The sample size is small, only 14 games to be exact. But Saturday’s loss to Wake Forest was the worst one that Syracuse has sustained in the Dino Babers era.
Context is important for this exercise. The Orange was on the verge of a bowl game and the Demon Deacons were the most winnable game on the schedule. Five wins might even get Syracuse in. Some people might think a 54-0 loss to Clemson would take the cake, or even a 30-23 loss to Middle Tennessee State. But the Clemson loss was expected and the Middle Tennessee State game was too early in the season to know how good this team actually was. Also, Syracuse had a chance to win at the end of the game.
Syracuse had a 17 point lead with 16 seconds left in the first half, and that’s when the wheels fell off. The Orange somehow let the Demon Deacons march down the field and kick a field goal before the half. That can’t happen. SU got an improbable 38 point outburst from a backup quarterback who threw for almost 300 yards in the first half. That was not going to keep up for a full four quarters. Syracuse’s defense has played good enough this season to win games when the offense scores 38 points. The second half produced just three points. That’s occasionally great, not consistently good.
The cherry on top of it all? Babers has never lost a game going into a fourth quarter with a lead. He was 37-0 coming into this game.
I’m not pinning this loss on Dino by any stretch. But his name is the one we use to define this era. Were there some questionable coaching moves? Sure. Why was Rex Culpepper subbed in on fourth down to take arguably the biggest snap of the game? Why did the running game shut down despite uncharacteristic success? Why is a second string quarterback throwing the ball 60 times?
This is the first time all season long the Orange has lost by double digits. You may have thought SU was doomed from the start once you saw Eric Dungey planted on the bench for this one, and that’s a perfectly fair assessment. Dungey’s been great throughout his career and particularly this season. Zack Mahoney has a 1-7 record as a starter with his only win coming against Boston College on a game-winning field goal against a bad Eagles team.
The blown lead may have completely changed the tide of this season. Now the Orange has its backs up against the wall for the remainder of the season, and we’ll see what this team is really made of.