It's mid-season already. Good lord, time flies when you're tricking yourself into thinking you can get bowl eligible. With the first bye week upon us and six games under our belt, it's the perfect time to take a look at what we've accomplished, who's worthy of praise and who we can arbitrarily hand out awards to in order to give this post some some of weight.
IT'S THE TREMENDIES!
Offensive Player of the First Half - Mike Williams, WR
Duh. Just about the only guarantee when Syracuse takes the ball is that Mike Williams will make something happen. And very few other wide receivers in the nation make things happen like Mike. He's 2nd in the nation in receiving yards (712), fifth in receptions (45), eighth in yards per game (118.7) and tied for second in touchdowns (6). The two games that stand out are the Northwestern game (11 catches, 209 yards, 2 TDs) and the South Florida game (13 catches, 186 yards, 2 TDs). He accounts for 53% of all of Syracuse's receiving yards.
Williams has done something so few athletes can ever do...he's delivered on his expectations.
Defensive Player of the First Half - Derrell Smith, LB
Syracuse's defense is currently 17th in the nation against the run. Arthur Jones and the D-line have certainly done their part but the standout player so far has to be one of the more surprising as well. Keeper of The Bone, Derrell Smith.
Smith has turned the middle linebacker spot (and the LB unit overall) from a liability into a strongpoint, leading the team with 55 tackles (38 solo). He also has 4.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries. The key to his success? Hard-ass hitting.
Special Teams Player of the First Half - Ryan Lichtenstein, K
LICHTENSTEIN!!! When the season began, he was the walk-on freshman kicker we were left with after the rest of them couldn't hack it or quit the team. From the get-go he began instilling confidence in his teammates and fans, hitting two field goals in the Minnesota game and connecting on all XPs. Then against Northwestern, the defining moment in his young career...a 41-yard field goal in the final moment to win the game for the Orange, his third field goal on the day.
Lichtenstein is 9-10 on FGs for the season and 15-16 on XPs. Just the fact that he's been consistent is bonus enough for the Orange. That's he's proven himself clutch is just...tremendous.
Head Coach of the First Half - Doug Marrone
It was a close race but Marrone eeked this one out. Putting aside that feeling in the pit of your stomach after the West Virginia game, Marrone has delivered on most promises so far. He immediately turned Syracuse into a competitive team with a win over a Big Ten program and almost a second. The defense has improved by leaps and bounds and the offense has "flashed at times." Working with what's got, I don't think there's many SU fans left who doubt that Doug was the right choice to replace Greggers. He might not win many more games this season but the foundation is very obviously being built for future victories.
Worst Moment of the First Half - Paulus' Overtime INT vs. Minnesota
It was such a shame because, not only did it cost SU the game, but it put a black mark on what was an otherwise respectable performance by Paulus in his first college game. Before that INT, he was en route to silencing his critics for at least a while. Alas, the interception exposed the fatal flaw in Greg's game...experience and poise under pressure.
Now, if Greg throws that ball away instead that doesn't necessarily mean SU wins the game. But had they won, they would be looking at 3-3 right now instead of 2-4. And given the schedule ahead, that could very well be the difference between celebrating in Toronto and sitting at home in December.
Best Moment of the First Half - LICHTENSTEIN!!!
Best Bud Poliquin Quote Of The First Half
"I'm Bud Poliquin for the Syracuse Post-Standard newspaper, and I'm standing in the Carrier Dome which was one steamy, throbbing place today."
Simply tremendous first-half of the season, everyone. From the standpoint of the second half, it can only get tremendouser.