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Fizz 5: The Five Biggest Reasons Syracuse’s Season Collapsed into Darkness

Last week, amidst amidst the daily news of the Bernie Fine scandal we held off on Fizz 5. Allow us to quickly tell you what went wrong in the Cincinnati game: everything. The Orange just flat out sucked. Good catching up.

Saturday’s contest against Pitt was at least respectable, but key mistakes by Ryan Nassib late salted away SU’s unlikely shot at a bowl as the other pieces the Orange needed (of course) fell into place. At one point this team was 5-2. We will now pause as you mercilessly bang your head against a wall. It finished 5-7 and bowl-less. What went wrong? Your Fizz 5 Season Recap:

  • Ryan Nassib never developed

We’ve all heard that quarterbacks get too much credit in a win and too much blame in a loss, but undoubtedly this season’s s*** list starts with Nassib. After a tremendous Pinstripe Bowl, a great spring and a solid start to the season, Nassib regressed back to what he was most of last year. He has less pocket presence than Dan Orlovsky. If the first read isn’t there, Nassib completely freaks out. His feet are happier than a 13-year-old girl who just touched Justin Bieber.

To be fair, Nassib went through stretches where he was productive this season. Over the first half of the year he was fairly accurate, efficient and didn’t turn over the ball. Once he faced the teeth of the Big East season, the story changed. He threw an INT in 4 of the 7 conference games, and had two or more picks in three of those contests. Was his offensive line poor? Absolutely. Did his receivers drop an insane amount of balls? Yes. But Nassib isn’t any better today than he was last year and that’s a problem. And the best part? He’s got one more year. Get ready SU fans.

  • Chandler Jones gets hurt

When a team’s best player misses time, that’s not good. When a team’s leader gets hurt, that’s even worse. When the guy that makes his entire unit go gets banged up, that’s really bad. All 3 happened when Chan went down, and his injury derailed the season. Syracuse seemingly went weeks without sniffing the opposing backfield. Mikhail Marinovich did nothing all year thanks in large part to the absence of Chan. That meant more attention on him. The trickle down effect, plus the primary impact of Jones’s absence, was too much for a young, inexperienced defense to overcome.

  • Prince-Tyson Gulley gets hurt

Early in the season Gulley appeared to be the best runner SU had. Antwon Bailey is a very good all-around back, but Gulley is faster, stronger and ran harder than Bailey (not to be confused with trying harder. You cannot question the A-Train’s motor). When PTG went down, SU had no #2 back. Jerome Smith was ineffective, although he eventually recovered and put together a nice 2nd half of the season. Because of Smith’s initial inability to pick up first downs on short yardage situations, SU burned the red-shirt of Adonis Ameen-Moore. A whopping 12 carries later, the prized freshman was out for the year. Not the Dougie’s best idea. Gulley could’ve also made an impact in the punt return game which was notoriously awful this season. If any good came out of this, it’s that Smith got carries and figured it out. He should be a solid backup to Gulley next season along with Ameen-Moore.

  • Marcus Sales is arrested

SU’s best offensive weapon got suspended before the season even started. Sales, coming off his extraordinary Pinstripe Bowl, had a phenomenal spring and had seemed to turn the page from his “not found on the depth chart” past. Then he was arrested for riding dirty with his brother. The charges were eventually dismissed midseason, but until the SU Judicial Board reviews his case, his football career is on hold.

Sales is everything the Orange lacked. A viable deep threat with sure hands would’ve given Nassib the go-to guy he severely needed on the outside. He also would’ve stretched the field so Sir Dinks-a-Lot could dink and dunk away underneath. Sales should be back next year pending the Judicial Board’s review, but his absence is perhaps the most underrated part of a frustrating season.

  • Phillip Thomas gets suspended

This was the nail in the coffin. Thomas was the best Orange defensive player all year in the absence of Jones. Despite missing the last 2 games, Thomas still had 10 more tackles than anyone else (82) and tripled the next highest interception total on the team. Despite Thomas’ “WHAT IS HE DOING?!” plays (personal fouls, intercepting a pass and randomly spinning with no one in sight, etc), he covered so many other mistakes. His positives far outweighed the occasional negatives. He was an impact player on team with too few of them.

This season was a failure. There’s no way around it. Does that mean Marrone should be fired? Hell to the no. Should he be on the hot seat? Nope. He has to be held responsible for the season, but the simple fact is he needs more talent, and it’s going to take time to build a program with good players. Unfortunately, good recruits don’t want to go to a losing program and SU will have to fight that perception for another year. But to put it in perspective, we all define this year as a disaster and step back – yet Marrone’s 5 wins were still more than Groobers ever had. Expectations have risen for the better under The Dougie.

If Marrone cannot push this team past the 5-7 win plateau SU may want to start looking for a new coach. But for now try and remember it’s a process and a potentially lucrative Signing Day is only 59 days away. Of course, this team was 5-2. So if you want to bang your head against a wall a few more times, we won’t judge. We’re sure Marrone is probably doing the same.

Posted: Craig Hoffman

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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