The Orangemen suffer the ultimate insult: getting beaten by former head coach Paul Pasqualoni
By Chris McManus
Ryan Nassib made good decisions almost all day. Alec Lemon got open almost all day. Dyshawn Davis made almost every tackle. But almost isn’t good enough, and it has the better of Syracuse football this season.
After a slow start Saturday, Nov. 5, at Connecticut, the Orange twice took the lead and seemed to be on the verge of securing a win and a bowl berth, but they just couldn’t close it out. The potential game-winning drive ended with an interception, and UConn turned that turnover into a touchdown. On the winning score for the Huskies, a Syracuse linebacker had a chance to stop the play in the backfield, but missed a tackle for the first time all day. UConn held on for a 28-21 win.
Again on Saturday, Syracuse never got offense, defense and special teams all clicking at once. It’s like fixing your car’s engine only to have a tire explode. Then you get a new tire only to have the air conditioner break down. It’s never one thing that dooms the Orange, but everything has yet to come together.
Quarterback Nassib played a solid game, but took the steam out of a great fourth-quarter drive when he got picked off by linebacker Sio Moore in UConn territory. Wide receiver Lemon, who had a career-high 157 yards receiving, had a chance to prevent the backbreaking turnover but didn’t come back to the ball. SU outgained UConn 365 yards to 311, won the turnover battle, three vs. five, and held the ball for longer; they just didn’t score more points.
It’s funny how luck turns around.
Wake Forest pushed Syracuse all over the field in the season opener, but played eight bad minutes while the Orange stole the game. Toledo should have beaten Syracuse if not for a blown call in the fourth quarter, but the Orange took that one in overtime as well. Fast-forward six weeks, and now SU has outplayed its opponents in three of four conference games, yet has only one win to show for it.
Until the last month, Syracuse could just sprinkle magic Doug Marrone dust on the field and steal a win if the game was close. But just like Yankees miracles and Tom Brady comebacks, luck runs out eventually. If you let enough games go down to the last five minutes, you’re going to lose some of them.
If anyone deserved one to break his way on Saturday, it was Paul Pasqualoni. The former Orange head coach had only one losing season in 14 years at SU. He’s a Connecticut native who was well equipped to replace former coach Randy Edsall, but he was not a popular choice. Program supporters do not see the 62-year-old as the long-term solution. He’s had a rough first season, and the grumbling has grown louder with each loss. The man who hired him, Jeff Hathaway, has since retired as UConn’s athletic director, and Coach P appeared to be headed to his second losing season in his head coaching career before Saturday. But he came through this time, and now he’s right there with all of the other Big East coaches looking down at Syracuse in the standings.
Chris McManus is a 2010 graduate of Syracuse University. He is the program director at ESPN Radio 97.7 and 100.1 FM, where he hosts Disturbing the Peace weekdays from 3 to 6 p.m.