The Orangemen will need more than good fortune to best West Virginia in two weeks
By Chris McManus
In a tied game with just over two minutes left, a stunned Syracuse University Orangemen football team failed to convert a third down during its Oct. 8 game against Tulane at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Three-and-out, and the opponent’s hot offense was ready to come back and go for a monumental upset win. Luckily, an opponent was a bit too aggressive with a hit on SU quarterback Ryan Nassib. The drive remained alive on a penalty and, luckily, kicker Ross Krautman closed it out with the game-winning field goal.
The Orange somehow escaped New Orleans with a win over its weakest remaining opponent. It’s a good thing there are two weeks to prepare for the next game: West Virginia in the Carrier Dome in prime time. They’re going to need it.
There’s a lot of “lucky” in the season so far. I’m not sure it’s better to be lucky than good, but it’s definitely better to be lucky than winless, which is where Syracuse might be without some good fortune.
The Orange was lucky Wake Forest lost a touchdown drive and their starting quarterback on the same play in the third quarter in week one. The Orange was lucky the following week that Rhode Island brought its Pop Warner team to the Carrier Dome, because the SU performance was not getting it done against anyone else. The Orange was lucky in win No. 3 when an obvious blown call gave them a free point (in a game that went to overtime).
The coaching staff and the players have been very adamant that “any win is a good win,” and “we aren’t good enough to expect to blow out any opponent.” Sorry, but the stated goal for the team is to “compete for a Big East title.” You can’t have it both ways.
A 4-2 team that is ready to compete for a Big East title runs Tulane off the field. It crushes an inferior opponent and gets the backups in for the second half. If SU doesn’t get better quickly, they’ll be on the wrong side of that scenario against West Virginia on Oct. 21. The competition for the Big East title will have lasted all of two conference games.
Now luckily, their best defensive player will be back on the field for that game. Defensive end Chandler Jones practiced last week, and now has two more full weeks of practice to prepare. And luckily, the biggest game of the season comes after a bye week. Doug Marrone happens to be 5-1 in games where he has more than one week to prepare. The only loss came in overtime against a superior opponent, Minnesota, in his SU debut.
Again, I would rather be good than lucky. Louisiana State and Alabama are good, so they’re 6-0. That sounds better than SU’s lucky 4-2. Then again, I would rather be lucky and 4-2 than unlucky and 0-6. In what could be the last year of Big East football for Syracuse, a little luck might go a long way.
Chris McManus is a 2010 graduate of Syracuse University. He is the program director at ESPN Radio 97.7 and 100.1, where he hosts Disturbing the Peace weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m.