Orange Mistakes Squander an Opportunity
by Steve Neikam
After winning three out of four games in October, the Orange came into Saturday’s game against Cincinnati with their season’s goals still in front of them. At 4-4 with four games remaining, reaching bowl eligibility at 6-6 was well within reach and at 3-1 in the Big East hopes of playing for a conference championship were not completely unreasonable. After a 1-3 start, the Orange had given themselves a chance against Cincinnati. A chance, that they squandered through a litany of mistakes.
It was another chapter to the same story for this year’s team, with self-inflicted wound after self-inflicted wound took the Orange out of the game. The blunders included, but were not limited to:
Over 100 yards in Penalties
Fumbling the opening kickoff to set up a Cincy touchdown
A blocked FG
A missed FG
Ryan Nassib fumble to set up another Cincy touchdown
Jarrod West dropped touchdown pass
Brandon Reddish dropped interception (surely would’ve been a touchdown)
Those mistakes total a point swing of 34 points. That’s right, 34 points. In an 11 point loss, that more than makes up the difference. This team could be good enough to win some games, but not giving away points. And giving away THAT many points they have no chance.
by Steve Neikam
Different day, same story for Syracuse in Piscataway. The Orange fell to 20th ranked Rutgers 23-15, but really, once again, they beat themselves. Some will argue that Syracuse outplayed Rutgers “except for the four turnovers.” But that’s exactly the problem. You can’t commit four turnovers, get a field goal blocked for a touchdown, not score with 8 plays inside the ten, and expect to have a chance to beat a ranked team on the road. But even after all that, the Orange inexplicably still had a chance to win the game with 2:45 remaining--a chance which Ryan Nassib promptly threw right into the hands of Scarlet Knight Brandon Jones.
And so, the Orange fall to 2-4, and are left to wonder what this season could’ve been like, if they’d only been able to stay out of their own way. The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter “what if,” it matters what is. And this team IS completely lost in the redzone, undisciplined, and a downright catastrophe on special teams. That’s not a recipe for winning football games, and unless this team can somehow change everything that it’s been for the first half of the season, it’s not going to get any better.
2. Rutgers (5-0, beat UConn 19-3)Their defense is by far the best in the conference, and in a conference full of mediocre offenses the Scarlet Knights have the ability to dominate most of their opponents. This week: home vs. Syracuse
3. Cincinnati(4-0, beat Miami OH 52-14)Munchie Legaux and the Bearcats offense has shown explosive ability, but has yet to really be tested against a tough opponent. This week: home vs. Fordham
4. UConn (3-3, lost to Rutgers 19-3)Their offense was stifled by Rutgers, but they aren’t the first or last team the Scarlet Knights will do that to. The Huskies defense has been solid and looks like it’s on the way to leading them to a bowl game. This week: home vs. Temple
5. Syracuse (2-3, beat Pitt 14-13) The Orange finally snapped it’s losing streak against FBS opponents with an ugly win against Pitt last week with its best defensive performance of the season. Ryan Nassib and the offense have slowed down in recent weeks after a hot start. This week: at Rutgers
6. Pittsburgh(2-3, lost to Syracuse 2-3)The hardest team in the conference to figure out, the Panthers had a down week in the Carrier Dome, but have still shown the potential to be dangerous. This week: home vs. Louisville
7. Temple (2-2, beat USF 37-28) The Owls have not been the doormat some expected so far, scoring a win in their first Big East game against South Florida. They hung with Penn State on the road the week before, and could really make some noise with a win at UConn this week. This week: at UConn
8. South Florida (2-4, lost to Temple 37-28)The Bulls have been an abject disaster after starting the season 2-0. A loss to Temple has put them in an 0-2 hole in Big East play, and even with a favorable home schedule remaining it’s difficult to see USF making a run to a bowl game this year. This week: bye
by Steve Neikam
Where to begin with the disaster that was Syracuse’s 17-10 loss against Minnesota? There are plenty of options- a terrible 3rd down conversion rate (4-13), the four turnovers, the ten penalties, and the fact that while the game was still in the balance the previously explosive Orange offense could muster all of three points.
In a game that Syracuse absolutely NEEDED to win, they fell flat on their face once again, getting beaten down by a weak Minnesota team, despite outgaining the Gophers 350-337. Minnesota didn’t have to do much to earn this win, it was given to them. For the second time in four games, Syracuse gave away a game to a Big Ten opponent. When you beat yourself once, it can be a fluke. When you do it repeatedly, it becomes a trend. When you do it 8 out of your last 9 games, then that’s just the type of team that you are.
There is a set of characteristics that define bad football teams. A lack of discipline, too many penalties, and consistent turnovers are the main traits. For the last five games of last season and the first four games of this season, those are the traits that define Syracuse football.
If ten penalties, including four false starts, don’t point to a lack of discipline, nothing does. Two of those false starts turned third and short situations into third and long, which is also indicative of how Syracuse has continued to harpoon its own chances.
Not only are the mistakes high in number, but they seem to always occur at critical times and give away points. Four turnovers are bad enough, but an interception on an ill-advised pass attempt from your third-year starting quarterback under pressure on third and goal is backbreaking.
One-third of the way through the season, this team is no better than the Greg Robinson era Orange. You are what your record says you are, and this is a 1-3 team that consistently commits backbreaking mistakes time and time again.
There can no longer be talk of “this is a good team, but…” because it’s not a good team. Good teams don’t lose two games they should’ve won in four weeks. Good teams don’t false start four times. Good teams don’t turn the ball over in the red zone. Good teams don’t give away touchdowns with mental errors. Good teams don’t lay an egg in must-win games. Good teams don’t lose eight straight games against FBS opponents. Good teams don’t start 1-3.
