I never was, am always to be,
No one ever saw me, nor ever will
And yet I am the confidence of all
To live and breathe on this terrestrial ball.
The 2016 Syracuse Orange football season isn’t unlike that riddle. Before the season started we were pretty sure we’d be looking at a losing record (and probably inflated our expectations just slightly) with the understanding that the 12 games played this year would lay the foundation for success to come. Along the way we downgraded those expectations (blowout losses to Louisville & Notre Dame), elevated those expectations (beating Virginia Tech, getting to 4-4), and dropped those expectations right back down (blowout losses to Clemson and FSU).
Now, with one game left in the season, we’re right about where we started.
Even with all of that, I still think Dino Babers has provided what was needed for Syracuse fans to have belief without evidence. The Virginia Tech win and the blistering offensive pace give us hope that, just like with Doug Marrone, year two will sow the seeds planted this time.
2016 never stood a chance from the beginning. Then you pepper in the injuries (it needs to be said this team is severely decimated) and the youth (huge numbers of freshman playing significant minutes). Sure you can look at Wake Forest and perhaps see a potential win there, but in some ways it’s a minor miracle to be at 4-7 right now.
It’s easy to look at the empty seats in the Carrier Dome on Saturday and cast aspersions. You can certainly track Orange fans as they raced out the tunnels midway through the third quarter because the rest of the game was a formality and get riled up. But the truth is I don’t blame them. FSU vs. Syracuse was always a formality. The Orange just aren’t on that level yet, even at full strength.
But there was a moment in the first quarter when Florida State, up 14-0, was on third down in their own territory. For as many empty seats as there were, those who did make the trip were loud in a way that reminded me of the “good old days” when Donovan McNabb roamed the field below. It was just a moment. A loud moment, but only a few seconds long. FSU converted the first down and the formality continued.
That moment gave me hope. Not just about the fanbase but about the program. 2016 has been a season of little moments of hope. There were so many big plays to point to. Coach Babers already has his first quality win under his belt, not to mention one hell of a recruiting pitch speech. We’ve seen the potential in action with Eric Dungey and Amba Etta-Tawo. Even the defense has provided some sparks of excitement from time to time.
In theory, all of these moments add up and become the building blocks for 2017. And then 2018. Then, it’s no longer about little moments we can cling to. It’s about a whole greater than the sum of it’s parts. That’s what keeps so many long-suffering Syracuse fans coming back and Coach Babers has done everything he can so far to give us hope that all the suffering will pay off.
The answer to that riddle above? Tomorrow. “I am the confidence of all.” That’s what kept me at the Dome until the final 0:00 on Saturday. Even as FSU was padding their insurmountable lead and both squads sent in the third-stringers. I have confidence in Syracuse Football’s tomorrow. I thank the 2016 season for that.