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It Wasn’t That Bad; No Really

Posted By Lutfi Sariahmed On Sep 12 2010 @ 2:52 am In Syracuse | No Comments

Washington 41 Syracuse 20

Yes it’s an ugly scoreline. Yes Syracuse turned the ball over twice, committed 10 penalties and after about 13 minutes in the 1st quarter, Washington took over. But it’s not nearly as bad as it seems.

No really I promise. Allow me to explain.

Things started off well for the Orange jumping out to a 10-0 lead thanks to Ryan Nassib’s 28-yard TD run and a Ross Krautman field goal. Syracuse stifled the Jake Locker led attack and things were looking surprisingly up. Offensively Nassib continued to look confident under center and even made some of his better throws moving out of the pocket. His completion percentage may yell mediocre to you as he completed less than 50% of his throws but once the game got out of hand late Nassib was forced to make throws he otherwise wouldn’t have (at least we hope). I’ll say the same thing about Nassib this week as I did last week after the win over Akron. If he gets time to throw the ball (more on that later) Nassib can be serviceable enough for this team to have a good season. The success goes beyond Nassib as well offensively. Delone Carter had 91 yards on 18 carries, a 5-yard per carry average, and more than that the commitment and success of the run game will give Nassib more time to develop and come along while the Orange prepare for Big East play.

“Lutfi, did you watch this game? We lost 41-20! We weren’t even close! Who cares about the rest of this?”

Fair point good sir or lady and while a win would’ve been nice, a loss even in the fashion Syracuse lost, is hardly the end of the world. Even for those fans who have the loftiest of goals for the Orange, look at the teams they’ll be playing in the Big East. Everyone is 1-1 with the exception of West Virginia and it needed a miracle late comeback to beat Marshall in overtime and Rutgers who didn’t exactly look like world beaters against Florida International. The point being Washington was a game to test where Syracuse was as a program. There are still things that need to be worked on. We knew that going into the season. Would fans have rather seen a closer game, even if it were a loss? Of course. But for an Orange side still developing the goal isn’t to necessarily look for these wins but rather take as much as possible moving forward.

So what do the Orange need to improve upon? Well a 41-20 scoreline would indicate the defense would need the most tending to. Washington super-QB Jake Locker went 22 for 33, threw for 289 yards and 4 touchdowns torching the Syracuse defensive backfield time and again. But I attribute that more to Jake Locker being Jake Locker. Remember, this is the QB that’s going to be the #1 overall pick in the 2011 Draft and could have been #1 overall this past year. When Syracuse played zone he found the holes, when they played in man coverage he found the advantageous matchup. He’s just that good and Syracuse’s defense could not keep up. And you know what? That’s not that bad of a thing.

Syracuse found some success stifling Locker when they pressured him but they couldn’t be expected to consistently go after the quarterback when doing so would just lead to Locker exposing even bigger holes beyond the pressure. I don’t take much from RB Chris Polk’s 117-yard performance on the ground because if you take away the one touchdown run for 52 yards he had 65 yards on 19 carries. You’ll live with that 10 times out of 10 if you’re the Orange.

What should concern you though is for as sound as the unit was against Akron, there were too many instances of mental lapses on all three units. I mentioned the 10 penalties earlier which is just something that couldn’t happen if Syracuse were to win this game. Defensively there were at least two missed tackles I counted on the Jermaine Kearse 57-yard hitch touchdown to start the 2nd half. The entire game turned in the 2nd quarter for Syracuse after Washington kicked its 2nd field goal to make it 10-6. On the ensuing kickoff Prince-Tyson Gulley fumbled the ball and Washington recovered. Against a quarterback like Locker you’re going to pay for those mistakes and pay the Orange did. A few plays as opposed to being up 10-6, Syracuse was down 13-10 after the Jermaine Kearse 5-yard touchdown reception. There were even instances of simpler mental lapses in this game as well. Before attempting a 32-yard field goal, Justin Pugh was called for offsides on the offensive line pushing the attempt back five more yards. Ross Krautman still made the kick to make it 27-13 Washington, but its those mistakes that are the difference between a team competing with Louisville for last place and potentially getting to .500 or better for the season. And about that offensive line…

For as well as I said Ryan Nassib played earlier, and he did, he could certainly use some help from his offensive line. Once again Nassib was forced out of the pocket on way too many occasions and they’re just not circumstances he can be reasonably expected to succeed under time and again. This team goes as that offensive line goes and unfortunately the next chance for the unit to prove itself may not come until Big East play comes around.

So was the game fun to watch as a Syracuse fan? Not unless you like inflicting that sort of punishment on yourself no. But is it time for doom and gloom and thoughts of what another one win season will feel like? Of course not. There are still a lot of questions to be answered about this team and even more football to be played.

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