You know that feeling, when you’re playing Madden or NCAA Football and everything just starts going wrong for your team and it becomes clear that the game is trying to make you lose? Well the video game decided early on that the Wake Forest Demon Deacons were supposed to lose to the Syracuse Orange on Saturday night.
They ended their first drive with a botched punt that ended up as a safety.
A little while later, they drove all the way down to the goal line where quarterback John Wolford had the ball stripped just before he would have scored a touchdown.
With the outcome very much in doubt, Wolford throws an ill-advised screen, which is tipped in the air and intercepted by Jake Pickard.
But if you look closer at what happened around those game-changing moments, you see where everything went wrong for Syracuse.
On the botched punt, the punter very easily could have been tackled at the two- or one-yard-line, setting up an easy SU touchdown. Or watch as three different Orange defenders whiff on recovering the ball in the end zone for a touchdown, and then must settled for two instead when a Wake player finally covers it.
On the goal line fumble, Syracuse follows that up with a short drive that ends in a punt.
On the interception, Syracuse starts with great position and midfield but goes three-and-out.
The final score was 28-9 but really this was a 14-9 game for most of the second half. It wasn’t really over until about four minutes left. So there were plenty of opportunities for the Orange to have turned things around by altering their offensive game-plan or opening up the playbook. Instead, they made the curious decision to stick to what wasn’t working and they paid the price.
Sterling Hofrichter’s ten punts tell the story better than anything else.
Certainly the weather and field conditions played a part in slowing down this Syracuse offense. Babers said after the game that he wished he’d run the ball more in the first half, though SU only threw the ball about a dozen times overall at that point. The game-plan they had in place only really seemed to work on that one touchdown drive (and perhaps the last drive of the half that ended in an interception) but Wake adjusted and the Orange offense as it was operating wasn’t able to create anything else for the rest of the night.
The dry second half seemed to imply that a chance in tact was in order, but the Orange stuck to their guns. Even though those guns weren’t firing.
On the national stage, Syracuse’s efforts probably weren’t noticed. Everyone was too busy making fun of Rutgers or marveling at UW’s vengeance victory over Oregon. But for a team that has done nothing but talk about it’s fast pace and high-scoring potential, anyone watching Saturday’s game wouldn’t have been wrong to assume they were looking at a previous incarnation of Syracuse. Even the kind that George DeLeone would be proud of.
The video game hasn’t been too kind to Syracuse so far this season. At times it feels like we’re in Year One of a dynasty on the Heisman level. That makes it all the more critical that you take advantage of the opportunities the game gives you. You certainly don’t squander the games that the AI decides you should win, especially when there’s going to be more games it will decide that you lose in the future.