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One game won’t define Dino Babers’s tenure at Syracuse

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Perspective is needed after a tough loss that’s brought questions for Dino Babers.

NCAA Football: Middle Tennessee at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Last year, following a huge loss to Clemson, Sean said that one score won’t tell the whole story of a season. He was comparing the crippling shutout to the Tigers to the triumphant upset of Virginia Tech just two weeks prior. The feelings could not be more different, yet were games played by the same players and coached by the same coaches.

This isn’t just a Syracuse Orange issue. It’s an issue for any team in any sport. One game is never going to tell you everything you need to know about a season.

Extrapolating that out even further, it’s also not going to tell you everything about a given coach. So that’s why I was surprised to see a LOT of anti-Dino Babers sentiment on Saturday, following what was the Orange’s first real surprising loss under him.

And that defeat was only by a touchdown, to a good team, that currently employs our former head coach.

NCAA Football: Boston College at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

That same former head coach, Scott Shafer, can’t just have his own tenure boiled down to one game, either. If he were defined by the Texas Bowl win, he’d still be at Syracuse. The close losses to LSU and Clemson in 2015? Maybe the same. But the same coach that led the team during those games also led during the 2013 Georgia Tech disaster, a near-loss to Villanova, the Louisville decision to leave Eric Dungey in, and many more questionable results.

A coach, like any team, comes with highs and lows.

Under Doug Marrone, Syracuse experienced similar peaks and valleys. You could define Marrone by two bowl wins, the amazing 2011 win over West Virginia or any of his (four) ranked upsets. But there’s also the Toledo game, the 0-5 end to 2011, the worst Rutgers game imaginable...

GERG, greatly flawed as he was for reasons you already know, knocked off Notre Dame and Louisville while with the Orange.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - West Virginia v Syracuse Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

This is what you get with any coach of any team. There are highs and lows. There’s a development process that is rarely linear, starting at the bottom, then going straight up. Those types of rocket ships are rare, and they’re probably not the type of thing you’ll see much at Syracuse. Even the vaunted, late Coach Mac, needed to take a step backward at 5-6 in 1986, before SU took off in 1987.

After yesterday’s game, Babers mentioned this could be a wake-up call for the Orange, and perhaps it can be one for the fan base (all of us), too. Syracuse went into that game yesterday with no rushing attack to speak of, a patchwork offensive line and a still young and struggling secondary. Those three issues were at the forefront of a loss to Middle Tennessee. So what really changed between kickoff and the final whistle?

I’m not claiming that Babers doesn’t deserve flack for this loss. He does, as there didn’t seem to be a gameplan to get around those known issues — on the offensive side (his expertise), at least. Defensively, Syracuse counteracted a poor secondary with a hefty blitz that had quite a bit of success.

Middle Tennessee v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

But offensively, there was no answer for Shafer’s dialed-up pressure or SU’s inability to run the football. The best we had was Dungey taking off, and that had quite a few risks involved given the way MTSU seemed ready to tee off on him, even after the whistle.

If you’ve always wanted Babers to fail, this is the game that you can point to as the question mark on his resume. Just like if you always wanted Shafer to fail or succeed, you could find those moments and hold onto them tightly, too. I’m not sitting here claiming that the Virginia Tech upset is the eventual norm and the only way this turns out. We just need to keep perspective in mind.

It’s game two and Syracuse has several first-time starters on its offensive line. Despite failing to really execute on offense for a full quarter, SU could’ve easily beaten Middle Tennessee anyway. They didn’t, however. And that’s for us to digest and for the team to use going forward.

Maybe we don’t make a bowl this year, but at 1-1, this season’s far from over. For those already “done” with this team and Babers, were you ever really on board? For those with questions and some doubts, however, your fears are well warranted. This program’s history has told you they are. Just try to let this one (bad) game be what it is, though. A single result in what’s hopefully a long string of them that will define Dino’s tenure here at Syracuse.