Sunday, October 31, 2010

If I'm Dreaming, Don't wake me up. Syracuse Football is 6 and 2!


In August if someone asked me what I thought a realistic record for the Orangemen this season would be, I'd have said 7-5. Just enough for bowl eligibility. People would have scoffed. Where would we get these 7 wins? "Well, Syracuse would beat Akron, Colgate and Maine. After that we'd have a good shot at beating Rutgers, Connecticut and Louisville. Maybe if we beat Boston College Syracuse would finish 7-5 and grind out a bowl appearance for the first time since 2004." Some might say that the cuse would be taking a huge step forward to finish 6-6. Not bad for a team that has lost 10 games in a season twice in the last 5 years. Others might say that its a stretch to think that this team could finish 6-6.

Well its about to be November, Syracuse has yet to face any of the Big East schools I thought we would beat and somehow someway, Doug Marrone has steered Syracuse to a 6-2 record. Three wins and one loss in the Big East. Its Sunday morning and its still hard to sit here and type those words and not be completely stunned at the sentence staring back at me.

How did we get here? How is it that Syracuse was able to travel to Tampa and knock off a school that has absolutely dominated the Orangemen in every facet of every game we've played against them since the Bulls joined the Big East in 2005? How exactly did Doug Marrone march the Orangemen into Morgantown and shut out the Mountaineers high flying offense in the second half en route to a shocking 19-14 win over a top 20 team on the road? In what demented reality would Syracuse fans envision the following week we would walk into another teams house and absolutely dismantle the opponent (the Cincinnati Bearcats)? Let's be honest, none of us saw this coming.

I thought Syracuse could get to seven wins this season. However, no one ever expected six of those wins to come like this. Now with four weeks left on the schedule, Syracuse is looking at three home games and a road contest at Rutgers. Anything can happen over these four weeks.

If Syracuse goes 2-2 the Orangemen would finish with an 8-4 record. EIGHT and FOUR! What do those words even mean for a program who's two best years in the last 5 were 4-8?? Is there any argument for ANY other Big East coach to be Coach of the Year? Is there a better Defensive Coordinator in the country than Scott Shafer? One would be hard-pressed to find a D.C. doing more with less.

Now is the time for the fans of the Orangemen to come out of the woodwork. For Syracuse fans to finally leave the storm cellars they have been hiding in since Paul Pasqualoni was fired and see daylight for the first time in nearly six years.

If 34,000 people can go to a basketball game and 8,000 of them aren't even on the same side of the Dome as the court, than I think we can sell out some HOME GAMES!

This team deserves it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Further Look at the 2011 Recruiting Class

With the positive reaction from the first glance at verbal commitments the Orangemen have received for the 2011 season, The Cuse Connection decided to bring a sequal to the masses.

First up is Eric Crume, a 6'2" 320 pound defensive tackle from Detroit, Michigan. Crume describes himself as a "run stopper" who can also get a few sacks, and his high school team Detroit Central won the City Championship. Other schools talking to Crume were Iowa, Michigan St., Michigan and Toledo, however Syracuse was the first school to offer and he accepted. Check out this video if you want to see Crume absolutely abuse the 225 pound bench press and other big time plays. Eric Crume was primarily recruited by Michigan native and SU running back coach Tyrone Wheatley.

Another recruit committed to Syracuse is Terrel Hunt, 6'3" 186 pound quarter back from Queens, NY. Hunt attends Christ the King High School and has a very interesting story for his decision. His mother loved the University and she loved the movie "The Express," and expressed her love of Syracuse to Hunt before she passed away this year from ovarian cancer. Hunt was named to the All-Queens First Team and completed 86 of 148 passes for 1,187 yards with 12 TDs in 2009. He also had 105 rushing attempts for 533 yards. He also plays for the school's varsity basketball team. While other schools like Connecticut, Rutgers and Boston College told him he'd get a chance to play, Syracuse told him he would get a chance to play at quarterback, which meant a lot to Hunt in his decision.

