Syracuse was 0-5 against South Florida going into the game on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Now make it 1-5.
Was it easy? No. Was it pretty? Absolutely not. But when you’re not that far removed from a 1-10 season a win by any means is a win you’ll take. More than that, this win puts the Big East on notice. Syracuse is not to be taken lightly all season.
Expectations going into the season were to finish ahead of Louisville in the battle for last place. After a 13-9 win in Tampa, a bowl berth seems more like an expectation. On the road in a place where Syracuse has never won, it stayed in the game long enough for a late touchdown to secure a victory and a 4-1 start. The win to open the Big East season can be credited in large part to the performance of Defensive Coordinator Scott Schafer and this defense.
I said before the game the key would be how Syracuse deals with South Florida QB B.J. Daniels and the Bulls running game. The Orange blitzed, blitzed and blitzed again forcing Daniels into throwing two picks and holding South Florida to only 95 yards on the ground on 37 carries. If South Florida was going to beat Syracuse, you wanted it to be through the air. The Orange stifled the Bulls in both facets of the game and it paid dividends as the game wore on. Daniels never looked comfortable in the backfield getting sacked four times. He couldn’t do anything with his legs and it’s a credit to Schafer’s gameplanning and the talent Syracuse has on that side of the ball. It’s a fast squad and this is what it could bring to the table every week. I’ve said more than a few times that Syracuse will be in every game this season because of the defense alone. It wasn’t the case against Washington but Syracuse won this game in South Florida because of its defense.
If the defense wasn’t as good as it was though Syracuse would have lost this game. Doug Marrone has said on numerous occasions this team needs to learn how to win. The defense helped them do that Saturday despite more than a few miscues on special teams and an offensive line that was porous at best. The special teams miscues you can fix. With ever week that passes by though, this may be the best the offensive line can do this season. With games against Colgate and Maine you can gather a group of five friends and do well enough in protection. The Bulls did almost whatever they wanted on the defensive line to get to Ryan Nassib and that was without doing much in the way of blitzing. This has been a problem all season and it just seems like the only way the line can get better is with the appropriate amount of reps it seems like. It may seem a bit too simple but the only other explanation will be that the line just isn’t that good. If you’re willing to give up on the line already then that’s one thing but we’re only five weeks into the season. It has to get better right? Right?
On the more positive end of things the offense was effective running the ball. The Orange was not able to cash in on the ground despite its success but no rushing touchdowns does not a good day depend on. Delone Carter ran for 105 yards on 26 carries and Antwon Bailey added another 81 yards on nine carries. Not only did the run game give Syracuse almost 200 yards on the ground total but when the offense was sputtering, the run game became vital. If the run game isn’t working and the defense had to continue to work on short fields, South Florida would’ve scored. No defense can stop an offense from getting into the end zone that often if it always has to defend a short field. The offense wasn’t great Saturday. But it was good enough while the defense shone through.
So Syracuse is 4-1. If the Orange go 3-4 for the rest of the year, it’s going to a bowl game. Take that a step further. Next week Syracuse plays Pittsburgh at home and the Panthers will be without defensive end Greg Romeus with a novice QB under center in Tino Sunseri. If the Orange can beat South Florida in Tampa after going 0-5, why can’t it be Pittsburgh? Just how far can this Syracuse team go?
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Written by Lutfi Sariahmed
Prince-Tyson Gulley for the win