little doubt that UConn and BC will blitz early and often until the offensive line proves that they can handle it effectively. 

*Ryan Nassib really struggled in the first half.  His throws were rushed and he was generally very inaccurate.  The second half was a completely different story.  Nassib was at his best when the pressure was on and ultimately completed 10 of 15 passes in the decisive half.

*Nassib has now thrown a TD pass is every game this season.

*Marcus Sales had a great game.  He made 2 HUGE catches on the go ahead drive in the 4th quarter.  The one up against the sideline was a thing of beauty.  Marcus caught every ball that was thrown his way, and was very impressive creating yards after the catch.  The bottom line is that he is a playmaker on a team that has far too few of them.  He has GOT to play more going forward.

*The pass protection was so bad that it warrants repeating.  The line let up 7 sacks on Saturday.  Entering the game, Rutgers’ defense had 7 total sacks on the SEASON.  That’s just terrible.

*While I am on the subject of the offensive line, how about that unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Michael Hay?  Before the penalty, Syracuse had been in a pretty good groove offensively (albeit early in the game).  Hay’s lapse in judgement stalled the drive and turned out to be the first step in a shift of momentum toward Rutgers.  IF Syracuse wound up losing the game, that one ridiculously stupid penalty could have left a defining mark on the entire season.

*I am not a fan of using TE Jose Cruz in the passing game.  He’s had a big catch or two this season, but he doesn’t possess the hands of a “pass catching” tight end.  He also seems to be a magnet for penalties.

DEFENSE

GRADE:  B-

The defense played a “bend but don’t break” kind of a game, although it wasn’t necessarily by design.  To their credit, the defensive players did manage to make big plays when it counted the most, and that is what won the game for Syracuse.  It is hard not to be disappointed by the fact that the coaches and players were never able to come up with adjustments to stop Jeremy Deering in the wildcat formation.  Everyone knew what was coming on virtually every play, yet the defense just could not stop it. 

*Derrell Smith (with a little help from Rutgers’ play calling) made the victory possible by sacking Tom Savage on the Scarlet Knight’s second to last drive of the game.  The play pushed Rutgers out of comfortable field goal range and ultimately led to a game altering missed kick.

*Doug Hogue always seems to get up for games against Rutgers.  He finished the game with 12 tackles and laid some pretty good licks on several Rutgers ball carriers. 

*Mikhail Marinovich, Chandler Jones and Brandon Sharpe all made great individual plays late in the game that helped make the victory possible.

SPECIAL TEAMS

GRADE:  B+

I was very worried coming into the game that Rutgers would dominate the Orange with their special teams play.  The Scarlet Knights did produce solid numbers in their kick return game, but they also missed two field goals and were not able to create points off of special teams, like they usually do.

*Ross Krautman has been a godsend.  The kid kicks long field goals, field goals from tough angles, field goals under pressure…you name it.  For a freshman kicker to perform the way that he has this entire year is truly amazing. 

COACHING

GRADE:  C+

The coaching staff did not make very many in-game adjustments to help get the offense rolling.  Nor did they come up with a successful plan of attack to stop the wildcat.  What they did do is keep this team focused and even keeled – as they have done all year – and managed to gut out yet another victory in a very close game.

*I am running out of positive things to say about the job that Doug Marrone and his staff have done this year.  From the bottom of the rankings of college football to a bowl game in only 2 years is an amazing accomplishment.  Not only does a bowl game make the program relevant again, but let us not underestimate the 15 extra practices that come with it.  Consider the fact that a team like Rutgers has been to bowl games in each of the past 3 years.  That means that their upper classmen have experienced approximately 45 more practices than the players within the Syracuse program.  That is a heck of a lot more time and opportunity to coach up developing young players.

*The “Doug Marrone Redemption Tour” continues.  The Orange had not won a game at Rutgers since 2001.

*Not to nitpick, but how about running a QB sneak on that 4th and inches play?

AS FOR NEXT WEEK’S GAME AT HOME AGAINST UCONN:

UConn comes into the Dome after a very big emotional win over conference leading, Pitt.   They have a talented team with one of the best running backs in the nation in Jordan Todman.  Considering how Syracuse has played at home this year, they are in no position to take any team for granted – especially a dangerous one.  I would love nothing more that to avenge the drubbing that the team took in Storrs last year.  Hopefully, the team will play fast and loose with the pressure of bowl eligibility having been lifted.