Out of Snellvile, Georgia comes Cameron Lynch, a 5'11" 220 pound linebacker at Brookwood High School. Lynch has the 2nd most tackles in the nation (106) and serves as one of the team's elected captains on game day. Just like Keenan Hale who verbally committed to Syracuse, Lynch is not just successful on the football field, but in the classroom as well. Lynch has a 3.7 GPA and takes AP classes in subjects like Physics and Calculus. He visited Cornell and Harvard before falling in love with Syracuse and plans to study mechanical engineering. Lynch says his best 40 yard dash time is 4.68 seconds and made 135 tackles last season, earning him a 3-star rating from rivals. There's a good article about Lynch in the Gwinnett Daily Post which you can read here.

Syracuse picked up a recruit from Youngstown, Ohio as well. A 5'11" 170 pound cornerback named Dale Peterman. Peterman attended Ursuline High School and said he was initially recruited by Syracuse Defensive Coordinator Scott Shafer when Shafer was at Michigan. After Shafer became the D.C. at Syracuse he put a call into Peterman and was able to convince him to bring his services to the Orangemen. Dale Peterman received offers from Wisconsin, Michigan Cincinnati and Nebraska among others according to scout.com. A 3-star recruit according to rivals, Peterman can run the 40 in 4.49 seconds. Peterman has had an unusual path to Syracuse however. Originally signed for the 2009 season, he didn't qualify academically so he went to Georgia Military College to work on his grades. From there he attended City College of San Francisco to further work on his academics and will finally enroll at Syracuse in 2011 with junior eligibility, god willing.

Next is Donnie Simmons, a 6'2" 225 pound defensive end out of White Plains, NY. At Archbishop Stepinac High School Simmons was named the teams Defensive MVP and his coach says he has "freak strength" for his size and quickness to go with it. Simmons runs the 40 in 4.59 seconds and was named to the Catholic High School's All-League Team and was runner up for defensive MVP in the league. His coach also said he could see Simmons playing at 250 pounds in college and possibly growing another inch. Highlight tape of Simmons junior season can be seen here.

The last player for this installment of the 2011 recruiting review is Rob Trudo, a 6'4" 275 pound offensive lineman from Farrell, PA. Trudo picked Syracuse over Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Cincinnati and Iowa State among other schools. Rob Trudo said he received 11 total scholarship offers. Trudo can play both offensive and defensive line and credited Doug Marrone and Greg Adkins, offensive line coach, as reasons why he chose the Orangemen, along with the Carrier Dome. For highlights from Trudo's junior year check out this video. He also liked the opportunity to play right away, and the academics offered at Syracuse, which he takes pride in.

Stay tuned to The Cuse Connection for more recruiting updates leading up to National Letter of Intent Signing Day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The AP Top 25 Poll is Out!


The first poll from the AP Top 25 is out for the 2010 Men's basketball season, and our very own Syracuse Orangemen are ranked 10th! The USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Preseason Poll came out last week and had Syracuse situated 13th, however in these rankings Syracuse joins #5 Pittsburgh and #6 Villanova in the top 10 teams of the country.

One other Big East team made the cut, the Georgetown Hoyas, ranked 20th. Syracuse's December 7th opponent in Madison Square Garden Michigan St. is #2 in both polls. Duke was your #1 team. Complete rankings can be found here. Last year's runner up Butler is 17th.

photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Football Team Back Out on the Road, Travels to Cincinnati


On Saturday the Syracuse University Orangemen travel to Cincinnati, OH to take on the Bearcats at Nippert Stadium, the 5th oldest venue in college football. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 and the game will be televised live on ESPNU. The biggest question on everyones minds is whether or not QB Zach Collaros will get the start for the Bearcats.

Zach Collaros left last weeks 38-30 loss to USF in the 4th quarter with a knee injury and did not return. He was seen on crutches this week, however he was on the practice field in a limited role. Backup Chazz Anderson worked out with the Bearcats starters, while Collaros worked mainly with the second team. If Collaros is unable to play, Anderson will get his first start for Cinci since 2008. On Tuesday, Zach Collaros said he felt as if his knee was "sliding around a little bit," however he has not been officially ruled out of Saturdays game.

The Bearcats have struggled this season, losing 3 of the first four games under new head coach Butch Jones, formerly the head coach of Central Michigan University. Butch Jones, who took over the head coaching duties after Brian Kelly left for Notre Dame, has steered the team to a 3-4 overall record, 1-1 in the Big East.

