Let’s make no mistake, even though this game was fugly, Doug Marrone has surpassed our expectations. When the replacement for Groobers took over, the hope (the prayer) was the Orange would be bowl competitive in Year Two. But we could’ve never expected 7-3, a spotless 4-0 record on the road of the Big East and talk of a BCS game in mid-November.
The ‘Cuse won a gross game Saturday, but then again, it has won ugly on the road all season. Game plans from the Akron, USF and West Virginia victories have not been FedEx’d to the Hall of Fame.
Saturday’s game felt a lot like the Slop Bowl, two mediocre teams in a mediocre conference playing mediocre football. But the Orange is headed to its first postseason since ’04 because it continues to take advantage of opponents’ mistakes in a mistake-laden league.
It was fitting, Rutgers pathetically porous offensive line and unaware quarterbacking by Tom Savage allowed a sack on 3rd down in FG range with the score 10-10 and another on 3rd down on the game’s final drive.
Hopefully, you listened to Matt Park on the radio network or WAER’s broadcast. Because if you subjected yourself to the ESPNU production, your ears are likely bleeding today as well. The broadcast tandem of Pam Ward and Danny Kanell was beyond brutal. It was clear neither had watched a single play from either team before Saturday’s kick and the chemistry between the two sounded like a cable access cooking show.
Maybe that’s fitting, considering Rutgers attack looks as atrocious as any of the miserable 1980s or 90s versions. Yet, the theme the entire season is Syracuse’s opponents find it tough to move the football and score points.
What’s most amazing is the difference between Doug Marrone’s defense and Groobers’ brand. Wasn’t the silver-haired dolt a great defensive mind? Coordinator jobs with both the Broncos, Chiefs and now Wolverines (not for long)? And Marrone was the offensive guy, right? Yet, here’s the SU defense immediately transitioning into the team’s strength and ranking with some of the best in the country.
Seventh heaven feels pretty sweet. The Orange clinches a bowl berth. Marrone continues his unblemished record against Schiano intact. The recruiting pendulum swings towards SU just a tad more.
It may not have been pretty, but it’s all good.