Thursday, November 11, 2010

Syracuse v. Rutgers: The Quest For Bowl Eligibility

Saturday the Syracuse Orangemen will travel to Piscataway, NJ to take on the Rutgers University Scarlet Knights. Rutgers, coming off a ten day lag between games, will try to prevent the Orangemen from going bowling on their home turf. Syracuse will be looking for a bounce back win after a very disappointing home loss to the Louisville Cardinals last Saturday in the Carrier Dome. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30PM.

The Scarlet Knights enter the game sporting a 4-4 overall record, with a 1-2 record in the Big East. They last played a Wednesday night game against South Florida, in which they blew a five point 4th quarter lead and fell to the Bulls 28-27 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Last year Syracuse and Rutgers met up in the Carrier Dome. Rutgers came in ranked 25th in the country, and left sporting a 31-14 whooping at the hands of the Syracuse Orangemen. On that day Syracuse wracked up 424 total yards against a defense that was ranked first in the Big East, and sacked Rutgers quarterback Tom Savage nine times. The Orangemen also controlled the clock, dominating the time of possession 40:01 to 19:59.

This year expect a much hungrier Rutgers team. Not wanting to get embarrassed at home like they were last year in Syracuse, the Scarlet Knights will rely on true freshman quarterback Chas Dodd, who hails from Lyman, South Carolina. Dodd took over the starting job in October and has completed 77 of 132 passing attempts for 956 yards and 5 touchdowns. Chas has also thrown 3 interceptions and been sacked 21 times. Additionally, Dodd hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since October 16th against Army.

The Scarlet Knights have three runners at their disposal in the backfield, which is rated 104th in the nation in total yards. Joe Martinek, who has 83 carries for 277 yards and 4 touchdowns. Martinek also has 6 catches for 39 yards, however he rushed only 9 times in the South Florida game last week or a total of -6 yards, though he did find the end zone once. The week before in Pittsburgh Martinek had 13 carries for 52 yards. If not for a 109 yard effort against Norfolk State to open the season, his numbers would be much lower.

Rutgers also enjoys deploying the wildcat formation, in which true freshman Jeremy Deering proved to be successful in the USF game last week. Deering rushed for 69 yards on 9 carries and also has 12 catches on the year for 249 yards and a touchdown. Jordan Thomas, who can play wide receiver and running back, played high school football with Syracuse's own Chandler Jones in Endicott, NY and has rushed 61 times for 213 yards this year along with 12 catches for 149 yards. Jones used to block for Jordan Thomas in high school, however this time Jones will look to block Thomas from getting past the line of scrimmage.

There's another cat Syracuse will have to watch out for and its Mohamed Sanu, who is a versatile football player. He has rushed 54 times this year for 285 yards and 4 touchdowns, and caught 40 passes for 389 yards and 2 scores. Last week against USF he grabbed 7 passes for 48 yards and threw for a touchdown in the loss to the Bulls. He has been fighting through an ankle/foot injury all season, although he has yet to miss a game.

At wide receiver outside of Sanu, Mark Harrison has caught 21 balls for 373 yards and 4 touchdowns. Additionally D.C. Jefferson has 10 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown, and a really cool name. Jefferson is a 6'6" 258 pound junior and lines up at tight end for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are averaging 21.9 points per game, which ranks 95th overall in the country.

The Scarlet Knights defense allows 20.1 points per game, which is 31st nationally. The defense also allows 321.8 yards per game, which ranks 26 in the country.

The Syracuse Orangemen enter the game 6-3 overall, 3-2 in Big East play and just 1 win away from securing their first bowl birth since the 2004 season. Many wished that elusive 7th win would come at home last Saturday against Louisville, although those dreams were crushed by the visiting Cardinals. Now the cuse gets a second chance to get back to the post season, and with a large contingent of Syracuse fans expected to descend upon Rutgers Stadium on Saturday, they will not be alone.

Syracuse defenders allow just 299 yards per game on average, 10th best in the nation. Allowing just 18.7 points per game, the Orangemen rank 16th in the country and will look to feast on a Rutgers offense that they sacked 9 times last year in the Dome.

On the injury front, Alec Lemon was spotted wearing a soft cast on an arm, although said it wasn't a sprain or a break, just swelling. He is expected to be ready to play on Saturday, as is Van Chew, who is recovering from some "bumps and bruises." Offensive lineman Michael Hay, who sat out last Saturday's game with a foot injury, is expected to play however has not been officially ruled active for the game yet.

Ryan Nassib currently has completed 138 of 246 passing attempts for 1,563 yards and 15 touchdowns with just 5 interceptions. His leading targets have been Van Chew (33 catches for 519 yards and 5 touchdowns), Alec Lemon (29 catches for 365 yards 4 touchdowns), and lately Nick Provo (25 catches for 262 yards and 1 score). Nassib has also found comfort throwing to Antwon Bailey out of the backfield, connecting for 22 catches for 210 yards and 2 scores.

On the ground Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey are leading the way. Carter has 853 yards on 161 carries and currently sits 5th on Syracuse's All-Time Rushing list. He is 145 yards behind the #4 rusher James Mungro. Carter is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and has rushed for 7 touchdowns. Antwon Bailey has 79 carries for 380 yards, and is averaging 4.8 yards per carry with one rushing TD.

The Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30PM and the game will be televised live on ESPNU. With a win on Saturday, Syracuse will push their record to 7-3 and achieve bowl eligibility for the first time since the 2004 season. In the tragic event of a loss, Syracuse will get two chances at home to pick up the elusive win. First against Connecticut and then the regular season finally against former Big East Conference foe Boston College.

The Cuse Connection will be tweeting live from the scene at Rutgers Stadium all afternoon, so be sure to follow @CuseConnection on twitter to get all the updates!

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