Syracuse on the other hand is coming off the program's biggest win in years, a stirring 19-14 victory over the West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown. The win pushed the Orangemen's record to 5-2, 2-1 in the Big East. Syracuse hadn't won in Morgantown since 2000, and now Syracuse will look to get their first win ever against Cincinnati in Big East play. Syracuse beat Cincinnati in 2004 19-7, the season before the Bearcats joined the conference.

If Zach Collaros is unable to play it will be a tremendous blow to the Bearcats who rely heavily on the passing game. Last week Collaros had 4 touchdown passes before being forced from the game and has 20 TD passes on the year. In comparison the team just has 7 rushing scores, nearly a 3:1 ratio.

Leading the receiving corp are D.J. Woods and Armon Binns. Woods has 40 catches for 687 yards and 6 TDs. He averages 17.2 yards per catch and had 137 yards on 9 catches in last weeks game against USF. Binns has 44 catches for 683 yards and 9 touchdowns. In the USF game Binns had 158 yards on 12 catches and 2 TDs. With 15 touchdown grabs between the two receivers through 7 games, Syracuse will certainly have their hands full with or without Collaros under center.

The rushing game is led by Isaiah Pead, who has 595 yards on 77 carries. Pead has just 1 rushing TD on the season, with the majority of scores going to John Goebel who leads the team with 3 rushing touchdowns on 26 carries. Goebel has just 179 total yards on the year however he averages 6.9 yards per carry.

On defense Cincinnati is ranked 64th in the nation with an average of 367.71 yards per game allowed. Their 23.4 points per game allowed is 51st overall. Conversely, Syracuse's defense allows just 301.57 yards per game, 16th best in the nation and the Orangemen's 19 points per game allowed is 28th best in the country.

The offensive side of the ball is where the Orangemen's troubles have been during conference play. While the rushing attack has been relatively strong for the cuse (minus the Pittsburgh game where nothing went right) the passing attack has been extremely limited. In last week's win over West Virginia, Syracuse rushed for 183 yards on the #4 rushing defense in the country, while Ryan Nassib was held to just 63 passing yards. Nassib completed only 5 passes on 15 attempts, however he did throw a touchdown pass to Van Chew and was not intercepted. As long as Nassib protects the ball and doesn't turn it over, the Orangemen should be in business.

Syracuse will be looking to improve to 6-2 on the year, something the Orangemen haven't done since 2001 (lost the first two games before winning eight straight). The game is at noon and will be televised on ESPNU. After receiving votes in the AP Top 25 and USA Today Polls last week, a win on the road in Cincinnati may propel the Orangemen back into the rankings. Win or lose though, the Orangemen are still on track for a bowl bid.

photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Interesting Info on the Syracuse Football Schedule


In the ideal world of college football all games would be played on Saturday. That's how it used to be. Before we sold out common sense for dollar signs, in a game where the athletes get zero dollars for their services. In 2010's reality there are prime time games played on Wednesdays, Thursdays and of course Friday nights. Due to Syracuse's poor record the last five or so years the Orangemen have rarely played a football game on any day other than Saturday. That doesn't stop Syracuse's opponents from picking up mid-week time slots though.

When Syracuse traveled to Morgantown to take on West Virginia on Saturday Syracuse hadn't played a game since the previous Saturday. Makes sense. West Virginia on the other hand played their previous week's game on Thursday night, allowing them two extra days of rest. Thankfully, the outcome of the game was not determined by how much rest the Mountaineers received. Perhaps they were rusty from the long layover between games?

When Syracuse travels to Cincinnati for this week's conference match up Saturday at noon, the Bearcats will be coming off a Friday night game, another extra day of rest for a Syracuse opponent. Will the extra day of rest be a factor in the game? Especially for a team that doesn't have to travel?

November 13th's opponent is the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, another road game for the Orangemen. Rutgers will be playing the week before on a Wednesday night in South Florida on November 3rd. Syracuse of course plays the Saturday prior at home against Louisville and will travel down to New Jersey for the football game on the 13th. Three extra days of rest for Rutgers to get healthy, no big deal?

As if that wasn't enough rest for opponents against the Syracuse Orangemen, the following week Syracuse will finally host a team coming off extended rest, the Connecticut Huskies at the Carrier Dome on November 20th. UCONN's previous game will be the Thursday night before, against Pittsburgh at home. Just another two days of rest to prepare for the cuse.

