Ryan Nassib passed for a record five touchdowns and Syracuse overcame a slow start to defeat Maine 38-14 in its home opener.
Head coach Doug Marrone said SU would not fall into “the trap” and play poorly against its Division I-AA opponent, but early on, it seemed that was exactly what the Orange was doing. Plan and simple, SU played terrible football in the first half and especially in the first quarter. Syracuse held the ball for just two minutes and fifty-eight seconds and did not pick up a single first down in the first 15 minutes of play. Maine lead the game 14-7 in the second quarter before Syracuse recovered from its inauspicious start and rattled off 31 unanswered points to blow Maine out of the Dome.
The score makes it seem like a blow out, but Marrone will have plenty of things to harp on in practice this week. As an SU football fan, I’ve learned to take the good with the bad. Hopefully, you have, too.
Career Night for Nassib
After going 1-4 for 14 yards passing in the first quarter, it looked like it was going to be a long night for Nassib. The junior signal caller turned it around and ended the night with 260 yards and five touchdowns on 19-28 passing. He did a good job seeing the field and getting his receivers involved, which leads me to my next point…
Despite losing Aaron Weaver for the season (torn ACL), the receiving corps is still surprisingly deep and effective. Four different receivers caught touchdown passes against the Black Bears: Alec Lemon (2). Jose Cruz, Nick Provo, and Van Chew. Having such a strong group of receivers has become even more important for the Orange because of its running-game issues (more on that in a bit).
I Can’t Believe I’m About to Say This But….
You have no idea how happy I am to finally be able to say something nice about the Orange offensive line. The O-Line did a much better job protecting Nassib this week. He was sacked just once and had more time to find open receivers. The improved offensive line is a big reason for Nassib’s five- touchdown performance.
Defense Gets Back on Track
Like the rest of the team, the defense got back on track after a rocky start. The Orange D did not give up any points in the second half. Stand- outs include Derrell Smith (9 tackles) and Chandler Jones (7 tackles, 1 sack). While the offense was struggling to get anything going in the first quarter, the defense held the Black Bears to just seven points—not bad considering Maine held the football for 12 minutes and 58 seconds.
I Have a New Favorite Freshman…
And his name is Malcolm Cater. Sorry, Prince-Tyson Gulley. Your name may be fun to say, but Cater is just great to watch. Tonight, he hit guys in a way that would make Ronnie from the Jersey Shore jealous. The freshman linebacker had 5 tackles and a sack. I’m definitely excited to watch him play for a couple more years…
The flags were flying everywhere tonight. Seriously, I don’t want to hear another whistle for the next 27 days. Syracuse picked up 14 penalties for 111 yards. 10 were committed in the first half (for 86 yards), which means Syracuse did improve in the 2nd. It also means these penalties occurred when SU’s best players were on the field—not during garbage time when Marrone cleared his bench. This type of undisciplined play may have been okay against Maine and may even fly next weekend against Colgate, but SU needs to clean it up in time for Big East play.
Running Game MIA
Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey were virtually nonfactors against Maine, adding to the concern about SU’s lack of running game. Carter rushed for just 65 yards and Bailey 16. While the receiving corps has been a pleasant surprise this season, the Orange should look to add another weapon to its arsenal and get the running game going. It will take pressure off Nassib to have near-perfect outings (which he won’t have against teams like WVU or Pitt) and make Syracuse’s play calling less predictable.
Where is the Love?
I need to get something off my chest: I HATE it when people leave games early regardless of the score. As soon as Provo caught the ball to make it 31-14 SU, a sea of Orange started heading for the exits. What a joke. How many blowouts have we gotten to enjoy? Was the traffic really going to be THAT bad? There were only 37, 758 fans there. Marrone is trying to do some good things with this program and the Orange has definitely improved over the past year. Support the team and come to the games—and stay the whole time.
Play of the Game: Mike Holmes ridiculous punt return in the second quarter had my phone going off with “DID YOU SEE THAT?!” texts and bbms. Holmes ran it to the SU’s 11, then reversed and ran it to the five (at this point I’m screaming, “What are you doing?!?!”), then broke tackles on his way the Black Bears’ 37-yard line. It led to SU’s first touchdown of the game and should make Sports Center.
Words of wisdom: Keep this win in perspective. Yes, the Orange turned it on and dominated the final quarter and a half of this game, but remember, it was against a Maine team that led for most of the first half. It’s good to get a win and have hope, but try making it GUARDED optimism until Syracuse makes some noise in the Big East. Regardless, SU has shown a good amount of improvement under Marrone and that is cause for optimism about the long-term performance of this program. Things are looking up!
- The name of Maine’s mascot is Bananas, so essentially, the Orange won the battle of the produce section. (Thanks, Kelsey!)
- This is the first time SU has won its home opener since it beat Cincinnati 19-7 in 2004.
- Anyone want to donate an anti-GROB t-shirt to Michigan fans? It would be therapeutic for Orange fans to cleanse their closets of such a terrible memory and would save Michigan fans some money.
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.