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Syracuse vs. West Virginia: Orange Defense's Time To Shine

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A lot of folks are chalking the game between the Syracuse Orange and the West Virginia Mountaineers as a loss (including LAVAR!) and looking to move on.

Pish-posh, I say. Yes, Geno Smith has weapons. Yes, the Mountaineer offense is redonk. Yes, SU hasn't won a Big East game in the Carrier Dome since 1967.

But I still say don't count your oranges until they're squeezed. Pretty sure last year felt almost the same way heading into the game...and who ended up kissing the Schwartzwalder in the end?

That said, Rahme provides a sobering thought:

It has been a decade since the Syracuse University football team last defeated West Virginia in the Carrier Dome.

Rivals thinks if the Syracuse defense is going to prove that it's worthy to follow-up last year's version, this is the week to do it. Especially since they don't have any injury excuses:

The Orange rank last in the Big East in pass defense and pass efficiency defense. That doesn't bode well for a team facing West Virginia in its next game. On the other hand, Syracuse could be more equipped to defend the pass as it has been all season. DE Chandler Jones, the team's best defensive player, will play for the first time since the opener. He sacked Smith twice in Syracuse's 19-14 win in Morgantown last season. Olando Fisher, the Orange's nickel back, also will play for the first time since the opener. After missing two games with an injury, SS Shamarko Thomas returned in the most recent game. Syracuse has not been this healthy on defense since the opener.

If Phillip Thomas has a big game for the Orange, we all might want to become James Madison fans.

He's even found his "lucky charm," a "girl from JMU who puts a smile on my face...been playing A++ game since talking to her."

Syracuse would love to have an offense as prolific as West Virginia's. That said, Doug Marrone isn't about to emulate them anytime soon. In a candid conversation with Dave Rahme, Marrone talked about the future of the SU offense. When given two extremes, the West Virginia spread and the Georgia Tech option, Marrone opts for the multiple roads less traveled...

"My philosophy is I want to be multiple enough that I can go to things," Marrone said. "Within our system we have principles of the spread. Some of the stuff has worked and some of the stuff we’ve had a difficult time with. When we’ve spread people out we’ve gotten a lot of pressure (via blitzes) at times. We’re also trying to create a system where we can be highly productive and do maybe not as extreme as Georgia Tech but have some principles within the offense that lean that way.

Marrone also drops some knowledge on his philosophy for sending the team's best athletes to one, specific side:

"Some teams take their best athletes and put them on offense and try to outrun and outscore other teams," he said. "We’ve tried to go the other way and put the guys on defense first because that was the fastest way to be able to win games."

Oddly, this is not unlike my strategy when starting a school from scratch in EA Sports NCAA '12. Better to concentrate on a smothering defense because once you've neutralized the opponent's scoring, it's that much easier to win with a crappy offense.

Syracuse University Defensive Coordinator/Secondary Coach Scott Shafer talks with SU football beat writer Nolan Weidner about the approach the Orange defense will take against the West Virginia Mountaineers in their Big East clash in the Carrier Dome on Friday night (Steven J. Pallone / The Post-Standard

Syracuse football beat writer Nolan Weidner talks with Orange safety Orlando Fisher who returns to action against the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Carrier Dome on Friday night, after missing the last five games from an injury suffered following the opener (Steven J. Pallone / The Post-Standard).