Saturday September, 4th, 2010.
Make a mental note, jot it down somewhere that will last forever, or go find a newspaper and clip out the sports page; Orange fans are going to want to remember this date.
An era has officially ended—an era in which reasonable fans had to admit that their Syracuse Orange could face an inferior opponent like the Akron Zips and, potentially, lose.
The Orange went on the road and manhandled the Zips Saturday, proving that the program has taken another step forward under the guidance of second-year coach, Doug Marrone.
That’s not to say that Syracuse’s fifth Big East title is imminent (though after this weekend of Big East carnage, who knows?); in all likelihood, they’re not quite there yet.
However, the Orange are no longer a team that is likely to be pushed around, even once they get into the grit of the Big East schedule. If you took one thing away from Saturday’s game, that should be it.
But what else? Of course, observers learned a lot more about the 2010 edition of Syracuse Orange football on Saturday than just realizing that the team looked significantly better than at any other time in recent memory.
Here is other information to take away from the annihilation of Akron:
Ryan Nassib Looked Good
I can’t stress enough that it was Akron they played on Saturday and the Orange offense will be tested a lot more seriously in future weeks.
Even so, it’s hard not to get excited about Ryan Nassib’s performance.
The redshirt sophomore completed 17 of his 27 pass attempts, for 229 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. He also displayed some quickness—rushing for 58 yards, including one 45-yarder.
He looked a little shaky at times, forcing a couple passes into tight spots, but he was generally pretty accurate and displayed some beautiful touch on the deep ball.
With Nassib under center full-time this season, Syracuse could have a better long-range attack than they’ve had in years.
Van Chew: Legit Deep Threat?
Speaking of the long-range attack, having a quarterback who can throw a bomb is one half of the equation. You also have to have a receiver who can stretch the field.
If Saturday is any indication, the Orange might have just the guy in Van Chew.
What we know for sure is that he has the speed to burn opposing secondaries and he also has terrific hands, which he showed with some terrific, highlight-reel quality catches Saturday.
On the day he reeled in three passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.
Now the question is, can he do the same thing against better defenses?
Special Teams Needs Work
Mike Holmes’ punt returning on Saturday was nothing short of nightmarish.
He was repeatedly diving and chasing down punts he should have just let drop, and earned himself at least one stern talking to from special teams coach, Bob Casullo.
The Orange also missed out on two extra-point attempts on a bad snap and a bad kick.
On the flip-side though, they did block a field goal, enabling Mike Holmes to make amends for his punt returning by returning the rejected kick 57 yards for a touchdown.
The Defense Was Dominant
Nobody should have been surprised to see that the front seven had their way Saturday, considering they returned every starter but Art Jones from a defense that led the Big East in rushing defense last year.
The pressure they put on the Akron offensive line made its running game look comical, giving up only 55 yards on 24 rushing attempts.
The big question for the defense this season is whether it can stop the pass—something it struggled mightily with last season.
While, of course, it was only Akron, Saturday was encouraging.
Zips quarterback Patrick Nicely completed only 12 of his 35 pass attempts for 111 yards and no scores. The coverage was generally excellent and Nicely was forced to roll out and throw the ball away on a number of plays because none of his receivers were able to escape their defenders.
The secondary, along with the rest of the team, will receive a much better test next weekend in Washington when they face Heisman candidate, Jake Locker, and the Washington Huskies.