The Syracuse Orange finished 4-8 in 2009. One better than
Same as they did in 2008. It was only one win difference yet somehow, it felt like a much better season. It was a 4-8 you could at least look back on and see things are heading in the right direction.
That said, the UConn game wasn't too much fun. Which is impressive when you think about it. SU racked up 483 yards and 31 points and still managed to lose by 25.
The Syracuse University football team ended its inaugural season under Doug Marrone the way it began it - with a loss. But once again the Orange (4-8, 1-6 Big East) fought to the end, although it could not overcome big plays allowed by its defense and special-teams gaffes.
Syracuse accumulated a season-high 478 yards of offense. Senior quarterback Greg Paulus was a magician, completing 24 of 32 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. He set school single-season records for completions (193), surpassing R.J. Anderson's standard of 186 set in 2003, and completion percentage (.677).
The big eyesore? What else...special teams.
For the second time in three weeks special-teams failures played a pivotal role in a Syracuse defeat. A 13-yard punt into a driving wind by Rob Long set up the Huskies’ opening touchdown drive, which had to traverse all of 25 yards. An 80-yard kickoff return by Mike Lang, UConn’s third kickoff return for a touchdown in its last four games, provided more instant scoring. A 34-yard kick return by the Huskies’ Jordan Todman kick-started another UConn scoring drive just before the half.
Special teams coach Bob Casullo was...what's the word...can't think of it...OH...frustrated.
"I’m very frustrated with the way the season ended," veteran special-teams coordinator Bob Casullo said. "I’m frustrated. Coach Marrone’s frustrated. Everybody’s frustrated."
"You have to report on the game," Casullo said. "We gave up a kickoff for a touchdown. We fair caught the ball on the 4-yard line. We had a 15-yard punt. What do you want me to say?"
Of course the roster was depleted but, like Brent Axe says, good coaching can shine a turd. Well, he didn't say that but...the gist of it.
Bob Casullo has a reputation as a good coach and Doug Marrone trusts him. Casullo also has a lot of other responsibilities beyond the special teams on this staff as well, so he obviously isn't going anywhere. If his special teams dug themselves a hole, he will get a chance to dig them out.
But it is an unavoidable discussion that perhaps the biggest issue this team had in Year One under Doug Marrone was special teams.
The brightest spot on the day, as it has been most days in the second half of the season, was Delone Carter. Carter rushed 20 times for 102 yards, becoming the ninth back in school history to surpass 1,000 for a season (1,021 total). That's some rather elite company that he joins. Minus the costly fumble, he helped carry the Orange as much as possible. Next year looks very bright for the Orange at RB with Carter, Bailey and Collier all returning.
The "Mike Williams Who All-Stars" finally started to get it together in this one as well, especially Sir Alec Lemon who set personal bests with a 9 reception, 140 yard, TD day. Coupled with Marcus Sales' 89-yard day the future of the SU receiving corp looks bright again. Kudos also to senior Lavar Lobdell for catching his first TD pass in a Syracuse uniform. Better late than never.
The defense got lit up against the run for only the 2nd time this season. UConn rushed for 204 yards and tore up the conference's best rushing D. It raised the question that's been nagging us all season long. Was the Run D really that good or was it just propped up by stats because opposing teams could rely on beating us through the air? Maybe a little of both? We've got the off-season to ponder it.
Another thing to ponder...was Randy Edsell a dick for going for the score late when the game was fairly out of reach? With an 11-point lead late, the Huskies called for a pass play on fourth down and scored a back-breaking touchdown. Dickish or smart? Seems like Doug Marrone is gonna go with dickish.
After the turn of events late, the usual run-of-the-mill coaches' handshake at midfield after this game was anything but that.
Doug Marrone looked upset, was very brief in his words, and gave a half-hearted hand shake to Randy Edsall. Edsall looked surprised at Marrone's choice of words, whatever they were, and stood a midfield for a few seconds shaking his head. He even seemed to try and yell something in Marrone's direction as he ran away.
When pressed on what he said to Edsall, Marrone replied simply "Good luck." Right. Anyone else looking forward to SU-UConn in the Dome next year now?
Honestly, I don't think you can call out Edsall for the play. I've seen much crazier things than a team lose an eleven-point lead with 2 minutes left on the clock. Unless your lead is in the 20's, there's really no such thing as a safe one. Maybe it was slightly dickish to go for the score instead of the first down but, isn't that on SU to prevent the TD?
And so...the off-season. Recruits are beginning to trickle in. Rivalries are strengthening based on what happened on the field and what's happening off them. Coach Marrone has an entire season under his belt and all of the returning players have a ton of experience to navigate before next spring. We'll do some post-season wrapping up where we discuss whether or not the Greg Paulus Experiment was a success, who our MVP was and who our LVP was. In the meantime, I leave you with the words of DE Chandler Jones, whom we all expect to step into a leadership role on the defense very soon, probably even by 2010:
"It’s my job to get stronger and faster, and that’s what I’m going to do," said the kid, presumably speaking for the bulk of his teammates. "I’m going to get stronger and faster and try to help out this team next year. I’m enjoying what Coach Marrone is doing with us, on and off the field.
"We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. We’re going to recruit some players. It’s every team’s goal to go to a bowl game or be a BCS-ranked team. That’s been our goal since Day One. Hopefully, we’ll make it to a bowl game next year."