Bottom line: This game exceeded expectations. Fans expectations, media expectations, and my expectations. This was a fantastic game played by the Syracuse Orange and a game that could catapult the Orange ahead the rest of the season.
Yes, Zack Mahoney struggled, and I continue to wonder why the Orange didn’t make a change at some point over the course of the game- after the game, Shafer said there were discussions, but the coaching staff was never really close to pulling the trigger. But Mahoney played well enough to turn a few heads, and make more than a few media members in the press box wonder if Syracuse would have won had Eric Dungey played for the Orange.
The defense was terrific for much of the game. They let Leonard Fournette get his, which today was 244 yards and 2 touchdowns. Brandon Harris made some big passes, but only completed half of his passes and threw for fewer than 160 yards. Coach Shafer and coach Bullough devised a game plan and basically said, lets make Brandon Harris beat us, and the LSU QB made plays when he had to. Keep in mind, the 157 yards he threw for today more than double his yardage total for the season.
Before the season, only one of us at the Fizz thought the Orange would reach bowl eligibility, but after winning weeks 1-3 and showing what they did today, that fortune might be changing.
Think about this, next week is the bye, when the Orange can get healthy. Coach Shafer said after the game that it is possible both Erv Phillips and Eric Dungey are ready for the USF game. South Florida is having troubles of their own, losing to Maryland in disappointing fashion, and head coach Willie Taggart is on the hot seat. The next week, you go to UVA, who just got slapped around by Boise State last night, and looked pretty bad in the loss.
It isn’t out of the question for the Orange to come back home 5-1 to face Pitt in the Dome. It may have seemed unreasonable at the start of the year, but now it seems like a real possibility, especially if Eric Dungey comes back and can play starting in two weeks against USF.
That is what today’s game gave us. Coach Shafer didn’t want to hear about moral victories. Even when it was framed that Syracuse fans are likely happy about what happened today in the Dome. Shafer would have none of it, instead turning the focus to how few plays it would have taken for the Orange to win.
Today’s game brought about as much optimism as a loss possibly could bring. That partnered with a 3-1 start, could lead to a fun rest of the season.