Syracuse Orange TMQB: Gut-Wrenching Rutgers Loss and Tulane Domination

Andrew PreglerContributor IIIOctober 5, 2011

Syracuse Orange TMQB: Gut-Wrenching Rutgers Loss and Tulane Domination

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    There is no other word to describe the Rutgers loss but pain.

    Thanks to SUAthletics.com, we all know Doug Marrone understands this perfectly.

    “I feel for the fans, I feel for the alumni, I feel for everyone to the point where you look in the mirror in the morning and you wake up and you have to realize you have to do a better job.”

    As much as you do not want to admit it, this week against Tulane, Syracuse may be able to get away with not doing such a great job.

    To say that Tulane is struggling would be like saying Ross Krautman’s extra point may have been outside the goalposts (sorry to beat a very dead and GOOD horse).

    There are definite areas of improvement for Syracuse to focus on this week, but take heart, folks, Syracuse is playing a team that has lost to Tulsa, Army, and Duke by a combined score of 124-36 (although according to Oliver Luck, Army is a quality program).

    As much as it pains me to relive the events that occurred on Oct. 1, here we go with one of the few bright spots of the day…

The Great: Defensive Stars Stepped Up

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    One of the biggest things that has been bothering me during this injury-plagued Syracuse football season is the loss of star-quality players stepping up and taking over in the absence of others.

    That changed on Saturday.

    Dyshawn Davis’ huge hit on Rutgers’ Jawan Jamison showed that the true freshman not only has tremendous upside, but that he can play and be an anchor on defense.

    Phillip Thomas, playing without his partner Safety Shamarko Thomas, had a tremendous game. He played aggressively and went after the ball, which resulted in an interception and several key tackles in the backfield.

    However, everyone including Thomas wishes he would have held on to a gift basket of an interception that would have resulted in a Syracuse score.

    “{Looking} back on it and I wish I would have taken advantage of the opportunity, though, so we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

    Even Mikhail Marinovich got in on the action, recording his first sack of the year, thanks in part to an aggressive scheme by the Syracuse defense.

    “Up front, we made our mission to really affect the quarterback and try and get in his face and make plays. I think we did a pretty good job on that.”

    If the defense is able to keep this aggressive nature and get healthy, there is no reason they cannot continue to improve and shut down opposing offenses. 

The Good: Secondary Shut Down Sanu

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    Most of the worry going into the game was centered on the incredible Mohamed Sanu.

    Syracuse’s secondary is not one of the best in the country and as a result, projections had Sanu blowing up against the Orange.

    The secondary rose to the challenge.

    Sanu was held to just 65 yards on 7 catches and one touchdown against the Orange and if you are looking for the secret, Thomas and the secondary are keeping mum.

    “We just played our part and tried to contain him and make sure he didn’t go all out.”

    Syracuse had a good mix of pass rushes and coverage schemes that effectively prevented Sanu from getting too deep. When Rutgers did go long, players such as Keon Lyn were able to keep the ball out of his hands.

    This helped keep the Orange in the game; something the defense has not really been able to do this season. 

The Bad: The Lack of Offensive Cohesiveness

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    The blame on the offense can be spread around to all parties involved.

    The running game was inconsistent and could not get much going on first downs while they seemed dominant in short yardage situations.

    The wide receivers were not doing enough to gain separation from a lackluster Rutgers secondary.

    Ryan Nassib’s game was not as sharp as we are used to seeing. The offensive line was hit or miss, opening holes or allowing free rushers to clock Nassib.

    The play calling was a lot like watching the Steelers play under Bruce Arians, where the strengths of the unit are often ignored and it seems as if the call was “over-thought.”

    It’s the obvious take away from the game: Syracuse’s offense cannot play like that day in and day out.  Hopefully it was not the sub-par opponents that made Ryan Nassib look like “an absolute magician.”

    And no worries, the offense knows they threw that game away.

    “You can’t expect to win the game when you have five turnovers and you leave all those points on the board. It’s unacceptable.”

    Yet another reason Ryan Nassib gets a pass for having a subpar game. 

