Sunday, November 22, 2009


What a fun and improbable weekend for Syracuse fans. Things got started on Thursday evening with the Orange basketball team routing the Cal Bears. While Doug Gottlieb was not impressed, SU followed that up by blowing out the North Carolina Tar Heels the next day. That win resulted in Doug changing his tune.

However, the cherry on the Orange sundae was a dominant, thorough ass kicking of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights yesterday in the Dome. For Syracuse seniors, it was a great way to conclude a home career. For Doug Marrone, it was his first Big East win, and first win over recruiting rival Greg Schiano. And for long-suffering Syracuse fans, it was one hell of a fun afternoon in the Dome.

The Orange defense flew around the field and hit Rutgers QB Tom Savage so many times that in his post-game media availability he looked like he was ready to join Mike Tyson and fade into "bolivian." The offense was multiple, unpredictable and the most effective it's been since the Northwestern game, racking up over 400 yards and 31 points. All that was good enough to overcome a special teams unit that played like they had money on Rutgers.

Coming into the game, everyone, including me, expected Rutgers to win. Rutgers bloggers and sportswriters predicted a large win, an orange crushing, a 31-17 win, and they celebrated big hits of years gone by. By 7:00 pm Saturday night, the hopes and dreams of the Knights had been crushed.

So what went wrong? Tom Lucci and Brendan Prunty of the Newark Star Ledger point the finger squarely at Greg Schiano, and I agree. Doug Marrone had his team prepared and Schiano was clueless on the sidelines the whole afternoon. Take it away fellas:

A look at No. 25 Rutgers 31-13 loss to last place Syracuse

With all that said, here are some observations from the game:

* First and foremost, being in the Dome was fun yesterday. When we look back on this season, while it was frustrating at times, this game and the Northwestern game gave us a couple of exciting wins at home. It's progress, and progress is fun. There is hope for this program.

* The announced crowd was nearly 37,000 - like always, that number was inflated, but the fans that were there were loud and into the game. Well everyone but the students, who once again didn't show.

* I have bitched for the last few weeks about how conservative the offense has become. Well, yesterday they weren't conservative at all. The team added some plays they haven't shown all year, and it was a success. Kudos to Doug Marrone and Rob Spence for drawing up that gameplan - and kudos to the players for executing it.

* While we are talking about me being wrong, I also bitched about the rotating quarterback situation and how it wasn't working. Well it worked like a charm yesterday - Greg Paulus was smart and efficient, Ryan Nassib was dangerous running the option and completed a good ball down the middle of the field that set up the Paulus to Carl Cutler TD pass.

* As we touched on earlier, Marrone and his crew vastly out coached Schiano and the his Rutgers staff. They couldn't adjust their protection schemes to stop the SU blitz and defensively they were confused and not prepared for new formations and quick snaps implemented by the Orange.

* In regards to the on-side kick attempt in the first half, I'm probably in the minority here, but I didn't mind it. If you are going to be an aggressive team, you have to take risks. I don't think SU has taken enough risks this year - so I'm not going to kill them for taking a shot there. Good for them.

* The offensive line had its best day in 5 years. They opened running lanes and kept Paulus and Nassib clean all day.

* I love defensive coordinator Scott Shafer. When Greg Robinson arrived we were promised an aggressive defense. It didn't happen. Shafer arrived with little fanfare, but boy oh boy has he ever delivered. There have been some growing pains, but his aggressive blitzing schemes should be giving Big East coaches nightmares for as long as he's here. The turn around on defense has been nothing short of remarkable. How remarkable? Check out the difference in stats between Shafer and Robinson.

* Doug Hogue moving to linebacker has worked out pretty well huh? 3.5 sacks yesterday and he's getting better. If he keeps up this level of improvement, Doug will be playing on Sundays in the future.

* I'm not going to harp on this, because the win yesterday was so good, but the special teams have been awful all year. Yesterday they were worse than awful. I don't want to hear any excuses, the offense and defense have been decimated with injures and they have produced. I'm less than impressed with Bob Casullo right now. I will give him credit for one thing however, he actually beat me to a restaurant in Syracuse after the Akron game, so Bob moves quick.

