It is what Syracuse fans have been looking for all season long. A complete effort on both sides of the ball. A balanced attack. Zero turnovers. Syracuse could do no wrong in a game that they absolutely needed to keep their postseason football dreams alive.
We thought it was the West Virginia game last season and that proved not to be the case. A blowout win on prime time on ESPN when it is the only college football game of the night certainly raises the question though: was this the breakout game this Syracuse football team needed?
Syracuse to this point on the season have struggled on three major aspects of the game: red zone offense, turnovers, and a struggling rushing game. Friday night in the Dome, Syracuse went 6 for 6 inside the 20 including four touchdowns. The Orange did not turn the ball over, and put up 251 yards on the ground in the rushing effort. Combine these improvements with the defense continuing to play outstanding football with a shutout of the Huskies in the second half, and Orange fans left this game with hope for the potential to put together a winning streak. Doug Marrone said after the game that the team gave a great effort, but they can’t allow that to lull them in to being too comfortable heading in to next week:
“It was a big game. You are fighting. The kids did a good job during the week. Whether you’re pressing or whatever you want to say. Let’s call it like it is. We were 2-4 and that’s not good enough. The pressure is turned up. You have to try and brush it off. You have to go out and fight. You go out there and you have to win a game. The kids did a good job and they won. That doesn’t take the pressure off. If anything it shows, let’s take this next step. I think that’s what we will be working on, in the same sense this can’t be a comfort zone. There are still a lot of mistakes out there that needs to be corrected.”
With the various ways people are looking at this game in it’s aftermath, people are wondering what the reason was behind the Orange’s success.
Was it more the opponent than the Orange? I’d put it at 70-30 in favor of Syracuse. Yes Connecticut is a terrible football team with little hope or achievement on the season (aside from a victory over Maryland), but it still required execution on Syracuse’s part in order to take care of business (Don’t believe me? See Minnesota game). Syracuse took care of business against a team that they were supposed to beat, and they left no doubt as to who was the better team when the final horn sounded.
Was it because the game happened on a Friday night? Despite the staggering numbers that suggest the contrary, I’m going to say no. A short week of preparation may benefit Syracuse more so than their opponent, but I think this game gets the same result regardless of the day and time. The Orange have already shown that they are capable of laying an egg in a night game (again, see Minnesota), so put the cause on a night game isn’t consistent with the team’s play. I’ll concede that maybe Syracuse is better at preparing on a short week than other teams, but nothing more than that.
Was it because Syracuse had it’s back against the wall in a do or die situation for it’s season? I’d like to hope so. With only two more losses to play with on the rest of the season, coupled with the Orange playing four of their final five games on the road with their lone remaining home date against Big East frontrunner Louisville, the game Friday was more than a must win. Syracuse was able to find a way to balance a feeling of desperation on their season while still playing within themselves in the game, and they need to continue this momentum next weekend in South Florida. A loss to the Bulls Saturday would not be as crippling as a loss to Connecticut would have been, but it certainly is a game that is winnable and one the Orange should be able to take care of business in and come away with a victory.
Last year we were dead wrong about this team following the West Virginia game. This year despite all that has happened, the Orange will be alive once more with a win this Saturday at South Florida. Stay tuned throughout the week for our previews and predictions leading up to the big game in Tampa.