As any self-respecting Orange fan with a sense of his team’s history will tell you, Rutgers is not Syracuse’s rival. Regardless of what a small handful of media members or Rutgers fans say, the Scarlet Knights are still considered to be beneath Syracuse by most Orange fans.
Call it arrogance, delusion, or a failure to accept present circumstance, but regardless of the past few years, it’s hard to think of anyone as a rival when you’ve beaten them 28 times in 39 meetings.
That’s not to say that seeing the Orange administer a 31-13 beating to the Scarlet Knights in the 40th game between the two programs wasn’t an immensely satisfying experience though. After an unacceptable four-game losing streak to their historic doormat, the dominating victory on Saturday felt like a nostalgic return to good ol' days.
Despite an absurd amount of injuries and defections, the Orange came out fired up, and turned in a performance reminiscent of those beatings they used to hand the Knights with regularity up until the last half decade or so.
Even without all-Big East caliber players Mike Williams, Arthur Jones and Derrell Smith, Syracuse managed to top Rutgers in nearly every major statistical category.
Doug Marrone’s team was able to win the day thanks to a pressure defense that held the Knights to only 130 total yards, sacked quarterback Tom Savage nine times and generally terrorized Rutgers with no quarter asked, and none given.
The game plan followed the old school philosophy of winning by running the ball and playing great defense. The defense held up their end of the bargain admirably and, not to be outdone, the running backs ran wild.
The triumvirate of Orange backs Delone Carter, Antwon Bailey, and Averin Collier combined for 210 rushing yards and one touchdown each, including a 60-yard score by Collier late that secured the victory.
The three-headed rushing attack, as well as Greg Paulus’s 142 passing yards, helped the Orange run up more than three times as many total yards as the Knights; totaling 424 yards to Rutgers’ 130.
As enjoyable as it was to see the natural order of this series restored, the impact of this win could be much greater than just a momentary feeling of nostalgia for Orange fans.
This game was huge for Syracuse from a recruiting standpoint. Doug Marrone made it clear from the moment he was hired, that he intends to invade Rutgers’ backyard and recruit New Jersey heavily. The two schools are going to compete for recruits every year, and as the old saying says, “To the victors go the spoils.”
Nothing will help Syracuse pull in the top prospects in the Northeast better than beating the other schools that make that region their primary recruiting territory.
The game might also be a sign of the traditional Eastern football giant reawakening from its slumber.
It was Syracuse’s fourth win of the 2009 season, and while that total is unimpressive, it does represent progress from the three win season the Orange endured last year. Rutgers also became the third opponent along with Northwestern and Akron, that Syracuse lost to last season, but defeated this year under Doug Marrone.
The future once again looks bright in Syracuse. We’ve had more than our fair share of struggles this year, but with the 2009 season nearing an end, there is plenty to look forward to in 2010.
With plenty of talented underclassmen, few players leaving due to graduation, and an influx of new freshman entering the mix, it’s not unreasonable to think that there could be a bowl game in Syracuse’s near future.