After the disappointing loss to Pittsburgh a week and a half ago, the Syracuse Orange (4-2, 1-2) enters this weekend well rested. Beginning the season with four straight wins over non-ranked opponents, SU has since dropped its last two to No. 3 Clemson and the aforementioned (and unranked) Pitt. Now, SU head coach Dino Babers believes that his team is fresh and ready for the second half of its season.
The run defense has struggled
In the past two games, the Orange run defense has struggled to stop anyone. Against Clemson, sophomore running back Travis Etienne stomped on the Syracuse linebackers, tallying 203 yards and three scores on 27 carries. He also almost single handedly lead a two-minute drill (excluding the critical Chase Brice pass). The next week, it was more of the same. Pitt seniors Qadree Ollison and Darrin Hall combined for almost 300 yards and three touchdowns. Babers is aware of the issue and knows it has to change.
“Obviously it’s something that we needed to improve,” he said. “We worked on it during the bye week, but the keys to winning football games is obviously stopping the run, being able to run the football on offense when you want to run it, and winning the turnover battle and winning the kicking game. If you can do those four things, chances are you’ve got a heck of a lot more wins than you have losses, and you can just look across the nation at the top teams in the conferences, and those are the four things they’re getting done.”
UNC, who SU plays this weekend, employs a similar style to Pitt. It has a feature back in junior Antonio Williams, but sophomore Michael Carter also sees quite a few touches. Carter has 31 touches in his past three games, good for 268 rushing yards. Williams has 308 yards on 50 carries, averaging over 6 yards per carry. SU will need to fix its rush defense this weekend if it wants to take a step closer to six wins. If it remains as porous, the Tar Heels should have no trouble moving the ball.
Dino unveils his recruiting pitch
It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone, but the Syracuse coaching staff uses the Dome as a tenet in its pitches to recruits. Players come to understand what it is like to play in a dome, something they must do at the next level.
“Well, we sell the same thing that we always sell. We have an opportunity to play 28 home games in absolutely perfect weather, no rain, no wind, no snow,” Babers said. “We’re the only Power Five team with a dome. You want to play in the National Football League, you’re going to play in a lot of stadiums that are domed like that. That along with our academics, which we feel is some of the top academics on the East Coast, I think we have a lot to sell for the young men in North Carolina to come up here and experience what Orange football is all about.”
While, obviously no football games are played outside in Syracuse, student-athletes still must endure the brutal winters of Central New York. So, while they don’t have to play at home in the snow, players still experience the treacherous conditions of Syracuse. Hopefully they can ignore the outside weather for the indoor comfort.