It’s almost fitting really. What was the reward for a talented group of departing players who (sans Andre Szmyt) have only known coming up short since they got here? An unacceptable embarrassment as their final Dome memory. I feel for every one of those guys, especially anyone who won’t have the chance to play professionally. And if this downward spiral continues, they may not even get the satisfaction of one winning season.
So where does Syracuse go from here? Where can they go?
We’ve said it time and time again: the Orange just currently don’t have what it takes to deal with their top opponents. I wish I could say otherwise, but yesterday was just more evidence to the contrary.
With the glaring holes at key positions due to injuries (and Ja’Had Carter joining that bunch last night), it doesn’t seem to matter what scheming goes into the gameplan. The o-line can’t block, the run game has been ground to a halt, and I think it’s time that we start questioning how much of a role Mike Schmidt has to play in this ineffectiveness. We get that Wes Hoeh cannot replace Rhino - but how does that excuse the five linemen that have all had their bad games this season?
We also learned that both QBs are having trouble connecting with any of their receivers. Garrett Shrader looked way off today in his return and wasn’t noticing some open targets early on. Damien Alford was the only Orange receiver with multiple catches, while NINE different FSU hauled in at least two passes. If Oronde Gadsden continues to be doubled this much, then the glaring difference between SU’s passing game and their opponents will continue to be shown.
Then there’s the defensive line, a.k.a. the position group that looked the shakiest entering the season. Now the inability of Dino Babers to secure a transfer for that unit is costing the defense as a whole dearly. The Mob are giving it their all, and I commend them for that - but that effort only goes so far when opposing QBs are under very little pressure. Even the back end is experiencing some issues, with Duce Chestnut and Jeremiah Wilson both failing to finish tackles and allowing a touchdown in the process.
To steal a certain Jim Boeheim-ism, many of the underclassmen are “just not ready” to handle being starters yet. But they aren’t far away from being thrust into those roles for good - and it’s not just this year that concerns me. The Class of 2023 is still looking pretty thin, and with the long list of departures that may also include Sean Tucker, this season may have just been a mirage. It seemed like the culmination of years of determination would amount to something more - maybe not 2018 levels of success, but something more than just “winning the winnable games.” And now, anything more than the 6-win bowl target set before the season seems like an afterthought.
I asked fans last week to not give up on this team, and I’m very impressed by the over 45,000 of you that showed up:
Another big crowd in the dome tonight pic.twitter.com/DrJGhIgXsF— Jonathan Danilich (@jdanilich) November 13, 2022
If there’s a good thing for the graduates to remember from yesterday, it’s that. They won’t forget how you packed the Dome in their final three home games, how loud you cheered on 3rd downs, and how elated they felt when you stormed the field after defeating NC State.
So now I will say that I really don’t blame anyone if they choose to go into full basketball mode. That’s what SU Athletics has become much better known for since the turn of the century. But for those who want to stick around...
I can’t guarantee that this won’t end up like last year and many before it, where the Orange just ran out of gas. There’s a few too many similarities between FSU and 2021 Louisville to not bring that up too. What I can promise is that I’ll keep covering this team and keeping my fingers crossed that they do get a bowl opportunity. The leaders have earned that much.