That's quite the alarming trend this season, especially when you consider 4 of the 7 conference games Syracuse plays the other team has an extended period to get healthy. That doesn't even factor in that Syracuse has only one bye week this year while most Big East teams have two.

The big question is does it matter? There's two schools of thought. One, that the team with the rest will get rusty and out of game shape, while Syracuse has played more recently and are prepared to play every single Saturday, and sharper because of it. Then there's the thought that Syracuse will need the extra days rest particularly towards the end of the season when players get dinged up and may benefit from a few more days off between games. Especially Syracuse's defense which has been a catalyst for the teams 5-2 record.

The truth is until we play the games we will not know the true effect it will have. It's equally disappointing to find out that not only do these teams get extra rest, but they also do not have to travel more often and have the comforts of playing at home. This is in addition to their off days. That's a very interesting thing to consider when looking at Syracuse's remaining schedule and the quest for the Orangemen's first bowl bid since 2004.

Never the less, Syracuse is still 5-2 overall, 2-1 in Big East play and in control of their own bowl destiny. Doug Marrone and the team can not afford to look at the schedules and make excuses for what ever happens down the road. All they can do is keep playing games, and hopefully, keep winning them as well.

photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Good News on Delone Carter

Delone Carter was back on the practice field yesterday, and said he is 100% ready to go for the game this Saturday at Cincinnati. Carter, who suffered a bruised hip on a rushing attempt, left the West Virginia game late in the 2nd quarter and did not return. He was ruled out for the remainder of the game at half time and Syracuse fans everywhere feared for the worst.

Considering Delone Carter had to sit out the entire 2007 season with a hip fracture, fans had a reason to worry. Thankfully Carter was back on the field Tuesday at practice running and cutting and feeling fine. Crisis avoided for the Orangemen. DC3 is just 43 yards behind the #8 All-Time leading rusher at Syracuse University, Bill Hurley. Carter needs just 119 yards to pass the #7 rusher Dee Brown, which can come as early as saturday if Carter gets off to as hot a start as he did versus the Mountaineers.

In other injury related news, Cincinnati quarter back Zach Collaros was seen on crutches before Tuesday's practice with a large brace on his left leg. Collaros threw 4 touch down passes before being forced out of the USF game on Saturday, a game the Bearcats lost 38-30. Zach Collaros said his knee felt like it was "sliding around a little bit" yesterday, which is bad news for Cinci fans. Chazz Anderson came in at QB following the injury and would get his first start in two years if Collaros is unable to play.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2011 Syracuse Football Recruiting Class Update

A few weeks ago a reader asked me about what the Orangemen were doing in terms of recruiting, especially with regards to hitting the football meccas of Florida, Texas and Ohio. There was also a question as to whether or not Syracuse would be able to re-establish themselves in the New York, New Jersey, Maryland and prep-schools in the north east recruiting scene.

Well, with four months to go before letter of intent signing day, Syracuse has received numerous verbal commitments from high school seniors across the country. Today a young man named Kristofer Curtis, a 6'5" 295 pound offensive tackle from Fayette County High School in Fayetteville, Georgia gave a verbal commitment to the Orangemen. When asked what made a difference for Syracuse over other schools, Curtis responded "The coaching staff was absolutely amazing."

Curtis chose Syracuse over Kentucky, Memphis, Tulane and Middle Tennessee State. According to scout.com Curtis can bench 325 pounds and squat over 400 pounds, and rivals.com lists him as a 3-star recruit. Kristofer Curtis has the potential to be a strong run blocker for the Orangemen in the years to come, something Syracuse can surely benefit from.

Syracuse has also been active recruiting in the football hotbed of florida, adding Louie Addazio out of Gainesville, Florida. Addazio is the son of University of Florida's offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, who was an assistant at Syracuse University from 1995-1998. Addazio, a 6'3" 240 pound tight end at Buchholtz High School, has been credited as "one of the best blocking tight ends in the state" by his head coach Jay Godwin. He also vowed to spread the word in the state of Florida that the Orangemen are not a program to be taken lightly.

