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Syracuse football: There’s still ‘gravy’ left for us this season

Let’s turn the page after a difficult loss.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Notre Dame Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

When Sunday’s polls come out, the Syracuse Orange likely come crashing back down to Earth. They’ll still be in the top 25, but significantly lower. That’s what happens when your offense looks listless in a 36-3 defeat, even to the No. 3 team in the country.

Plenty of Syracuse fans were down about the effort yesterday, and I can’t blame them. I was myself. From the opening drive, the offense was overwhelmed by a physical Notre Dame front. The defense — repeatedly put in bad spots by turnovers — was bending and desperately trying not to break.

Eric Dungey’s injury, how long it lasts and its link to his history at Syracuse is its own post entirely, but him going down is worth noting, too. It was an insult on top of the loss: the Orange didn’t have it, but they didn’t really have a chance to either, with their starting quarterback missing most of the game.

Getting all of that out, we can at least start to turn the page toward next week. No matter who’s under center, there’s still more left for Syracuse to do this year. It’s not exactly “gravy” time for us yet.

Because obviously we’ve been in the “gravy” zone for awhile now. Ever since SU hit the six-win mark against NC State, everything that’s happened thereafter has at least been perceived to be a bonus. Coming into the season, we expected at least five wins, but were hoping for six. If you told us in August we’d go to the Pinstripe Bowl, every Syracuse fan alive would take that after what we’ve been through these past few seasons.

But as wins No. 7 and 8 were accumulated, and the Orange kept climbing up the rankings, we got our sights set on more. Saturday’s loss may have seemed like the end of those loftier, non-Pinstripe Bowl dreams... but far from it. There’s still more this very special team can do this season.

Since you were probably preoccupied for much of yesterday afternoon, you may have missed the fact that Boston College lost to Florida State. The Eagles are banged up and have looked exhausted for a couple weeks now. Leaning on the run game has apparently taken its toll, plus the play-calling has been questionable at times.

The game was winnable before that happened. And it’s winnable now. Syracuse’s odds probably go up if Dungey is under center. But we’ve seen Tommy DeVito win games this year (against Florida State and UNC). And we still have a chance to play our way into the Camping World Bowl in Orlando. It’ll just take one more win.

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Notre Dame Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

So it’s a tough balancing act for Syracuse fans right now as we enter the final weekend of the regular season. This has been a fun and incredible season that already surpassed most of our wildest dreams. The opportunity was there to get ourselves to even greater spoils — like the Peach Bowl — but the team wasn’t ready to leap into that stratosphere yet. THAT’S FINE. But also disappointing. It can be both, you know.

Staring back at the past 11 games, there’s a lot of “what if” — in either direction, if you’re truly honest with yourself. For every near-miss against Clemson and Pitt, there was a close call against the Heels or NC State. SU hasn’t been dominant. They’ve been good, and that’s the case for most teams in the top 25 right now, save a select few at the top.

The biggest “what if” for me now, though, is “what if we beat BC?” Because for all of the acknowledgement of us not getting it done against Notre Dame, there’s still ample opportunity to beat our rival and play in the ACC’s third-best possible bowl game this year (Camping World -- behind the Peach and the Playoff). I’m happy we clinched a trip to the postseason weeks ago, and felt anything else was gravy. That’s still the case, but there’s also more gravy to be had.

You can be sad about the loss AND want more in a win next week. We don’t look at “gravy” territory until the last game ends, even if we’re already there. That’s the case here, as we enter Thanksgiving week looking for one last helping of the stuff.