Railroaded. That's the only way to describe Georgia Tech's beat-down of Syracuse last Saturday. 56 - 0? Actually, that doesn't do that score justice.
F-I-F-T-Y-S-I-X to N-O-T-H-I-N-G.
Sure, we've all seen locomotives slice and dice Syracuse before. Hell, it's only the third worst loss for the program since 1999. But good God was Saturday ugly. To not score? I'm always amazed how, through the course of four quarters, a team can't even set itself up for a field goal. But there it is, in print for the world to see, the Orange ran eight plays in Tech territory and put up a good ole goose egg on the scoreboard.
Whoops. Let's try that again:
That thing ripped through Syracuse football, leaving carnage. Total and complete carnage. Still, 56 - 0 didn't kill Syracuse football. No, there is time left for the Orange to forget they ever went to Atlanta. Rest up through the bye week and beat Wake Forest at home and last weekend will seem like last year. There's only 12 games but a football season has the same feel to a basketball season: It's a marathon not a sprint.
Of course, there is one major question that does needs answering sooner than later: Will Syracuse be able to shake off the loss to the Yellow Jackets? Actually, there are more questions surrounding the program, surrounding head coach Scott Shafer. Has he proven he's the right person to lead Syracuse in the same direction Doug Marrone had the program? One loss a coach does not make, of course, but 56 - 0 to Georgia Tech? It's OK to start wondering, if just a little bit, about the visor throwing mad man running Syracuse football.
And if you can grade out a coach after his first seven games, I'd say C minus for Shafer. Questions answered; questions needing answers.
Let's go over how I came up with my arbitrarily random grade and review what we've seen so far out of the Shafer Experience.
- Penn State: Wait...
- Missed Opportunity: 17 - 23 L - Syracuse let one slip through its fingers against the Lions. Turnovers, too many dumb penalties, and a general malaise of an offense gave way to the first loss of the year. And while those issues can certainly be blamed on the coach, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised that Syracuse fought its way through and had the ball, down six, with two minutes to go. Ugly loss, but it was competitive.
- @ Northwestern: 27 48 L - Competitive, the exact opposite of Syracuse's loss in Evanston. The Orange trailed 34 - 7 at the half! And remember, the Wildcats were just beaten by Minnesota...at home. Yuck. Tough to put all the blame on Shafer - especially when George McDonald's offense looked inept again and the secondary couldn't tackle - but the head coach should have his team better prepared, right? Penalties are a real issue.
- Wagner: 54 - 0 W - Here's where I'm going to give Shafer a lot of credit. Not for beating FCS Wagner, but for having the wherewithal to bench Drew Allen and make Terrel Hunt his starting quarterback. A lot of coaches get stuck in their ways and wait too long to make a change, but Shafer made what we all thought was the right call. Also...
- Tulane: 52 - 17 W - Shafer, at the very least, has Syracuse winning the games its supposed to win. Remember Greg Robinson? Games against lesser FBS teams weren't guarantees (Akron!), but these two wins showed that the Orange weren't pushovers.
- Clemson: 14 - 49 L - Moving on.
- @ NC State: 24 - 10 W - Syracuse's first ACC win, and what looked to be a monumental statement victory for Shafer. The Orange dominated in the trenches and really beat up the Wolfpack. I even wrote about how Shafer and McDonald finally found an identity for Syracuse, something it lacked through the first five games. If Syracuse could have cut back on those dumb penalties, it would have won by 28. Things were looking up...
- @ Georgia Tech: 0 - 56 - L - And then the train came through and no one on Syracuse, its offense, defense, special teams, or its coaching staff, looked like they even knew they were laying on the tracks.
The Good: Beating the teams they're supposed to; making the move at quarterback; gearing the offense around Jerome Smith, Prince Tyson-Gulley, and, for now, Terrel Hunt's running ability; having the team ready to play on the road against NC State (that can't be emphasized enough).
The Bad: Getting outclassed in three of the four losses; way too many penalties; losing by eight touchdowns to a fairly average team; WAY TOO MANY DUMB PENALTIES; oh, and...
F-I-F-T-Y-S-I-X to N-O-T-H-I-N-G.
If you take a step back and look, it's a mixed bag, no? One summed up perfectly by C minus, in my opinion. There's some good here and there's some bad, probably a little more bad. Shafer gets a passing grade because Syracuse does have three wins and it's still very much in line for a bowl game. But it's barely passing because of the ugly losses and the continued bone-headed mistakes.
But, as I've pointed out, there are still games to play. This is more of a progress report, with the final grade not due for another month. Plenty of time for Shafer to do his homework, get some extra credit, and turn a C minus into a B. B of course being for Bowl Game.
I'm not so sure a bowl trip will happen after last weekend's ugliness, but it's mathematically possible. And that chance is, one way or another, is because of Shafer. Proof that there is life after being railroaded.