Sunday, December 4, 2011

Syracuse Football Season Ends on a Five Game Skid

Doug Marrone is searching for answers after Syracuse's latest loss

The ugly 2011 Syracuse football season is mercifully over. It ended with a brutal 33-20 loss to a bad Pitt Panther football team.  The Orange ended the season on a five game skid and as a result will not going to a bowl for a second consecutive season.

A year ago if you would have asked me if I had any doubts at all about Doug Marrone's ability to lead this program back to the top of Big East, I would have told you I had none. Now, I'm not so sure and the impending move to the ACC only adds my trepidation. The five game skid to end the year magnified glaring weaknesses that were masked by wins earlier in the year. Hell, we didn't even write about the Cincinnati game last week -- with all the Bernie Fine craziness going on and the fact that the team laid another egg, there wasn't much to say.

However, the Pitt game provided one last chance at redemption. One last chance to secure a 6th win and with it, the 15 extra practices that a bowl berth provides. It obviously didn't happen.  The fact of the matter is that this team played one complete game all season long. One. It finished in last place in the worst BCS conference in the country. It played with a glaring lack of discipline that seemed to get worse, not better, as the season went along.  Three years into the Doug Marrone era, here's where we are:

  • Syracuse is 6-15 in the Big East over the past 3 years. Two of his three years the team has one conference win.
  • In three years Syracuse hasn't put together a consistent offense and insists on running some sort of pro-style, uber-conservative "multiple" offense that doesn't stretch the field and doesn't threaten opposing defenses.
  • Marrone has won 9 games in three years against teams from BCS conferences.  That's three a year. This year he only won two games against those team.
Turning around this program is a huge undertaking - no one is naive to that fact. Greg Robinson was 10 games in four years and left it shambles. Marrone has made strides, but this year was clearly a step back. Doug's going to have to sink or swim with his guys now -- if we get the same results next year I think it's pretty clear that he's not the right man for the job. As far as the game on Saturday:

Syracuse - Pitt Observations

* Out of all the problems this team had this year, the most disturbing is the number of penalties the team took -- especially personal fouls. That continued against Pitt. 9 penalties for 95 yards. It's been a constant refrain all season long and in my opinion, part of the reason that went on all season long was a lack of repercussions for doing something stupid. Guys like Michael Hay took an astounding number of personal foul penalties and were continually trotted back out onto the field. I understand that there's no depth, but  I also understand every player has a back up. If a guy repeatedly takes bad penalties and repeatedly puts the team in a hole, how is that helping the team?

* Pitt started the game with a pooch kick off that Syracuse failed to cover. The Panthers did it again later in the game and Syracuse almost turned it over again. The fact that the team couldn't adjust to this is a damning indictment against John Anselmo and the coaching staff.

* Jarrod West, long trumpeted by Syracuse Post Standard writer Dave Rahme as a potential game breaker at wide receiver, was anything but. He's dropped passes all season long and the 4th quarter fumble was the capper in a disappointing season. He's only played one year and there's potential there - I hope he can realize it.

* Big Chandler Jones had an athletic interception and played another really good game. Hopefully he's back and healthy for 12 games next year.

* For all the good things Scott Shafer has done in his first two years at Syracuse, this year he wasn't very good. I know the defense was young and I can live with getting beat physically, but against Pitt the secondary was STILL blowing assignments, as evidenced by the Panthers first TD 10 seconds into the game.

* On the long 4th quarter TD drive, Orange44's John Brennan said it best - "The lack of urgency on this drive is stunning."

* I'm not sure what to make of Ryan Nassib anymore. His stats are solid, the the results aren't there. Part of the reason is the scheme of the offense. Part of the reason is a below average offensive line. Part of the reason is drops by wide receivers. Part of the reason is he can't throw a catchable deep ball and at times he lacks touch on intermediate balls.

* Tino Sunseri was booed lustily by Pitt fans and I can understand why. He makes some inexplicable plays.

* In a way I'm glad the season is over because I don't know how many more rollout/TE drags routes I can watch. I have no faith that Nathanial Hackett knows what he's doing.

* Antwon Bailey, while he fumbled a little too much, capped off a career with another hard effort. He ran hard every time he touched the ball and handled himself with class. Likewise Nick Provo capped off a very nice career with another solid effort. Those two will be missed next year.

* Alec Lemon continued a strong second half of the year with a number of substantial gains over the middle. He had a nice season that would have been better except for a some crucial drops in the end zone. There weren't any of those against Pitt, but they can't be overlooked. UPDATE: A reader points out Lemon has very few drops this year, including only one in the end zone  - so maybe I'm wrong here. See the comments for more of the discussion. It's a shame the team can't find a couple of burners for the edges because Alec could destroy teams in the slot.

* Jerome Smith ran hard and showed a lot of promise for the future.

* Six turnovers to cap off an ultimately disappointing year. From 5-2 to 5-7 against competition no one would confuse with the SEC. The Orange end the season with more questions than answers. It's a common them.

