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Is Syracuse Getting Lucky?

Let’s preface this by saying that it’s no coincidence the Orange are 4-0. The passing game is much improved and the defense for the most part has been rock solid. SU wholeheartedly deserves its ranking in the Coaches Poll.

With that in mind, Syracuse was very fortunate to escape its last two contests victorious. Both Purdue and Virginia played the Orange down to the final snap, and both of those teams made significant mistakes with the game hanging in the balance.

Let’s start with the Boilermakers. Purdue jumped on top with less than a minute to go, killing any sense of hope for many SU fans. But from then onward, the Boilermakers had the discipline of a kindergartener who had recess taken away. Not one, but two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties immediately after the score had Purdue kicking off from its own 10 (!!) yard line. Syracuse wound up starting its possession from midfield. But it didn’t stop there. Two penalties on two straight third downs (both of which were 3rd and 10) gave the Orange 25 free yards. From there, Garrett Shrader found Oronde Gadsden II for the winner. Surely the Boilermakers got their act together then, right? Wrong. Two MORE unsportsmanlike conduct penalties led to SU kicking the ball off from Purdue’s 35. That as good as sealed the Boilermakers’ fate. Yes, Syracuse did a lot well in this game, particularly defensively for the first 3 and a half quarters. But it without question benefitted from Purdue’s lack of discipline late.

As for Friday’s contest with UVA, Cavalier mistakes throughout the contest paved the Orange’s path to victory. Virginia missed field goals on consecutive possessions in the first quarter, which allowed SU to build a 16-0 lead heading into the locker room. It was then all ‘Hoos for the first 25 minutes of the second half. A 20-3 run gave UVA its first (and eventually only) lead of the contest at 20-19. On the ensuing drive, Shrader was sacked on third and 7. Surely Syracuse was forced to punt, right? Nope. A face mask penalty not only wiped the sack off the board, but it also gave the Orange 15 free yards. Andre Szmyt eventually kicked a go-ahead field goal, and after the Virginia offense sputtered, that was all she wrote. If Hunter Stewart, the defender who came up with the sack, had simply kept his hands off of Shrader’s face mask, SU probably does not emerge victorious.

So has Syracuse been getting lucky? Yes. But here’s the thing. SU has capitalized on its opponent’s mistakes, something we didn’t see a lot of last year after the Liberty game. Also, even the best teams in sports benefit from luck with regularity. Ask the Patriots how they feel about Pete Carroll choosing to pass it on the goal line. Do you see the big picture? Yes, luck has sprung aplenty for the Orange, but they are still a very good football team.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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