There were times while watching the Syracuse Orange season opener against Wake Forest last night that felt like just about every season opener from the past five years.
Early on, when the Syracuse offense seemed incapable of accomplishing anything (-7 yards total at one point), I was reminded of the 2007 opener against Washington when high expectations came crashing down in what seemed like an instant.
At halftime, when the game looked and felt unwinable, it reminded me of, well, the 2006 season opener when we lost to Wake Forest.
When Syracuse finally seemed to wake up late in the third quarter and then take over the game in the 4th, I thought back to 2010's Akron opener, when the Orange seemed dominant for the first time in a long time, capable of controlling the flow of a football game.
When the Orange mounted their late comeback and rallied to take the game into overtime, I couldn't help but think of the 2009 opener, when SU and Minnesota went to overtime but the Orange let it slip away with a late mistake.
And yet, when it was all over, Syracuse's 36-29 overtime win over Wake Forest was unlike any of those games. It was it's own monster. Equal parts frustrating and exhilarating and confusing and boring and fun...it's hard to think of another Syracuse football game that took us on such an emotional rollercoaster.
On one hand, you kinda couldn't blame many of the folks who left early in the third quarter. Based on what they'd seen, it was hard to argue.
Then again, it's insane that you guys left cause you missed out on seeing this football team mature in a matter of minutes, proving that they had no quit in them and pulling off a thrilling comeback.
You could tell me that Wake Forest lost this game more than Syracuse won it and I wouldn't fight you on that. You could tell me Wake Forest, had they gotten out of their own way, should have beaten SU by 28 and I wouldn't argue with you there either. But the simple truth is, Wake made enough mistakes to allow Syracuse the chance at redeeming themselves in the final minutes and the Orange, whatever else you think of their performance, proved themselves capable of doing so.
So what do we know about this football team after one game?
We know things aren't as hunky-dory as they sounded coming out of camp (are they ever)? The defense has major tackling issues. The offense can, when it wants to, resemble some of the worst Greg Robinson Era offenses.
We also know this team is capable of so much more. When the momentum shifted the second half, both units came alive. We saw the value of Nick Provo and David Stevens and Adam Harris and all the other guys we've been hearing about all summer. We watched the defense clamp down, make big hits and pull out game-changing tackles when necessary.
All I know is, I'm really, really glad we're playing Rhode Island next week. We've got kinks and we need to work them out. Credit where credit is due to Wake Forest, who is probably a better football team than most of us gave them credit for. However we got it, that win over them was valuable.
Some random post-game thoughts...
- At some point this season, we're going to lose a game by 28-35 points.
- At some point this season, we're going to beat someone by 28-35 points. And both of those instances might be coming up very soon.
- Why don't we just run the hurry-up offense all the time? I'm only half-joking.
- Whatever Doug Marrone said at halftime (and whoever he murdered to make a point)...it worked.
- Antwon Bailey, once he was on, proved that he's more than capable of taking over for Delone Carter. That said...no more fumbles, bro.
- Ryan Nassib's line was 20-28 for 178 yards and 3 touchdowns. That sounds way better than it looked sometimes, but that's Nassib for you. He's quietly and efficiently about to tear down the Syracuse record books.
- For all the talk of the young wide receivers and tight ends making an impact, it's still all about Van Chew (4-60-TD), Alec Lemon (7-52) and Nick Provo (3-33-TD).
- Shane Raupers? Pretty solid from where I was sitting.
- Ross Krautman? Blocked field goal aside (which wasn't his fault, anyway), Das Boot looks dependable. Unlike Wake's kicker...
- Announced attendance was 40,833 but I'm guessing only about 15K of that was still in the building when the Orange turned it on. Shame, though it's a great lesson for those who left (and won't do that again). And the win ensures more butts in the seats in the coming weeks (I think).
I don't know what's going to happen this season, except to say it's going to be unpredictable and exciting and frustrating and fun. It might not be exactly what you were expecting, but it still sounds a whole lot better than the previous era.