The Ugly: Special Teams

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    The special teams unit is scaring all fans. First there was a missed extra point.

    Now there are blocked kicks. Things just keep getting worse for a unit that had a lot of questions coming into the season.

    Punting was just as bad, featuring a 25-yard kick and once again, I have yet to see a Syracuse punt return, because the downfield blocking on both punts and kickoffs is nonexistent.

    While this may seem harsh, after watching football enough, this game is just further proof that in tight games or games when neither team is playing well, special teams will decide the victor 95 percent of the time.

    Special teams may not always win games; they can lose games pretty quickly.

    Thankfully, woeful Tulane is waiting for Doug Marrone in his second home of New Orleans. Following these few simple steps should lead to a swift, dominating victory to help get Syracuse back on track.  

1st Down: Pass to Set Up the Run

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    Tulane is allowing an average of 217 yards passing per game this season, ripe for some dissecting by Ryan Nassib.

    Nassib was in the conversation for All-Big East honors at the end of the year and a great game against this struggling Green Wave team would help level out the stats.

    Van Chew has been non-existent the last few weeks and Nick Provo and Alec Lemon have carried the load in the receiving corps, something that needs to change this week.

    Dorian Graham is beginning to look like another solid receiving option, and all of this adds to a beautiful opportunity. If Nassib is able to spread out the ball and make the defense adjust, Syracuse should be able to run the ball effectively. 

    Tulane does have defensive play makers, but as long as Nassib and the receivers return to form, there should be no reason that the Orange offensive attack struggles for a second straight week

2nd Down: Bring the Pressure

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    Tulane does not have a whole lot going for them so far this season.

    One of the bright spots on the team has been quarterback Ryan Griffin. Tulane’s running game is not something to entirely worry about, given Syracuse’s success so far this season combined with the fact that Tulane’s leading rusher, Orleans Darkwa, has 299 yards, 138 of which came last week in the Green Wave’s loss to Army.

    Therefore, the logical strategy is to rush Griffin much like the Orange rushed Chas Dodd last week. If the defense is able to return a healthy secondary, there is no reason that Dyshawn Davis and Marquis Spuril cannot continue to be wrecking crews.

    The crazy thing is, according to defensive coordinator Scot Shafer, the true freshman Davis screwed up against the Scarlet Knights. “He’s got some things he needs to clean up, too. Two or three good things and one bad thing doesn’t work out. The math isn’t good enough. I thought he gave a good effort, though, so he just has to keep getting better.”

    The defense could use a statement win where they shut down an opponent in all facets of the game. Sorry, Tulane, you picked the wrong time to play Syracuse.

3rd Down: STAY HEALTHY

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    So for the first time all season, the Orange were not killed during their game.

    In fact, according to Coach Marrone, “We actually came out pretty good…Everyone to my knowledge should be fine unless something happens during the week.”

    It gets even better, fans.

    Strong Safeties Orlando Fisher and Shamarko Thomas both returned to practice this week and could be used in the game plan this week.

    Even better?

    Defensive End Chandler Jones, who has been out since week one with a “lower body injury” will be practicing and could suit up against West Virginia in the Dome in a few weeks.

    While the loss of Prince Tyson-Gulley hurts the running game, Syracuse has seemingly found their bruiser in Jerome Smith. Essentially, while there is a game this week and the Orange do have an extra week to prepare for the Mountaineers, staying healthy should be a priority.

    Coming out of this game intact as a team could mean two weeks of quality practices with the opening game roster for a HUGE game against West Virginia. 

4th Down: COX Network is Trying to Hide the Beating

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    Thank you, Sean Keeley for bringing attention to this matter when you did.

    Essentially, as of the beginning of the week, Cox Sports was refusing to give up the rights to this game; meaning SU students could not even watch the Orange play.

    After several horrible, insinuating and downright hilarious puns about Cox Sports, SNY will telecast the game for those in this part of the country.

    For once, ESPN3 does not have coverage of this game because as mentioned earlier, Cox is holding on to the rights of this game.

    The audio will be available nationally via the Tulane website featuring everyone’s favorite former Saints running back Deuce McAllister.

    I apologize ahead of time.