It's been nearly 24 hours since Ryan Litchenstein nailed a game winning field goal to seal Syracuse's first win of the 2009 season over Northwestern. If you're like me, although you watched the game, you've already scoured the web and read as much coverage as possible anyway, so I'll keep this brief and offer a few observations.
I'm just starting to get my voice back. While the announced attendance was 40,000, the 35-37,000 people that showed up were vocal and into the game. The Dome has new life in it again. It feels great. Thank you Doug Marrone.
Likewise, the volume of Orange shirts seems to increase by the week - it probably has something to do with the fact that the University is selling 2 of them for $5.00 outside the Dome, but it's working. Except for the one jackass I saw in a Phish shirt, it was a sea of Orange.
If you look up the term "gets it" in the dictionary, there's a picture of Doug Marrone. He gave the game ball to the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce as a thank you to the fans for supporting the team. This outreach to a fickle fan base is as impressive as the attitude change we've seen with the team. Since he's been hired, I have not seen one thing that makes me think he won't succeed as the head coach of this team. There are very, very bright days ahead for Syracuse football.
37-34 - it's a win. That's always good. It's also nice to get a win over a BCS school. While the early schedule has been daunting, this team is one of the most battle tested in the country already.
Greg Paulus was obviously very good. 24-35 for 340 plus yards exceeds all expectations. The one area where he's very good and it hasn't been talked about much is in the area of ball skills. Greg's ball fakes on play action passes are light years ahead of most quarterbacks with his level of experience. It makes a big difference in freeing guys up down the field.
Delone Carter is running like Walter Payton right now. He's so physical and tough to bring down, if he ever gets some real running lanes, watch out.
Mike Williams played like the stud he can be. Northwestern didn't give the corners a lot of help over the top on him and he made them pay. Likewise, Donte Davis played well. He's a very good slot receiver. The team needs to find one more playmaker opposite Williams and they'll really be in business.
Kudos to Rob Spence for opening up the offense and stretching the field. The play calling, which was conservative and horizontal the first two weeks, was excellent.
Give credit where credit is due, Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka was very, very good yesterday.
The defense gave up a million yards, but they also delivered a ton of hard hits and forced a turnovers when they were most needed. This team is more physical and aggressive than we've seen in years. And teams cannot run the football against SU.
Derrell Smith is developing into an excellent middle linebacker.
Syracuse couldn't handle Northwestern's no huddle offense, especially in the second half. The Wildcats were often snapping ball and SU wasn't even lined up.
The team gave up over 400 yards passing - the back 7 is thin and there's work to be done stopping the pass. This will most likely be an issue all season.
Similarly, I would have liked to have seen the corners up on the ball more in the second half, it was tough watching Northwestern kill SU with underneath stuff all game.
Center Jim McKenzie did not have a good game. In addition to multiple bad snaps, he was very ineffective blocking. He needs to play better for the run game to be more effective.
After four years of dreck, it was great to attend an exciting, and ultimately satisfying college football game in Syracuse NY. Given the uncertain nature of the Big East, there's no reason to believe that this Syracuse team won't compete in every game left on the schedule - and to quote Doug Marrone, that's tremendous.
Photo - SU Athletics