"3-0. 24 years. 3-0. 24 years."
That was Scott Shafer's mantra following the Central Michigan game, which brought Syracuse to 3-0 for the first time in, guess what, 24 years. In that press conference, Shafer defiantly lorded over media members and scolded them for concerns they hadn't yet voiced about the state of the program. Things are good and who are you to question that, is what Shafer seemed to be saying.
A month later, any questions the media might have had at the time seem pretty warranted now.
Scott Shafer has dropped the defiant act in weeks since, likely because that 3-0 start has come undone and the Orange are now 3-3 (Two years! 3-3! Two years!). SU was supposed to be 5-1 at this point. At least, in theory. So the story goes, USF and Virginia were easy wins to offset the impending losses coming courtesy of FSU, Clemson and Louisville. Instead, SU dropped those "gimmes" and are now faced with the realization that they might not very well win another game this season.
Do you trust SU on the road against anyone right now? Do you trust SU to hold on to a lead in the third quarter against anyone left on the schedule? Do you trust SU to put together a complete football game on offense and defense?
No. No. And no.
How, then, are Syracuse fans supposed to proceed? When we host the 5-1 Pittsburgh Panthers in the Dome on Saturday they'll be nationally-ranked. After that we go back on the road to take on the No. 9 Florida State Seminoles and follow that with a road-trip to play the Louisville Cardinals. We return home for the No. 6 Clemson Tigers, followed by one more road trip against the N.C. State Wolfpack and a season-ender against the equally-lowly Boston College Eagles.
You can convince yourself that there's three wins in there somewhere. You might say that we'll beat BC and that we should be able to beat equally-exposed NC State. After that, well, Louisville's having a down year, right? Well, two of those games are on the road and all of those assumptions don't take into account the reality of SU Football right now.
It's all a little too...familiar.
I know the #FireShafer folks are starting to come out of the woodworks and, well, I'm not going to launch into any kind of major defense of the third-year coach at the moment. But I'm willing to let the next few weeks play out in order to see exactly what we're working with. If we're honest with ourselves, we're probably not going bowling this season (again) the mediocrity of SU's reputation will live on another year. That's all the more shocking when you realize how well we played LSU. That also just goes to show how poorly we've played in the last couple weeks.
Probably the most frustrating thing is that it's another season where we try to convince national folks that this isn't the SU Football of old and then, well, it is. The future is bright but then again the future usually is. We're always full of hope and wonder about what's to come. Doug Marrone was going to be here for a decade and make us into a powerhouse. Terrel Hunt was the guy who was gonna lead us back to the promised land. Actually no it was AJ Long. Actually no it's Eric Dungey.
Patience is a virtue that Syracuse Football fans ran out of years ago. We're so sick and tired of watching program like Duke and Northwestern and Temple and now Memphis ascend to the next level while we're mired in mediocrity. What do they do that we don't? And why don't we do that? (I can think of one thing...)
All of this is to say that, yes, the season is not over. There's still a lot of football to be played. There is still a chance for Syracuse to get back on track and somehow get bowl eligible. Who knows, crazier things have happened in the world of college football than an upset like the ones potentially-looming.
But SU fans have also been down this road before. Many times and most of them recently. We've gotten our hopes up and we've taken the chance. Even though we knew in our hearts that something just wasn't right. What choice do we have?
Are big picture changes on the horizon for Syracuse Football? Maybe. In the meantime, we'll let the same old story play out.