So, the 2014 Syracuse Orange football season sucked.
I don't really need to tell you that. You were there. You saw the Maryland loss. And the Notre Dame loss. And the Louisville loss. And the NC State loss. And the Pitt loss. And today's BC loss. There were nine of them in total, surely you noticed at least some of them.
As Bud Poliquin points out, Syracuse 3-9 record makes it only the eighth time in history of a football program that dates back to 1889 that the team lost nine games.
The sad stats only begin there.
Five players threw at least one pass for Syracuse this season. In total, they threw for six touchdowns. They also threw fifteen interceptions. And you can probably discount one of those touchdowns since it belongs to Riley Dixon., our punter.
A program that's known for churning out 1,000-yard rushers saw 2014's leading rusher, Prince-Tyson Gulley, gained 582 yards in total. The team's leader in rushing touchdowns, quarterback Terrel Hunt, only played five games this season. No Syracuse running back scored more than one touchdown.
Dixon aside, special teams was a nightmare. The Orange don't employ a full-time special teams coach and it showed all year long as SU failed to make any impact on kick returns while giving up plenty of field position the other way.
On the heels of a 7-6 season and two years removed from an 8-5 campaign, this 3-9 season has felt like ten steps back for a program that appeared to be moving forward back in August.
The knives are out. Some folks want Scott Shafer fired. Others want to give up on Terrel Hunt and A.J. Long. Plenty more feel like the program is falling back into a crater we can't get out of. That feeling is compacted by the growth of Boston College and NC State around us.
As someone who watched the same games they watched, I can understand a lot of those feelings. I especially share that last one. I'm extremely concerned that Syracuse is falling behind at a very critical time.
But if I'm really honest and if I take a step back, I think it's pretty fair to also see that this was a doomed season full of unique problems that very few coaches and teams could have overcome.
Look at the list of injuries suffered on the offense alone. Starting QB done after five games. Brisly Estime done after four games. Ashton Broyld sees action in four games. Practically every offensive lineman at some point. These guys didn't just miss games, they missed weeks of practice too.
The Orange were forced to rely on a squad full of young players, including true freshman quarterback A.J. Long. That's not a problem if you're Florida State. We all watched Jameis Winston win a Heisman and a National Title as a freshman. What we usually don't do is stop to realize that Winston is the exception, not the rule. Most freshmen look more like... freshmen.
Of course, there are other issues at hand. The offensive game-plan. Curious in-game coaching decisions. The special teams miscues. The lack of overall talent and how it measured up with the rest of the ACC. The tough overall schedule.
I suppose the point is that things change and sometimes the reasons are more complicated and random that you want to believe. All it took was a year to lose all that goodwill Shafer earned in his first season. Everything people liked about him they now hold us as reasons to dislike him.
And maybe things will swing back the other way in 2015. Don't underestimate the value of a year getting the crap beat out of you. Don't undervalue the games that A.J. Long saw how hard this all is and played terribly. Don't forget that guys like Doug Marrone and Ryan Nassib had to work through some pretty rough seasons in order to eventually succeed.
Because here's the thing. This is a young team, but, that young team is about to grow up. You've got a stable of QBs who should all improve. You've got Steve Ishmael and Brisly Estime and Ashton Broyld coming back better than before. You've got lots of good RBs and TEs returning and a bunch of defensive stars in the making like Ron Thompson and Zaire Franklin. Not to mention the incoming recruits.
This program has a future.
Syracuse fans don't do long-term well. In this instance, with pivotal Year 3 of the Scott Shafer Era on the horizon, try to do your best until then.