Well, that’s not Doug Marrone drew it up. Struggling into the fourth quarter at home to dispatch an FCS team, just two years removed from going winless in its own CAA conference? Yikes.
Was it a trap game for the Orange? That’s the popular refrain and in many ways it holds true. There’s just no way Syracuse could properly be motivated to dispatch a Rhode Island squad just a week before a trip to USC. But BCS teams having trouble with lesser schools (Louisville vs. FIU, Ohio State vs. Toledo) is now a normal part of the college football landscape. Is it really a trap when scholarship reductions and widespread television exposure to non-BCS conferences have closed the gap between all schools?
There’s far more parity today in college football than ever before. Smaller schools are nabbing talent, paying coaches and fortifying their facilities. But that’s the macrocosm of yesterday at the Dome. The microcosm is that Rhode Island is better than we gave it credit for and Syracuse still has plenty of work to do. The Orange had opportunities to turn that game into a rout and couldn’t execute. At the very least, The Dougie will have his player’s attention heading into Los Angeles. There should be no egos after slipping past the Rams.
URI proved to be a formidable foe, and The Fizz actually saw this coming. Here was DVM’s insightful post from Saturday morning which described aptly why SU couldn’t take this lightly.
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Syracuse’s matchup with Rhode Island today looks like the softy in schedule. The Rams were just 5-6 last year, and an embarrassing 1-10 in ’09. But no one on the SU sideline is taking the Rams lightly. This has all the ingredients of a classic trap game, where David slays Goliath and leaves everyone stunned. The Big East should beware after Louisville fell short against FIU last night, although URI is only an FCS program. Who should the Orange watch out for to prevent this from happening? The Fizz breaks down the top threats of URI and what the ‘Cuse must do to shut them down.
- Steve Probst (QB)
If Rhody is going to make any noise, it’s going to be with Probst. He is a dual threat quarterback that is built like a tank, 6’ 4” 240lbs, and has the ability to take over a game. He lead URI is both passing and rushing last year and was the only QB in the Colonial Athletic Association to pass for over 1,800 yards and rush for 600 yards. Steve is on the CAA pre-season All-League Team and is expected to build off a strong season in which he totaled 16 touchdowns.
Syracuse must get into SP’s face quickly and not lose contain if he decides to scramble. He is not a prototypical runner, but does take advantage if the opportunity presents itself. Probst is a gunslinger and the play of the front 7 will be crucial in containing him. SU needs to put pressure on the QB, and it all starts with the defensive line getting a good push. Get into the pocket early and often – sounds like a Scott Shafer Special.
- Brandon Johnson Ferrell, Anthony Baskerville (WR)
URI has speedy receivers on the outside that can make big plays. Ferrell is explosive and can provide fireworks on the field. He is dynamic in the return game and hauled in 39 passes for 400 yards last season. BJF is a playmaker – the key is limiting his touches. Baskerville led the Rams in both receptions (48) and yards (500) last season. Anthony is one of the best athletes on the field. Not only is he the best receiver on the team, AB has an inner Ronald Curry and plays on the Rams’ basketball team as well. He finds space in the middle of the field and is a true possession receiver.
The Orange secondary was awful for the majority of the game against Wake, but did pick it up late. Hopefully the rust is worn off, since injuries plagued SU at defensive back during the summer. SU should look to play physical with the smaller Ram receivers and bump them off their routes.
- Willie McGinnis, Matt Rae (DL)
The Rams return three starters from last year’s defensive line. McGinnis and Rae are anchors in the middle and are a load to block. Both are mammoth in size, 300 lbs. each, and create havoc in the backfield with a combined 18 tackles for losses last season.
The offensive line is Marrone’s baby, but the size in the middle for URI is concerning. The only SU starter that has a size advantage against Rae and McGinnis is Andrew Tiller. Macky MacPherson struggled at times against Wake and has a tough task in front of him today. Look for Syracuse to give some help to Macky with either double teams or chip blocks. Blocking McGinnis and Rae is a top priority today.
Where the Orange must take advantage of in this game is the Rams’ inexperience on the defense. Just like SU, Rhody lost a lot of talent on defense especially at linebacker. URI has to replace its top three tacklers from a year ago and the ‘Cuse should easily hold the upper hand when they are on offense. Expect a heavy dose of Antwon Bailey and Prince Tyson-Gully not just in the run game, but in the passing game too. Marrone’s squad needs to sidestep the trap set at the Dome this afternoon.
Posted: Dave Van Moffaert