I like Doug Marrone. I like the way he carries himself. I love the way he takes responsibility for the team's shortcomings. I love the way he talks about the fans and what success means to us. You don't see that often. However, you can take all the responsibility in the world, if you don't win game it doesn't matter. He built up a ton of goodwill last season. That goodwill is already gone. A five game losing streak, a sloppy undisciplined team, and three years of a punchless offense will do that.

2012 for Doug Marrone is more important than ever.  SU fans have watched a decade of almost exclusively bad football and Doug's got one more season to fix that. He's taken responsibility for it - but those are just words and words are hollow. Winning football games is what matters. That hasn't happened often enough.


Anonymous said...

Got to figure out how to keep talent out of trouble or get them out of trouble, case in point Cater, Sales and Thomas. Can't win if talent isn't on the field. I agree on watching Hay, his butt should have been on the bench until he got it together. Pitiful run to go 0-5 to finish the season.

Anonymous said...

Great Post Neph!

We just let too many games get away this year(ex:UConn,Rutgers). I still think Marrone can fix this -if he can recruit. I think the team overachieved last year. This season may be more indicative. I am not an expert on offensive schemes but we will not improve until we get better players. The O'line can't block a hat, and the receivers can't catch colds. the tackling is pretty lame too. I don't care what system we run if we can't get guys who can block,tackle, and catch we are not going to win many games.

Take care and keep posting.

Uncle Dave

Anonymous said...

Beyond the one drop in end zone against USF, go to the tape and find one other drop Lemon had all season. Bet you could count them all on 3 fingers or less.

Russianator said...

I like lemon, I really do - but he dropped TD passes against both USF and Cincy this year.

Not to mention the bad drop in the end zone last year against Louisville.

This team doesn't get a lot of chances to score, he's got to capitalize on them when the occur.

As I said in the post - he's a good player that had a good year. If he had some help on the outside he'd dominate the middle of the field even more - but he's GOT to catch the ball in the end zone.

Anonymous said...

Ball in the end zone against Cincy was tipped right before it arrived. Again, go back and check the film, not what some knucklehead wrote. Just saying - I could write all kinds of inaccurate things based on Internet sources - gotta see the film.

Bringing up last year's Louiseville game has no bearing on this season. Just asked how many drops he had all year long and said it was less than three and that's being generous...

Russianator said...

Again - I like Lemon. I was at the Cincy game (and all home games) and it looked like a drop from my seat. The paper reported it was drop. With an offense this painful I'm not going to go back and re-watch these things.

As I said, he's a good player and I appreciate your support for him. I also appreciate you reading this blog.

He's still got to catch the ball in the end zone. The louisville ball is relevant since I was commenting on him as a player -- and that comment that was 90% positive.

Anonymous said...

I like Lemon too. He is usually a good possession receiver. However, there was no consistent deep threat among the receivers; no one to keep defenses honest.

Uncle Dave

Russianator said...

I agree Uncle Dave. If he had some guys that could really fly on the outside he'd been even better. He's great in the slot and has a good feel for getting open in the seems. He's a good receiver.

Anonymous said...

I'm simply trying to point out that negative comments stick - just like this one is seeming to do...

I was at the game too, and from where I was sitting it looked like a drop too. I then watched the game of DVR, and it was clear as day a tipped ball that changed the trajectory right I to his shoulder pads. The guys calling the game pointed it out too - at first they too thought it was a drop, then changed that opinion after watching the replay 3 times.

All I'm saying is the kid had 68 catches and maybe should have had 70.

I've seen every game this season and the only dropped ball I can recall is the one against South Florida...not trying to argue the point, just trying to be factual.

Russianator said...

Fair enough, i respect your opinion and the discussion.

Everyone on the team has to make more plays. Your point has been noted in the original post.

JM said...

I think pointing to next year as a make or break year for Marrone is jumping the gun a little. Remember, Coach Mac went five seasons before he took the Orange to the Cherry Bowl. And building up after the Maloney era was child's play compared to resurecting a program after GRob's delightful tenure and Coach P's half decade of mediocrity before that. And then the season after the Cherry bowl the orange took a step back and had a losing record. A lot of people were calling for Mac's head at the beginning of the 87 season. We all know how things went from there. I'm just saying three or four years isn't enough time; Mac had a lot more time than that and it paid off. We need to be patient. If Dick MacPherson can turn the program around I have no doubt Doug Marrone can.

Russianator said...

I agree that it is a short time period, but its a completely different day and age than it was back then.

I like Doug Marrone and there's no doubt he's got a big hill to climb. However the University needs someone who is going get this thing moving in the right direction. Another losing season in 2012 is bad, bad news.

This is especially true given the fan apathy it will create. SU needs to fill the building - and Doug's style of play, particularly on offense, doesn't help that.

I hope he turns it around, but 6-15 in three years in the Big East isn't good enough. After a 4th sub par year I don't think there'd be much a a basis to think he can turn it around, especially going into the ACC. It's not 1981 anymore.