After a 1-1 start to the season with a win against Akron and a loss out west against Washington, Syracuse comes home for its home opener against FCS opponent Maine Saturday night at 7:15 pm. It’s the first of two FCS opponents for the Orange as they take on Colgate next week. Before we get into the game itself, a quick update on some team news for Syracuse.
Aaron Weaver is out for the year after an ACL tear sustained in practice. It’s a tough loss for a team that’s already lost more than its fair share of players for the year all over the roster. But Jose Cruz and Nick Provo have shown they can step in for Weaver.
When Marcus Sales gets back into the lineup depends on Marcus Sales. The local product was supposed to be the top returning wide receiver from last year but according to Coach Marrone he hasn’t shown enough consistency in practice to get on the field for games. With the home opener on Saturday and Colgate at home after that before Big East play, this could be a perfect opportunity for Sales to get playing time before Big East play gets started. In addition, Marrone has said he’s looking for a 4th wide receiver and who better to step up then Sales? Now on to Maine…
I couldn’t have been the only one who was surprised Maine had a football program. I knew about hockey but to be fair my “extensive” sports knowledge with Maine starts and really ends with Julie “The Cat” Gaffney (you can’t begin to imagine how much time I wasted watching old clips from the Mighty Ducks movies looking for that). But Maine does have more of an extensive history than many would think. Seattle Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu started his collegiate career with the Black Bears before going to USC and Seattle from there. Jovan Belcher of the Chiefs, Stephen Cooper of the Chargers and Mike DeVito of the Jets are a few of other names to play for the Black Bears.
As for the current team, they also started the season 1-1 losing to Albany 3-0 and beating Monmouth in Week 2 on the road. Over the last few years Maine has been an up and down team overall finishing the 2009 season with a 5-6 record after going 8-5 in 2008 and 4-7 the year before that. This year’s squad isn’t anything to write home about anywhere with the exception of Jared Turcotte. After missing all of last season the junior running back has rushed for 236 yards in two games and is going to be the big force offensively for Maine if it’s to be successful.
With Maine and then Colgate on the schedule the next two weeks Syracuse is afforded a luxury rarely seen outside of a SEC out of conference schedule. The Orange are certainly an improved team. The first two weeks of the season showed us that. But two FCS opponents gives the Orange a chance to fix holes on the team headed into Big East play. Of course starting a season 3-1 never hurt anyone either. But the problems Syracuse have to fix this week will be the same as next week and very well could be the same issues all season.
Defensively Syracuse is far from perfect but I consider the game against Washington more of an aberration than a sign of things to come. This unit will keep the Orange in games all season. The issues are offensively and more specifically the offensive line. Ryan Nassib’s development and progression revolves around how well he’s protected. Akron got in his face seemingly at will. Washington was in Nassib’s face way too often too. Against Maine and Colgate the Orange offensive line has a golden opportunity to get its issues in order before conference play. As a fan you can’t have too many other complaints to this point. More depth at the skill positions would be nice but we’re nitpicking when it comes to a team that’s working its way up to mediocrity.
The goal for Syracuse the next two weeks is simple. Win. That’s it. It doesn’t really matter by how much. It doesn’t really matter how they do it. Anything less than 3-1 going to Tampa on October 9th for South Florida would be disastrous.
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Written by Lutfi Sariahmed
Prince-Tyson Gulley for the win