Tonight marks the much-anticipated Big East conference opener for Syracuse. The Orange returns to the Carrier Dome after the bye week for Pitt, trying to turn around an ugly start to the season. Now is the time for SU to make its move.
- Follow @orangefizz on Twitter for in-game updates from the Dome & DA’s Knee Jerk Reaction column right after the game
How realistic is an Orange U-turn? SU would have to win five of its next eight games to claim bowl eligibility. There is a clear sense of urgency not just with the players, but with the coaching staff. The Fizz welcomed an all-star crew on Fizz Radio to break down Doug Marrone’s future. He knows every move will be examined with great detail.
”My philosophy has been when you’re struggling, the player, in my opinion, is looking for answers. He wants to know, ‘Why are we 1-3?’ You have to identify those situations, which the bye week gives you the ability to do.”
From an individual player standpoint, Marrone can only pinpoint errors to an extent. But from a team perspective, he needs to stress overall accountability. The Orange has shot itself with turnovers and silly penalties. Particular players, such as Ashton Broyld, haven’t been utilized enough for some. The message through the first four games has been “If we fix this, we can win.” It’s time for the fixing to start.
With only limited good, some bad, and a lot of ugly, there’s still hope for Syracuse to weather this storm. Here are the top four reasons the Orange could wow us in the final eight games:
- Beginning Big East play means a clean slate
There’s no way around the disappointing 1-3 start, but now the Orange gets familiar foes and rivalry games. Coming back from a bye week, SU has had time to identify its key mistakes. It’s only the first third of the schedule, you could think of it as two separate seasons for the Orange. The mindset can be we’re 0-0 right now and the season starts tonight.
- Justin Pugh returns from injury
Thank goodness. The All-Big East offensive tackle comes back to the starting lineup after rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery. Pugh was very positive at BE Media Day, believing the other guys could fill in. No disrespect to Sean Hickey, but Pugh will be welcomed back with big, open arms. Not just from a talent standpoint, but his leadership along the line of scrimmage and in the locker room has been been missing for Syracuse. Look for Justin to make an immediate impact tonight.
- Improvement in the red-zone woes means an even better offense
Marrone really stressed this during the bye week. The staff wants touchdowns early in the game to jump out with some momentum rather than playing catch-up. The added focus also underlines the urgency Marrone has:
“The tighter you get in the red zone, the closer you get to the goal line, all of the things that you may not be doing well in the field become magnified. When you get down there in that short area, where you do have to win – you have to win one-on-one battles – the field is much shorter.”
This is a great example of Marrone getting to the point and avoiding criticism. He knows the offense is very talented, but execution remains the missing ingredient. Let’s look for that improvement tonight and going forward.
- Syracuse has been in every game so far
SU lost its opener by a point to Northwestern (42-41) and stayed within 5 points of USC into the 4th quarter. The Minnesota loss was dreadful, but it was never a blowout. The margin of defeats in the three games: 1 + 13 + 7 = 21 points / 3 games = 7 point margin of deficit. When all said and done, a win a win and a loss is a loss, but losing on average by a touchdown means the breaks can go your way.
Our most recent BE power rankings have SU slated at 7th. Although the team and the fans don’t love the positioning, here’s the chance to make a statement. Conference play finally begins and the Orange has a fresh start. There’s still hope SU fans. This is the opponent that ended Syracuse’s ’11 season. Maybe its the one that begins the ’12 campaign.
Posted: Brendan Glasheen