Looking back at the 2009 football season, 4-8 (1-6) is a tad better than what most people expected, despite the record and obviously no bowl game. Most people look at last year thinking with a new coach, player defections, mounting injuries, tough schedule and other general nonesense happening its tough to see SU going very far. But I maintain that the reason why SU lost 8 games was NOT due to those things. Really. If it were, SU would have gotten blasted by everyone on the schedule, including Rutgers and Northwestern.
Sure, those things don't help. But the key stat was to me was turnovers. Not all turnovers are created equal: you gotta give the opposing D credit when they create them, but some are simply unforced mistakes by the offense. That being said, there were 3 key games in which I believe UNFORCED turnovers were the leading reason why SU lost. Fix that problem, and SU shoulda-coulda-woulda been bowling in 2009:
Minnesota: Most people look at the Paulus INT in OT as the deciding factor in the game. It certainly sealed it, for sure. The key turnover though, was the Jim McKenzie snap on the first play of the game. Compltely unforced. That not only gave Minnesota an extra possession, but an easy TD and transferred any momentum SU had going in to the other side. Bottom line is, no bad snap, no turnover, no easy Minnesota TD and no overtime. SU starts off the season 1-0.
USF: First there was the fumble-fest that ensued in the first quarter, both teams managed to fumble a combined 4 times in 4 minutes. The real story here is the 5 INTs by Paulus. That many INTs usually means a dreadfully lopsided game. But it wasn't. In fact, it was a very close game until the 3rd quarter, and SU only managed to lose by a couple of TDs. This was a winnable game. Like I mentioned, you have to give the D some credit for creating TOs. But not 7. Clearly, Paulus made bad decisions this game. Bottom line is eliminate just couple INTs, or even just the pick-6, and SU is right in this one.
Louisville: On the road, no Mike Williams and with mounting injuries this game went from a sure win to a "defensive struggle," aka two bad teams playing very sh*tty football. Anyways, SU looked to be able to take this one until the late TD by UL put them up by a point. Even then, SU had the ball and was driving, until Marcus Sales drops a pass which consequently wound up in the hands of the defender. Sure, give the defender credit for making the play. But its not as if he got a hand in and forced the ball out. Sales DROPPED the ball. Bottom line: if Sales makes the catch SU gets at least gets the opportunity to drain the clock and nail a FG try to win it. If Sales manages just to prevent the INT, they still get another crack at it on the next down.
I say SU wins easily at least 2 of 3 of those games if they'd close the gap on TOs. Maybe GP had to overcompensate for a bad offense and had to take more chances, which led to so many INTs. Then again, maybe he just made bad decisions after not playing football for 4 years. Maybe Spence sucked as an OC (probably) and the offense was too predictable and created more oppotunities for the defense. Any way you look at it (and I'm not baggin' on GP) both guys are gone. Considering this, I think Doug Marrone and SU will fix the turnover problem and pull off 7 wins. This is the season the turnaround happens. I know we're still over a month off before camp, but I think next year will be the best football we've seen in nearly a decade and I simply cannot wait!