Syracuse put a final stamp on its schedule with a 38-20 win in Philadelphia over Temple. Job well done by the Orange, finishing the regular season strong with seven wins. Here’s my instant reaction:
- Take a bow Doug Marrone. There were many critics throughout the season’s lowest moments including myself, wondering how a coach that preached discipline could have a team that continually made dumb mistakes and beat itself. But the conviction and strong will of Marrone drove this team to reach its potential in the second half of the season.
- What a brilliant stretch run by SU. After a frustrating and dispiriting first six games, including a lethargic win over Stony Brook at home and the low point of the season – the loss in Minnesota – the Orange caught fire. Syracuse won five of its final six games, including blow out victories over UConn, Louisville and Temple. The comeback in Tampa was a sterling moment of resiliency for Marrone’s team. And close road losses against two of the best teams in the league (Cincinnati and Rutgers) were the only defeats in conference.
- The offense was terrific, and hung another 30-spot on the board. Only three times in 12 games did SU fail to score 24 points, and they all came in back-to-back-to-back weeks (@MIN, v. PIT, @RU). Had the attack been even halfway decent on those weeks, Syracuse may have won all three. In the final game, Syracuse poured on the points after trailing early and seemed to be able to flip the switch against Temple.
- Great, hard running by PTG to put the game on ice. Prince-Tyson Gulley steamrolled the Owls defensive line from 3 yards out to make it 31-20, and proved he’s growing into the type of powerful back SU can build a ground game around next year. He finished with 83 yards, and averaged 6.4 per carry Friday.
- Good job by SU taking advantage of a lesser opponent on national television. The 11a kick the morning after Thanksgiving is an awkward time slot, but the ESPN2 audience on a holiday weekend is valuable. And the Orange didn’t get embarrassed, or even win an ugly game. Despite spotting Temple the first 10 points, the talent differential was obvious by the end of the game.
- And good night now, Big East. Syracuse finishes its final season as an original member of the conference it helped build at 5-2, only losing once in the final month and a half. Nice to put an exclamation point on the end of this era of SU football.
- Syracuse has built major momentum for its postseason bid. Undoubtedly, at seven wins the Orange will get a bowl berth. The extra month of practice can only help the program prepare for its first year in the ACC. Even if SU is heading back to the Pinstripe Bowl, there’s plenty to anticipate inside Yankee Stadium. A recognizable opponent like Texas or TCU¬†would be a tremendous opportunity for the program to make its mark nationally this season.