Fighting the good fight won’t bail Scott Shafer out now.
This time it’s for real, as he and Syracuse have their backs up against the wall. A loss this Saturday against #21 Duke eliminates the Orange from bowl eligibility. Coaches and players may be dispersing to their families for the holidays instead of participating in postseason play.
The 8-win label Shafer slapped on his team at the start of the season appears to be laughable at this point. Vegas had Syracuse at over/under 5.5 wins entering the year. That’s looking awfully generous at this point.
Considering almost nothing has gone right for football, the Orange faithful was astatic SU basketball tipped its exhibition slate away yesterday in the Carrier Dome.
At halftime of the hoops game, SU Athletic Director Darryl Gross joined Time Warner Cable to discuss both squads. He concluded his interview discussing football. Gross, first off, backed Shafer by saying he’s never seen it this bad in terms of injuries. Then, he transitioned by telling a story to illustrate how hard the players are working.
“One of our linebackers (couldn’t remember who) was watching game film of the Clemson game on the plane back home with his playbook out. Pretty soon there were nine guys crowded around him figuring out their mistakes and what to do to fix them. That shows buying in.”
Granted, Gross is going on air to positively represent every team part of the SU program. But you can’t make stories like that up. The defense has done its part all year. Clearly if Gross remembered that moment, aside from stumbling upon what player it was, it was that encouraging and moving for him to witness. Gross understands the players love Shafer. They don’t just love him, but they believe his outlook and vision can work.
Watching game tape just a few hours after you’ve lost a tough, gritty football game to a really solid ACC team has to be extremely frustrating. Remember, too, it was also 2 a.m. on the plane, according to Gross, since it was a 7 p.m. kickoff.
Shafer will not accomplish his 8-win feat; we know that. But you can just see it in his eyes at postgame pressers. He looked exhausted, but motivated more than ever to turn this thing around.
“We’ve got to win out and pull off a miracle, but let’s do it,” Shafer said. “It’ll be a very difficult challenge that will be fun to try and prepare for and do. It’s the great thing about sports. You have yourself in this position where everything is doom and gloom but you’ve got an opportunity to prove a lot of people wrong and prove to your kids that anything is possible.”
Well, his kids are ready for him all the time. All the chatter of Shafer getting canned if SU drops the rest of its games to finish 3- 9 is getting carried away. Gross is on the same page with him and wants him On the Hill. And based on the AD’s words, call this more of a lost season as opposed to a failure.
Posted: Brendan Glasheen