Syracuse avenges loss to Lemoyne with 91-48 exhibition win

Syracuse concluded its exhibition schedule with a 91-48 pasting of Lemoyne on Tuesday night.  The ‘Cuse led 41-25 at halftime, and then turned the game into a laugher with a 14-0 run to open the second half.

*Syracuse made 11 of 16 shots from behind the arc.  This has the potential to be a very good shooting team, though most of its best shooters will be coming off of the bench.  Mookie Jones and James Southerland had better be ready to step up for prime time minutes when called upon.

*Scoop has come a long way with his shooting.  Early in his career it seemed like he wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) be a guy to look for his shot.  Now, when he shoots it I actually expect him to make it.

*Brandon Triche had an awesome baseline drive and dunk that showed what kind of athleticism he has.  The problem is that he still disappears during games and gets way too down on himself when things are not going well.  Dion Waiters had 13 points and seemed to rid himself of the jitters that were so apparent in the Kutztown U. game.  It will be interesting to see how the backcourt rotation plays out.  My guess is that it minutes will be determined on a per game basis.  The hot hand plays.

Orange suffers 28-20 letdown against Louisville

Syracuse suffered a crushing defeat on Saturday falling to the Louisville Cardinals 28-20.  Doug Marrone had warned his team all week that the Cardinals should not be taken lightly.  He was right.  Louisville proved to be a much more aggressive, functional, well coached team under Charlie Strong than they have been in quite a while.  They dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and played as physical a game as the Orange has seen all year.

Here is how I graded out the team’s performance in week #9:

OFFENSE

GRADE:  D

The story of the game was the offensive line’s inability to protect Ryan Nassib from Louisville’s relentless blitz.  The Orange never came up with an answer to how they should respond and the tempo of the game was never in their favor.    

*Syracuse gained 256 yards of total offense.  Only 62 came in the second half. 

*Play of the game:  Alec Lemon’s drop of a sure touchdown in the third quarter.  He also dropped a potential touchdown pass on the very next play – a much tougher ball to catch, but still catchable.  I realize that Lemon is a solid blocker and route runner, but his lack of consistency in catching the ball is really starting to get to me.  He’s got a long way to go before he can be trusted to make plays under pressure.

*Different week, same story…Delone Carter got it done.  108 yards on 21 carries.

*The only decent play that the Orange could come up with to counter Louisville’s blitz was checking off to the tight end.  This led to a pretty good game for Nick Provo.  He tied his career high with 5 receptions for 42 yards.

*Kudos to Andrew Phillips who got his first start on the offensive line for the injured Michael Hay.  It was not a banner day for the line as whole, but the simple fact that Phillips did not stand out as being part of the problem – with zero game experience – is pretty impressive.

DEFENSE

GRADE:  D

It seems like the defense took the week off.  They were beaten on routine plays by unspectacular athletes.  They also missed a ton of tackles.  This is certainly not what we’ve become accustom too under Scott Shafer.  Much like in baseball where great pitching beats great hitting, a solid veteran offensive line can make an aggressive defense look awfully weak.  And that is exactly what happened. 

*The team has counted on the defense to make big plays to set up scores week after week.  There were no such plays on this Saturday.

*The best example of Louisville’s dominance over the line of scrimmage was Charlie Strong’s decision to go for it on 4th and inches in Louisville territory.  And why wouldn’t he?  The way the Cardinals were blasting our defensive line off the ball, it was a foregone conclusion that they would make it.

*It was nice to see Bud Tribbey step up and play a solid game.  The line got pushed around all day, but Tribbey managed to make 5 very noticeable tackles and was more disruptive that usual.

SPECIAL TEAMS

GRADE:  D

The special teams units had another typically bad day.  They committed 3 penalties (which is inexcusable), and the Rob Long kickoff that went out of bounds set up a big Louisville scoring drive.

*On a positive note, Dorian Graham looks really good returning kicks.  Every one of his returns had the potential to go the distance.  He revs up to full speed very fast and he picks his lanes well. 

COACHING

GRADE:  D

The coaching staff was outclassed on Saturday.  They had no answer for Louisville’s game plan and lost a golden opportunity to maintain this season’s momentum and keep the fans coming back to the Dome.  The difference in this team’s performance level at home versus on the road is mindboggling.

