These days, when you think of the Syracuse-West Virginia series, you think of dominating wins by the Mountaineers. So if you're Syracuse, it's best not to think about it at all. Coupled with a rough loss last weekend, "not thinking about it" has become SU's motto for this week.
"Losses happen," said junior defensive end Mikhail Marinovich. "Sometimes teams get after you, and they win. It’s part of the game. Honestly, everyone’s staying up. We’re all encouraging each other."
"I always thought that coaching football, X’s and O’s, scheme-wise, that’s not difficult. What’s difficult is making sure you manage the psyche of players, units, teams… that’s where you spend a lot of your time making sure you’re in the right state of mind," he said. "If you’re not, you’re going to get teams that are extremely low, extremely high … and you can’t create that consistency, and that’s what you’re looking for on the football field."
The Orange will have to contend with an extremely hostile crowd. They're also going to have to contend with a talented WVU team, one that Doug Marrone considers among the best in the country:
"I think this is a Top 10 football team, in my opinion, from what I’ve seen. We’re playing a team that truly is, deservedly, a Top 10 football team."
Asked if it’s one of the toughest venues in college football, Marrone said, "Absolutely, it’s not even close."
The Syracuse defense has been mostly improved all year. The linebackers are hitting. The linemen are creating gaps. The secondary has buttoned-up. But then there's those big plays. The big plays continue to plague the Orange and make the difference between wins and losses.
"Yeah, the big plays did kill us," Shafer said. "We missed some tackles. … You can't take those back. You take them back, and we're sitting here having a different conversation. So you look at where we lost leverage or where we missed a tackle or two here and there."
Clamping down in the red zone wouldn't hurt either. Right now SU opponents score 86% of the time when they get inside the 20.
What about offense? The Orange abandoned the run out of necessity early against Pitt. Would a re-commitment to Delone Carter and the running game make a difference for a passing attack that can be wishy-washy? It's not a simple answer but The Daily Orange's Andrew John finds something noteworthy about that approach.
It's easy to say it's not that simple. But consider this: Carter gets most of his carries in the first quarter, which, not coincidently, is when the Orange typically has the most success offensively. Against Colgate, during SU's most explosive second half of the season, it was Carter who carried the load and rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns in the second half.
Against Pitt, the SU offensive line struggled to keep the Panthers from breaking into the backfield. Carter wasn't going to do it all by himself. Nor should he have to. The line needs to start to pave the way, and Nassib and the receivers need to keep the opposing defenses honest and not allow them to stack eight or nine men in the box. And more than every so often, the coaches need to call Carter's number time and time again.
|The Orange Speak...on West Virginia|