Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What Went Wrong Saturday???

Now that the shock and awe has worn off from this Saturday's absolute drubbing at the hands of the Pittsburgh Panthers, Syracuse players and fans all want to know what exactly went wrong out there? How did it come to this? A 45-14 loss at home on Homecoming Weekend (by the way, doesn't 'Orange Central' sound more like a location and less like a week long series of events?) after a program rejuvenating win in Tampa at the University of South Florida?

First thing that automatically comes to mind when you win a huge game and then drop a home game the next week is that it was an "emotional letdown." We all remember when Syracuse defeated then #19 Louisville in 2007 on the road. What did the Orangemen do the next week? They lost on the road at Miami of Ohio, a school that had a SIX game home losing streak. Syracuse's emotions were maybe a little TOO high. Expectations were obviously way too high. And Las Vegas' expert opinions were clearly off because Syracuse was actually favored to win this game! All it took was one play from scrimmage for the Panthers to know that we were in for a long afternoon.

Another reason for the lopsided loss, turnovers. Pittsburgh didn't commit any. Syracuse had 4 of them. Ryan Nassib had just two interceptions through 5 games this season coming in, and he was picked off twice in this contest. The first interception came late in the 1st half when Syracuse was in Pitt territory. Down 28-7 with 1:20 left in the half Nassib threw up a lame duck ball into the middle of the field, something we haven't seen all year from him, and it was easily picked off to end the Syracuse drive at the 43 yard line. If Syracuse could have protected the ball and managed to find the end zone, 28-14 half time deficit isn't completely insurmountable. However the half would end 28-7.

In second half action, after exchanging punts Syracuse again drove down to the Pittsburgh 31 yard line. Instead of putting up points, Ryan Nassib threw so far behind his intended receiver, another bad pass we haven't seen Nassib throw all season, the ball was intercepted and returned for 80 yards and a touchdown. 35-7 Pittsburgh. If Syracuse's two drives don't get stopped with a turnover and if they were able to put points up on the board on the two drives, we may have found ourselves down just 7 points instead of 28 points. Syracuse MUST protect the ball, especially against desperate Big East teams!

Other turnovers that were serious drive killers were Alec Lemon's fumble at the Pittsburgh 31 yard line with 6:06 left in the 3rd quarter and the fumble credited to Ryan Nassib when Pittsburgh was clearly offsides on the snap. Although it was not called, Pitt pushed the center off the ball at the Syracuse 38 yard line with 9:33 left to play in the game and recovered the ball for a Pittsburgh first down. One play later it was 45-14 Pittsburgh.

A third reason for such a lopsided loss to Pitt was the lack of running game from Syracuse. The Orangemen's two dynamic runners who have helped lead the charge down field all season for the cuse, Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey, combined for just 62 rushing yards. Nassib contributed 14 of his own to give Syracuse only 76 on the day. Carter ran for a measly 37 yards and Bailey did no better with only 25 yards on the ground. Not a recipe for success.

Lastly, Syracuse's secondary was absolutely lost on Saturday. Tino Sunseri finished the day 17 of 24 passing attempts for 280 yards, 4 touchdowns, zero interceptions. The four TD passes were to four different receivers, and each of Syracuse's corners were tortured. Help over the top was slow, tackling was non-existent, and even our speed players were a step slower than Pitt was on this day.

The good news is that Syracuse won't be playing Pittsburgh again this season. The bad news is that the Orangemen will be traveling to Morgantown to take on #20 West Virginia this weekend. It will not be getting any easier for the Cuse any time soon.

If Syracuse can protect the ball and play smarter on defense, than they can at least keep the game respectable, unlike the outcome on Saturday. At the end of the day, the Cuse is still 4-2 on the season and 3 wins away from qualifying for a bowl game. I think Syracuse fans everywhere would have signed up for 4-2 at the start of the season and I'm sure many fans expected us to be right here. So let's not get too down on the program after one bad loss. Just pick up the pieces and regroup for Saturday.

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