In a matter of minutes, Doug Marrone went from signs of a panic attack to a jubilant head coach congratulating his players. The Dougie could finally breathe once Ryan Nassib kneeled to run out the clock. The Orange held off Pittsburgh in its Big East opener 14-13, leaving fans with a burst of much needed optimism. Syracuse takes a huge step forward, snapping a seven-game losing skid against the Panthers and getting that oh-so crucial first win in conference play. Here’s our weekly Fizz Five, the five most important story lines of the win against the Panthers.
1) The SU offense took the initiative and scored early.
It looked as if the Syracuse offensive attack was in for a breakout performance after converting on its first drive to put the Orange up 7-0. Jerome Smith got the bulk of the carries on the opening drive, but it was Adonis Ameen-Moore capping it with a goal-line score. Ameen-Moore had just 12 career carries entering the game, and fans have been curious as to why he’s been MIA. But the offense went stagnant after the first quarter and didn’t score another point. Nassib put together a decent game, spreading the ball out to a variety of players. Syracuse’s top three receivers, Marcus Sales (63 yards), Alec Lemon (42), and Jarrod West (50), all found a rhythm collectively in spurts, but not enough to finish off drives. Hats off to the trio of RBs to seal the deal and run out the clock as well. SU was fortunate to have its defense play lights out, but last night showed the offense is capable of jumping out in front.
2) The defense turned in a season-saving effort.
Bravo to this ballsy performance by the Syracuse D. It became very obvious the unit was getting tired, having been on the field for a majority of the game. Dyshawn Davis’ fumble recovery TD sparked SU to a 14-0 lead. The pair of Brandon’s, Brandon Sharpe and Brandon Reddish, had big games. Sharpe pounced for four sacks on the night, and the Loudhouse was at its craziest when Reddish came out with a huge sack late in the 4th quarter. It was a huge moment for Reddish making an immediate impact after returning from injury. When your offense goes 5-14 on 3rd down, an inspiring effort by the defense is needed. The D gets the game ball for to almost singlehandedly pull out the victory.
3) Ray Graham played more like Moonlight Graham, disappearing all night.
Graham did get on the board for Pitt’s only TD, but was held to a meager 57 yards on the ground. Big ups to the SU defense forcing Graham to move to outside and try to gain yardage that way. Graham was going laterally all night, rather than between the tackles to grind out 1st downs. The Orange defensive line gets the nod for this one. Jay Bromley and the Brandons managed to hold Pitt to a limited running attack. Focusing on the run defense was one of Marrone’s priorities, and the effort certainly showed.
4) Ashton Broyld was a mystery once again.
The fact Ashton wasn’t on the field for a single snap is mind-boggling. Yes, the team got the W against a very important opponent, but Broyld is just too talented to be on the bench, especially in red-zone situations or short 3rd down plays. Is Marrone lacking confidence in his versatile, freshman weapon? On a night where the offense couldn’t create big plays, you have to figure out a way to get him the ball. The Orange can’t expect its defense to repeat that performance each week. SU will need a big game from its offense, and Broyld is the perfect weapon. If he’s underutilized, what type of message does that send big impact recruits?
5) Scary moment for Shamarko Thomas, inspires the win.
Shamarko got slammed in the 4th quarter trying to make a tackle, and his helmet quickly flew off. It put SU and Pitt players on one knee in respect. Thomas lead all Orange players with nine tackles, and being a fan favorite, his injury left the Dome silent. However, the Orange used Thomas’ injury to finish out the game with inspiration. The team played like it didn’t want to let Shamarko down. The offense sealed the deal at the end for the win.
Finally, the eight-gaming FBS losing streak comes to a halt, and the Orange proves once again its love for Friday night magic. Last year’s win over West Virginia was a similar cause, and last night showed SU played with a clean-slate mindset. So let the talk begin: The Orange is undefeated in the Big East. An encouraging win absolutely, but let’s see if Marrone and company show some consistency next week at Rutgers.
Posted: Brendan Glasheen