Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
TNIAAM's football experts discuss Syracuse's exciting win over USF and break down the keys to this Saturday's game against Cincinnati.
Each week, we'll be holding a roundtable discussion with TNIAAM's football "experts" to get a read on the program's most pressing issues on- and off-the-field. Have differing opinions? Feel free to share them in the comments.
Describe your emotions as Syracuse took the lead for good with three seconds to go against USF...
Andy Pregler: So I was at work and turned off the game after the first half so I could catch up on work and stop wanting to vent my frustration on some helpless parent trying to watch their son play online. When the game got close, I turned it back on and until the Orange scored, hope was slowly building in me. I swore they'd find a way to F it up on the goal line, but the TD resulted in an epic fist pump and spinny chair ride that rivaled anything else I did this weekend.
Chris Daughtrey: Relief. I didn't get to watch the game since it wasn't on TV here and ESPN3 is sketchy at best. But, by pure blind luck, I pulled up the game feed in the seconds after the winning TD. So, I can't really get into any feelings other than being relieved to get a W, since I didn't witness the comeback that preceded it.
Dan Lyons: I was at East End Bar & Grille in Manhattan with a few friends, and looking back on it, we were actually spared from much of the first half. They were trying to show the game via ESPN3 hooked up to a bunch of their TVs, but the internet was really shoddy, and the picture was in and out the entire night. We missed the whole "shanked field goal followed by 80 yard touchdown run" turn of events, which we confusedly read about on our phones. The internet got a bit better in the second half, and before we knew it, it was 24-23 Syracuse, and then we were strapped in. The rest of the game was back and forth, as you all know, and at the end when we scored the go ahead touchdown, the bar put on the Hey Song, which we sang joyfully with the rest of the Syracuse fans present, to the amusement the Texas Tech fans who had been watching their game earlier, and the Notre Dame fans who had just arrived for their game. As I've written before, it wasn't the best win, and USF is a team that we should probably be beating soundly based on their record, but we're still not at a place where we can take any win for granted, so I'm happy to celebrate this one as I would any other Syracuse football victory.
John Cassillo: A mix of joy and relief, with an odd feeling of "there's a strong possibility SU could still screw this up with three seconds remaining on the clock" also mixed in. I was certainly confused as to why we'd call a pass play on the goal line, but since the play call worked out, no complaints here. Just nice to see us come out on the right side of one of those games for once this season.
Sean Keeley: Concerned jubilation. I still expected something to go horribly wrong, like a turnover on the two-point conversion or USF taking the kickoff back for a touchdown. So I was thrilled with the play and the drive, but crapping my pants over what I expected to come next.
Should we be concerned about the run defense again, or was the Bulls game a fluke?
JR: I think the Orange run defense is solid, and the overall defense is one of the strengths of their team. Maybe USF just ran out of their minds for one game. Even a broken watch is correct twice a day.
MM: Concerned is probably an understatement. B.J. Daniels looked like a crazy combination of Robert Griffin III and Mike Vick in his prime. Daniels and Lindsey Lamar rushed for 279 yards total! Granted, USF is much better than its 2-6 record, but for Syracuse to give up a total of 369 yards on the ground is a major issue.
AP: The Syracuse Orange defense doesn't seem to fare well against mobile quarterbacks. Against Cincy and Louisville, yes this is a concern. Now that Jay Bromley is out with an UBI, I'm very concerned for this weekend's game especially. I'm not sure how to fix this issue besides a basic LB spy, but I'm sure the guys have worked hard on it after being torched by Daniels.
CD: I'm going with fluke. I think it was the product of having the dual running threat of Daniels and Lindsey Lamar. Against a more traditional attack, I think the run D has finally solidified itself into something that, while maybe not a huge strength, isn't a liability anymore.
DL: I think we should be concerned about dual-threat quarterbacks. B.J. Daniels absolutely tore us up, and we have two similar QBs coming up in Munchie Legaux and Teddy Bridgewater. I think his scrambling ability opened things up for the rest of their backs. Thinking optimistically, we should now be better prepared for that kind of player.
JC: The mobile quarterback plus elite running back combination will be a problem in three of our final four games, so I'd say Saturday's performance is a bad omen for what's to come. Bromley's injury does no favors for us either, and it's going to fall on the linebackers to do a better job at containment now.
SK: I mean, yes and no. We need to be concerned in specific situations and the USF game was that situation. They had a mobile QB, which seems to be our big weakness. That doesn't bode well against Cincy either. In general, however, when our opponent's run-game is one dimensional, I fully expect us to shut it down.
How will the shortened week of practice (due to the hurricane) impact the team this weekend against Cincinnati?
JR: Considering SU's recent record on Friday nights, I'd say 'short' weeks suit them just fine.
MM: At this point in the season practices aren't usually too intense. I can't see missing some time, especially for what turned out to be just a windy storm in our area, playing a big role. If Syracuse loses it will probably because of stupid penalties and self-inflicted wounds -- you know, the usual.
AP: I can confirm from a few players that the team did in fact practice Tuesday. I'm not sure about Monday but I'm assuming they did anyway so no effect. The guys also told me that they're anxious for this game. They know how big it is and are revved up. They won't even talk about the USF win anymore.