* It was great to see Averin Collier bust the long TD run in the 4th quarter. I'd love to see this guy on the field more. With 4 talented RBs returning, it will be tough to get all of them touches, but I hope Marrone and Spence can find a way to do it. That is the one position on the team that is loaded with talent.

* What a great win. After a rough middle of the season, I think it reaffirms what we have believed all year - Doug Marrone is the right man to turn around this program.


blahga the hutt said...

This win was big for recruiting. From what I gather, there were a bunch of prospective recruits at this game and if the Orange needed to come alive, it was today (I'll admit, I was one those who thought this game would be ugly for SU...I'm glad I was proven wrong).

As I said in a previous post a while back, I said I'd be happy if we could grab 4 wins this year. I'm more or less satisfied and I'm hoping that we can finish the year on a good note next week.

For those who just complain about the record, let me put things in perspective. When GRob came here four years ago, Coach P was a mediocre coach. I'm glad that we were able to get rid of him. He slowly drove the program into the ground. He took a top-notch program from McPherson and after a few years of success from Mac's labors, really went almost .500.

In fact I would say that McNabb masked the coaching problems (I'd say that he won 5-6 games in his tenure here in spite of Coach P). That may not seem like a lot of wins, but when you consider that with McNabb, SU never went better than 9-4 (seriously!), you're talking about some more mediocre seasons without him. If McNabb goes anywhere else, he probably takes the team to a national championship (maybe two?). Yes, there is a point to all of this, bear with me.

When GRob came in, he had a team that was mediocre and he should have at least had them at the same level for a year or two (5-6 win range). However, he went 1-10 and things went rapidly downhill from there. The talent level fell even further and the team had no discipline.

Now, worst case, Marrone will be 4-8 his first year. At the worst. While that's not particularly great, consider this. This team won all of 10 games in 4 years, so for him to coach that many wins with the talent level that's currently there speaks volumes for the future. If he can get 4 (dare I say 5?) this year...
Also, let's face it. SU should have won three more games this year (Minnesota, Louisville and yes, South Florida). Compared to what I've seen in the last four years, I'll take frustration over "what's the point of even following them" any time.

A couple of other notes:

Totally disagree with you on the onside kick. It's one thing to be aggressive. It's quite another to be stupid, and that was a truly stupid decision that could have cost them the game. Here's why:

You're up 21-2 and you're defense is playing great. Why give Rutgers potential excellent field position when you can back them up again? Rutgers gets a TD and the two point conversion and they're right back in the game (and a two-touchdown lead with this team isn't exactly comforting).

It was closer than people realize now. It was only 24-10 early in the fourth quarter when Rutgers blocked a field goal and get great field position. Luckily for SU, Schiano had a rare case of the stupids and went for a field goal at the 7, which meant nothing since they were still two scores down. If they risk it and score a TD, it's 24-17 and it's an entirely different ball game. It didn't happen that way and the rest is history. So no, I don't think going for the onside kick was a good decision at all.

The other note is special teams:

I must say I'm not impressed with Casullo at all for special teams coach (isn't he supposed to be a whiz at this?). Yes, it's young and yes it's got non-special team personnel, but this is ridiculous. I give Casullo one more year to turn things around and if he doesn't I'd fire the guy. But that's just me.

Anyway, sorry for the lengthy post.

blahga the hutt said...

Oh yeah,

Sorry for some of the glaring grammatical errors above. I'm tired and I wrote it when I was leaving the door at work (rushing it). It annoyed me when I re-read it (ugh).

Russianator said...

No worries on the length of the post, thanks for taking the time to comment.

On the on-sides kick, if they get it, they step on Rutgers throat and the game is over.

I've ripped the staff for being too conservative, so I'm not going to be a hypocrit and rip them when they were aggressive.

Now, the fact that they were aggressive with their worst unit might have been a bit much....but at least they took a shot.

Poncho Sinatra said...

Great Post Rush. As a season ticket holder, my place is that I don't comment unless I am there to see the game in person, which I was not.

It's great to hear that the coaching staff was being a little more aggressive-it's been awhile since we have had some play calling that gives a less athletic team a chance in some of these games.

Good to hear the crowd was lively. Do you realize we have one of the only D1 stadiums that "Townies" completely trump the students in regards to Tailgating, beer drinking and rowdiness?

I was stuck in Canada this weekend watching some Canucks get fired up about a mediocre Canadiens hockey club.