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:
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.
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.
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.
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.