CD: I don't think it will. I mean, if it's anything like the NFL, guys have Sunday and Monday off for the most part anyway. They might miss out on some film study and the like, but there's nothing to say that guys weren't in watching DVDs of the Bearcats at home during the storm. I'd hope that the coaching staff would have had the foresight to burn some extra copies.
DL: It's hard to say. I have to imagine that the time that we missed on the field will be made up in the film room or somewhere else beneficial. I imagine Mondays are generally walk-through/installation days, so there's a chance the staff was able to get some of that done off the field.
JC: My big concern was with regards to improvements and adjustments for another mobile quarterback in Munchie Legaux. But with news that they only ended up missing one day (Monday), I definitely feel better. At this point in the season, I feel that watching game tape isn't enough. Telling yourself you can make the necessary adjustments simply isn't the same as a full week of implementing change, and I hope the team's devised a better way to shut down the run than what they brought against USF.
SK: We seem to do just fine with shortened weeks (See: Friday Nights) so I don't see how it will have any impact on the team or the game.
Outside of Munchie Legaux, are there any other Bearcat playmakers we need to worry about?
JR: Tight end Travis Kelce has the size to go over the middle and pick up tough yards, and has big play ablity after breaking off a 78 yard TD catch earlier this year.
MM: Piggybacking off the last question, running back George Winn is on pace to rush for over 1,200 yards this season and is coming off an impressive 125 yards on the ground against Louisville. Another worry for SU? Cincinnati's defense is one of the better units in the Big East. The Bearcats have given up more than 30 points just one time this season.
AP: Not that I can think of for the sole reason that like the USF game, if Munchie gets going, we're going to have a long day on our hands. The Orange need to contain him and make him throw the ball. He can still be dangerous, but far less so than if he's running all over the place forcing the safeties in.
CD: Hard not to say George Winn. He's second in the Big East in total rushing and, as we saw against USF, Syracuse has trouble when having to account for both a QB and RB in the running attack. Munchie Legaux (WTF kind of name is that?) might not exactly be a B.J. Daniels type of running, but he's good enough that he's going to make Winn better.
DL: Linebacker Greg Blair has been putting up pretty crazy tackle numbers, including 19 total tackles in their overtime loss to Louisville last week. Jerome Smith has added a ton of balance to our offense, which is a big reason why it has been so effective over the last few weeks. Blair will have the task of limiting Smith's effectiveness. If we can control the ball on the ground and keep Cincinnati's offensive playmakers off the field, we have a great chance to win.
JC: I was going to say George Winn, but we've definitely covered off on the issues we're likely to have with their running game. Should we get containment on the run, however, I'd watch out for top receiver Kenbrell Thompkins. Cincinnati's passing game hasn't been all that great this year, but that's mostly because the run's worked so effectively. If we dare Legaux to throw deep, we need to make sure Thompkins is blanketed.
SK: George Winn concerns me because, as we saw last week, a mobile QB and a decent RB can beat us pretty good. Winn is way better than anyone on USF's roster so if we don't get either him or Munchie under wraps, we could be in big trouble.
Syracuse player that needs a bounce-back game this Saturday?
JR: After what looked like his coming out party vs. UConn, Ashton Broyld sat out the USF game with the dreaded "upper body injury". Here's hoping he can get back on the field and contribute to the Orange as the season winds down and they hold out hope for a bowl bid.
MM: I'll just be happy if the Orange doesn't wait until the second half to start executing its game plan. I'll give Doug Marrone and Scott Shafer credit for their halftime adjustments, but I think we're all waiting to see the team come out and play well from jump.
AP: I would really like to see the o-line as a whole play like they did in that final drive. Nippert Stadium is going to be as loud as a smallish horseshoe stadium can be and so if the line can avoid stupid penalties and protect Ryan Nassib, he can really pick apart this Bearcat secondary. A few nice running holes for Jerome Smith wouldn't hurt either.
CD: Not having seen the USF game, I can't really say for sure. All I saw was the box score and, statistically, everyone played well. So, I'm going to cop out and say that the front seven as a whole need to step it up. USF trampled them and they're facing a similar attack in the 1-2 combo of Legaux and Winn. They need to figure out how they're going to play that dual running system and stop up one or the other.
DL: Our linebackers all struggled to keep contain on BJ Daniels, and our tackling across the board was pretty bad. After a few weeks of dominant run defense, we need that unit to recover after a lackluster performance. I think that Munchie Legaux is a very similar player to B.J. Daniels, and he is prone to make mistakes when throwing the ball. If we can keep him in the pocket and force him to become a pure passer, I don't know that he's good enough in that situation to kill us.
JC: Rob Trudo's been getting a lot of offside calls lately, and don't get me started on anyone who had a personal foul/pass interference called against them (Ri'Shard Anderson, Keon Lyn, Lewellyn Coker). As I've said before, Marrone needs stricter punishments for these types of missteps. I'm sure none of these guys feel like they need to "bounce back" from the previous game. If there was a bit more accountability, maybe they'd feel differently.
SK: I'd like to see Sir Alec Lemon have a big game again. Obviously he made a huge play at the end but I like to see him in the 100-yard range whenever possible. Also, we're due for an interception or two so get me a Shamarko or Jeremi Wilkes pick. I'll even take a fumble.