The good news: For the first time since 2003, Syracuse has won its season opener!
The bad news: The win came against Akron.
Listen, I don’t mean to be a Debbie downer. Greg Robinson patrolled the ‘Cuse sidelines for all four years I attended SU. I watched this team fail to make it into the end zone seven straight times against Iowa in ’06, lose to Miami Ohio in 2007 after a promising win against Louisville, get pummeled by Akron at home my senior year…wow, I really am a Debbie downer, aren’t I? What I am trying to say is I understand that a win is a win better than anyone. Still, I’m also a realist and I have more good news and bad news for Syracuse fans. I don’t know about you guys, but I like to just get the bad news over with, so I will start with that.
The stronger and more aggressive offensive line did not come to fruition this evening. It could not stifle tackles Brian Wagner and Mike Thomas, who had eight and nine tackles respectively, and Ryan Nassib was left scrambling way too often. The O-Line is officially my biggest concern about this year’s team because as I said in my Akron preview, it lacks depth and experience. The Orange is not going to be able to run all over teams like Pitt and West Virginia nor will Nassib be able to get himself out of trouble as frequently as he did today.
I said limiting turnovers was a key to this game, and I was wrong. Syracuse committed three turnovers (the Zips did not commit any, but they didn’t score any touchdowns either). The Orange also lost 43 yards on five penalties. I am willing to chalk the penalties up to early season growing pains, but after the number of times Syracuse turned the ball over last year, I am concerned about the turnovers. In order to score, you have to hold onto the ball. Then again, the Orange racked up 431 yards of total offense and had the ball for 33 minutes and 25 seconds of the game, so maybe I should just relax. SU WILL be playing teams better than Akron; however, starting with Washington next week. Hopefully, it can hold onto the ball a little better, too.
PATS: Not freebees
Speaking of sloppy play, PATs are supposed to be pretty much automatic, but they were anything but that for freshman Ross Krautman. Krautman missed two PATs while starting in place of the injured Ryan Lichtenstein. The first one came after the Orange returned a blocked field goal for a TD in the third quarter and was a result of a bad snap. The second one was all Krautman. The freshman kicked a PAT wide in the fourth after Carter made it 29-3 in the fourth. Two points could mean the difference between a win and a loss against real teams.
Yes, Akron was struggling to learn the new “pro-style” offense, but Scott Shaffer’s defense exploited that inexperience. The Orange held the Zips to just three points (the fewest points allowed since shutting out Buffalo in 2005—and before you say it: I know, that was just Buffalo) and 166 yards of offense and returned a blocked field goal for an interception. Seriously, are we talking about Syracuse football right now?!
Ryan Nassib Looks Promising
He may not have been perfect, but Nassib put forth a solid effort in his first career start. The sophomore QB was 17/27 with 229 yards passing and two touchdowns, including a beautiful 26-yard TD pass to Van Chew at the end of the first half. Nassib was also cool under pressure, helping the Orange go 10-19 on 3rd down conversions (5-6 to start the game). He did have an interception and made some risky throws down the middle of the field into the defensive line, but it was an impressive first start.
Delone Carter: Born to Run
Training camp did Carter’s game good. The Akron native was a total workhorse for SU, rushing for 91 yards on 26 carries. He frequently broke tackles and did not go down on the first hit, which is exactly what the Orange needed against Akron’s top tacklers Thomas and Wagner.
PS: sorry, Rutgers fans. I just stole a lyric from your “How to get on TV formula!” (Rutgers fans take the best running back on the team, put their picture on a sign, write “Born to Run” on it—a reference to Bruce Springsteen for those of you who live under a rock—and are pretty much guaranteed a cameo on ESPN.)
- Mike Holmes returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown in the 3rd quarter. This was the first time a Syracuse player returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown on record since 1980
- Akron native Delone Carter got to be an honorary fourth captain today. He wore a captain’s patch and participated in the pregame coin toss.
- Syracuse earned the program’s 678th all time victory today. The Orange is now 15th on the NCAA’s list of winningest FBS programs. Remember when football was good up on the hill? Yeah, I don’t either. I was too young/not born yet. Here’s hoping today’s win is a sign of good things to come….
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About the Author
Written by Beth Ann Clyde
I graduated from Syracuse University in 2009 and can count the number of times I witnessed the Orange win a football game on two hands.