A day removed from the Syracuse Orange's 28-17 win over the Stony Brook Seawolves, I wanted to dive back in before we close the door and move forward.
I realize that there are two Syracuse fan camps coming out of that game. Those who feel disappointed by the team's performance in a game that was way-too-close against a FCS opponent, and those who say a win is a win, you never take them for granted and you should appreciate the fight in this team to never give up.
I get both sides, I can often be found on either of them. Obviously, yesterday, I was on the former. Usually, it takes a day for the emotions of the game to wear off before I can look at it objectively and...while I don't think the sky is falling, I still have concerns.
Last week, when the USC Trojans didn't pull away from us until the fourth quarter, I said they should be embarrassed. And I still stand by that. Look at the talent level they have. Look at the recruiting stars. Look at the accolades. On paper, that team should have beaten us by 40, at least. Now, I don't want to discredit how well Syracuse played in that game, but at the end of the day, it reflects poorly on USC that they couldn't put us away much, much sooner.
I feel the same way about the Syracuse-Stony Brook game, except this time Syracuse is the one who should have won by 40. All due credit to Stony Brook, whose running game had moments and whose coaches, quite frankly, out-coached ours in the first half. In my mind, I always knew we would come back and win this game in the end (seriously) and I have a feeling that's what USC fans must have felt like last week. We're supposed to, we know we will, but we're just not doing it like we're capable.
You know how Stony Brook beat Pace 77-7 last weekend? Well Pace is a DII school. You're supposed to beat a team on a lower level than you 77-7. It's not as impressive as it sounds. And that's why Syracuse should have done the same.
When I say that I felt more confident about this team when we were 0-2 than I do now that we're 1-2, all I'm saying is that I thought the Syracuse team that battled (now 3-0) Northwestern to the final seconds and took USC into the fourth quarter was the kind of team that could compete with anyone left on our schedule. However, the team that opened up against Stony Brook would probably lose to two-thirds of the teams on our remaining schedule.
I love Doug Marrone (in a stalker-y way). I think he's the right guy for this job. I think Syracuse recruiting is miles ahead of where it was before he took over. I think the program is heading in the right direction. The only problems I have with Marrone is that his teams have become known for a lack of on-field consistency and mental mistakes. Both of those are concerning because (as Doug will tell you), that's on him. Why don't we seem to improve on things like momentum-killing penalties and absurdly-vanilla play-calling? I don't know.
We see what happens when the offense opens up and the defense steps up. This is a potentially-great team. This is a team that, as far as I can tell, can challenge for the Big East title (as little as that might impress you). So long as it plays like it's down 14 points in the second half. THAT Syracuse team, the one with its back against the wall, is the one I like. I just don't know how you translate that into the entire game.
Some other thoughts, tidbits and notes before we close the book on this game...
Syracuse extended its streak of wins against FCS opponents to 29-straight. To quote Chris Rock..."Whatchu want, a cookie? You SUPPOSED to beat FCS opponents, you low-expectation-having motha f***a!"
That said, it was Syracuse's first win in almost eleven months. FYI, that was the West Virginia game, which just looks weirder and weirder in the rearview.
In my post-game recap, I said the Stony Brook QB torched our secondary, which, upon reflection, just wasn't true. For some reason, I think I focused on the few deep balls he did make and refused to noticed that he actually went 4-of-19 for 94 yards, 63 of which came on that passing TD. While Syracuse continues to give up big plays (that TD and Maysonet's 71-yard TD), the secondary did well.
So, about those fourth-and-goals. I don't have a problem with going for it either time. Das Boot unfortunately has developed a case of the yips and, hey, you're a FBS offense going against a FCS defense. If given two drives where you get inside the five, you should be able to score a TD on at least one of them. But they didn't. And when asked, Nate Hackett said, "They beat us. That is about as simple as I can say it." That's, uh, not good. I don't blame the decision but the execution and play-calling left a lot to be desired.
Announced attendance was 34,512. I've heard people say that the actual count was closer to 20-25K. Dunno, can't get too worked up about it as it's an old story at this point. If you win a lot of games, people will come, especially if you get a really good opponent in the building.
Watching the game on TV, the commercial that bothered me the most was the Budweiser end of Prohibition one. If Prohibition ended and the first beer you drank was a Bud, that must have been the anti-climactic moment of your life.
I didn't get to hear the announcers but by all accounts, they were rough. I guess I lucked out. I did get to see this guy looking all weird, however.
A lot of people questioned why Steve Rene was getting so many looks on kick returns. He did nothing to change that. In fact, if he's still back there next week (assuming he's not injured), a lot more people will be questioning.
Ashton Broyld's TD inspired someone to ponder what Ashton Broyld will be like as a junior and that is an exciting thought, especially with Zach Allen on the horizon.