That’s what bad teams do. That’s what Syracuse does.
Whatever amount of goodwill was built up by hanging around against USC was lost today in as ugly a win as you will ever see. Syracuse TRAILED AT HALF 17-14 against an FCS opponent in Stony Brook. If the Orange aren’t physically superior to Stony Brook both up front and on the perimeter, that spells problems down the road. And Syracuse didn’t appear to be physically superior to anybody on the field today, allowing the Sea Wolves to rush for 216 yards at a clip of almost 6 yards per carry.
In fact, if Stony Brook had a capable (any FBS?) quarterback, the Orange may well have lost this game. Kyle Essington was a pathetic 4-19 on the day and his team was somehow still close enough that it could have taken the lead in the fourth quarter had he not completely missed a wide open receiver downfield who would have gone for the go-ahead touchdown. And no, he did not have that horrible day because of anything the vaunted Syracuse defense did--dropped passes (including an easy touchdown) and missed open receivers all day. And even with no threat of a passing game Miguel Maysonet was able to churn out 158 yards. I’ve got news for you, every team on the schedule from here on out boasts a better offense than Stony Brook, and that defensive performance just isn’t going to cut it. The two biggest stops of the game for the SU defense came on Stony Brook holding penalties.
Ryan Nassib's final numbers (22-35, 335 yards and 3 TDs) doesn't look bad, but the numbers are better than the production was for most of the game. The Orange were stopped on fourth and goal twice. and wasn't able to muster more than 7 points in any quarter. This effort was (barely) good enough to beat Stony Brook, but this game looked more like two FCS teams battling it out than a team ready to compete in the Big East against an FCS pushover.
We’ll start with the positives: They won for the first time in eight tries.
That was easy. Now, the negatives: They allowed 200 rushing yards to an FCS opponent. They failed on third and short multiple times. They failed on fourth and short multiple times. There were countless special teams blunders. Syracuse allowed Stony Brook to hold it’s own at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. If Stony’s QB was worth a nickel, Syracuse would have lost after getting toasted on countless potential big plays. Syracuse played like it was a hungover, Saturday morning practice on the bye week.
Everyone is going to be so impressed with how tough and competitive Stony Brook was. If I hear you say, “hats off to Stony Brook,” and your name isn’t Doug Marrone, you deserve a swift punch in the face. I’m not giving any credit to something called the Seawolves. The QB was 4-for-19 passing. Maybe he could start for a Class D high school… Maybe. They’re good for an FCS team (I guess?), but that doesn’t make them “good” by Division I football standards. If Maysonet were truly a stud back, he would be on a BCS team. If they were any threat to win the game, Marrone would have kicked the field goals inside the 10 to give Syracuse a seven point lead. Even the coach knew there was no way they could lose, which makes it all the more egregious that it was any kind of game at all. Luckily, it goes in the win column, and everyone can get ready for a must-win next weekend in Minnesota. Can’t say I’m feeling better about that proposition than I was eight hours ago.
1. Louisville (2-0)- Still no reason to unseat the preseason favorites after taking care of business with a 35-7 win over Missouri State. Teddy Bridgewater has looked outstanding so far, throwing for 344 yards and 2 TDs last week. We’ll find out more about the Cards this week when they host ACC opponent North Carolina in what should be their toughest test of the non-conference season.
2. Cincinnati (1-0)- Opened up Big East play with a 34-10 blowout of Pittsburgh last Thursday night. As dysfunctional as Pitt is at this point, the Bearcats were still impressive in their opener. Munchie Legaux could prove to be the best dual-threat quarterback in the conference after rushing for 117 yards and throwing for 205 more against the Panthers.
3. South Florida (2-0)- It took a miracle comeback for the Bulls to reach 2-0 as B.J. Daniels threw two 50-plus yard touchdowns in the last 2:37 to steal a 32-31 win over Nevada. Daniels totaled 363 yards and 3 touchdowns on the day, but the defense was less than impressive giving up over 500 yards of total offense. Still, I’ll give them credit for traveling cross-country and beating a pretty tough Nevada team.
4. Rutgers (2-0)- The Scarlet Knights haven’t proven much in wins over Tulane and Howard, but holding an opponent under 150 total yards is about all you could ask for form your defense and tailback Jawan Jamison has gone over 100 yards in both games so far (110 on just 10 carries against Howard). They’ll get their first chance to make a real statement Thursday night when they travel to South Florida.
5. Syracuse (0-2)- The Orange have taken more goodwill from a 42-29 loss than any team in history, but avoiding a blowout against USC is more than a lot of teams in this conference can say so far. Week three the Orange will get a bit of a break in its schedule when it welcomes Stony Brook to the Carrier Dome for what better be its first win of the season.
6. UConn (1-1)- Can’t give the Huskies too much credit for a blowout of UMass, and the offense was inept against a mediocre NC State team going scoreless for three quarters at home. This week’s reunion with former head coach Randy Edsall and Maryland is crucial for the Huskies’ bowl hopes.
7. Temple (1-1)- Maryland scored 7 points against William & Mary in week one, and 36 against Temple in week two. The offense has shown flashes but overall this still looks like a run-of-the-mill MAC team. Owls have a week off before heading to Happy Valley on September 22.
8. Pittsburgh (0-2)- To say the Paul Chryst era is off to a rough start would be far too kind. The Panthers followed up a home loss to FCS Youngstown State with a blowout loss at Cincinnati. Things only figure to get uglier for the Panthers as #13 Virginia Tech comes to town this weekend.