AS FOR NEXT WEEK’S GAME AT RUTGERS:

Rutgers is limping into this game.  They don’t have a great team this year and they are still battling the emotions stemming from Eric LeGrand’s devastating injury.  But, much like Louisville…these guys are dangerous.  They have good skill position players and their special teams are considerably better than ours.  Considering how Syracuse has been playing at home, this last road game becomes all the more important.

Basketball team opens season with exhibition victory over Kutztown U.

The Syracuse University basketball team played its first exhibition game of the season last night and defeated Kutztown University 96-60.

Coach Boeheim clearly wanted to use the exhibition as a way to evaluate his younger players in a “real game” situation.  The freshman and sophomores played early and often, mostly together as a unit, and performed very well…albeit against a way overmatched opponent. 

Some observations:

*Rick Jackson looks great.  He must have lost at least 15 lbs. and it was obvious that the weight loss has him playing at a much quicker speed. 

*It comes as no surprise, but Fab Melo is going to be a dominating big man.  It’s hard not to be impressed with a 7-foot 260 lb. center who can steal the ball at the foul line, and then dribble his way down to the other end of the court for a dunk.  He’s a very big man, he can move, he can pass, and he has great hands.  Wow.

*Mookie Jones has the ability to shoot the lights out from anywhere on the court.  He’s proven that.  The important thing for him is learn better shot selection.  He hoisted 2 or 3 bad shots last night that would have earned him a seat next to Coach B if this were a meaningful game.

*James Southerland is my pick for “Breakout Player of the Year.”  The guy is 6-8 and is considered to be the best athlete on a team that is filled with great athletes.  He is also considered to be one of the better shooters on the team.  And if that weren’t enough, he is a solid rebounder AND even saw a few minutes last night at POINT GUARD.   

*C.J. Fair had 14 points and 6 boards.  Not a bad debut.  This kid looks like a prototypical small forward for the Syracuse program.  He is really smooth on the court and his athleticism makes his dribble penetration, rebounding and defense seem effortless.

*Baye Moussa Keita may have impressed me more than any other new player last night – considering my low expectations for him coming into the season.  Don’t be fooled by his rail thin physique.  This kid is no project.  Keita finished the game with 8 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks and showed that he can run the floor and catch the ball extremely well.  He is athletic and very coordinated for a freshman big man.  That being said, he will have a great deal of difficulty matching up against other big men.  It’s a shame that he’ll be thrust into action before he is physically ready (due to DaShonte Riley’s season ending injury), but he does have a lot of ability.

*Dion Waiters didn’t have a great night.  He had 5 assists, but he did not look particularly comfortable on the court and shot only 3-for-9 from the field.  Let’s chalk it up to first game jitters.  There’s little doubt that he will develop into a huge weapon coming off the bench.

*Syracuse was 13-for-13 from the foul line.  It bodes well for the future that ALL of the young players – including big men, Fab Melo and Moussa Keita – seem to have nice strokes from the line.  This actually has the makings of a very good free throw shooting team.  When was the last time that you could say that?

Will SU start 2 freshman in this year’s starting 5?

Sean Keeley over at the blog site nunesmagician.com raises an interesting point about the potential starting five for this year’s version of the SU basketball team.  He noticed that during Midnight Madness, the “blue” team consisted of Rick Jackson, Fab Melo and Kris Joseph up front, and Scoop Jardine and Dion Waiters in the backcourt. 

You may recall that Jim Boeheim was quoted recently saying that Waiters is “probably the best freshman guard we’ve had in a long time.  A long time.  Talent-wise.”  That is quite a statement considering all of the backcourt talent that Jimmy has brought into the program over the past few years.

I feel like Brandon Triche is poised to take the next step forward this season, but it MAY be while he’s coming off the bench.

Louisville’s star RB questionable for Saturday’s game

Saturday’s game against Louisville could be the second consecutive week that Syracuse won’t have to face their opponent’s best offensive player due to injury. Last week it was the Big East’s overall passing leader, Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros.  This week, Louisville RB Bilal Powell – the nation’s #4 rusher – is suffering from swelling around his right knee and it is unknown when he will be available to play.  Louisville Head Coach Charlie Strong said that Powell will be evaluated “day-to-day, week-to-week.”  Powell injured his knee in last week’s 20-3 loss to Pittsburgh.