The cuse got another Florida recruit, this time from Miami Central High School in Miami, Fl. Oliver Vigille, a 6'2" 205 pound linebacker. Vigille can run the 40 yard dash in 4.6 seconds and plays on one of the top teams in the state. He had offers from South Florida, Central Florida and Florida International along with interest from Florida State. Vigille is credited as a 3-star recruit from rivals.com and helped lead his team to the state semi-finals in his junior year. His coach said Vigille plans to add another 20 pounds before arriving on campus.

Syracuse has verbal commitments from a trio of Davis' as well. First is DeFarrell Davis, a 6'2" 185 pound wide receiver from Melvindale, Michigan, who played two years at Nassau Community College. Credit this pick up to John Anselmo's inclusion on the coaching staff. Anselmo was the head football coach at NCC for 16 years and has contacts at nearly every High School in the metropolitan area. ESPN's Jamie Newberg calls DeFarrell Davis one of the top junior college wide receivers in the country. He will come to SU with two years of eligibility remaining.

Dyshawn Davis, 6'1" 200 pound linebacker/safety from Woodbury, NJ also committed to the Orangemen along with Myles Davis, 6'0" 212 pound linebacker from Verona, PA, who both played for Milford Academy this past season. Dyshawn didn't qualify to enroll at SU in 2010 and will be enrolled this coming January. In 2009 at Woodbury High School Davis had 95 tackles, 1 interception and blocked 2 punts. He also lined up at wide receiver and made 24 catches for 381 yards and 3TDs. Although recruited to play at SU to play receiver, he has been playing on defense all year at Milford Academy and expects to play outside linebacker or safety for the Orangemen. Through 7 games Davis has 21 tackles, 14 solo 6 for a loss and 1 interception which he returned for a touchdown.

Myles Davis, who also didn't qualify to enroll at SU for the 2010 season, will have surgery on a torn ACL this year and may wait until next year to enroll at the University. Rivals ranks him the 24th best Prep school prospect in the country due to his tremendous drive and athletic ability. Until his injury, Davis was allegedly "dominating" opponents on the field at Milford.

There's a third recruit coming from Milford Academy, Jeremiah Kobena, a wide receiver from the Bronx, NY. Kobena, 6'0" 185 pounds, says he hopes to enroll at SU in January and be on the field for spring football in April. He has truly exceptional speed and finished 6th in the New York State 100 meter finals, and came in first in the New York City finals. Kobena picked Syracuse over Rutgers and Pittsburgh in 2009 although he too had to sit out the 2010 season due to academic issues. He finished his 2009 senior year at Cardinal Hayes High School with 1,578 total yards and 14 touchdowns from both the wide receiver and tailback slots. He was the NY Daily News 2009 Bronx/Manhattan Player of the Year.

Another potentially exciting player coming to the cuse is Keenan Hale, a 6'3" wide receiver out of Conyers, Georgia. At McCallie School in Chattanooga Hale also won the state high jump title his junior year with a 6'8" jump and finished second in the decathlon (10 track and field events over two days). Hale is a big play receiver who is also physical and has the ability to get down field. Keenan Hale has a 4.51 40-yard dash time. Other schools that offered Hale are Samford, Arkansas and Vanderbilt, Duke, Yale and Harvard. Hale who plans to study chemical engineering at Syracuse, clearly has brains to go along with athletic ability.

Other Players who have verbally committed:
Eric Crume - 6'2" 320 - defensive tackle from Detroit, Michigan
Jonathan Fisher - 6'2" 205 - punter from Oakfield, NY
Terrel Hunt - 6'3" 186 - quarter back from Queens, NY
Cameron Lynch - 5'11" 220 - linebacker from Snellville, GA
Dale Peterman - 5'11" 170 - cornerback from Youngstown, OH
Sam Rodgers - 6'2" 215 - long snapper from State College, PA
Donnie Simmons - 6'2" 225 - defensive end from White Plains, NY
Ryan Sloan - 6'4" 310 - lineman from Brookhaven, NY
Tyree Smallwood - 5'11" 173 - defensive back/running back from New Windsor, NY
Rob Trudo - 6'4" 275 - offensive linemen from Farrell, PA

In the coming months as Syracuse adds more recruits to their 2011 class, check back in with The Cuse Connection for further analysis on the incoming freshman. [UPDATE: There's now part 2 of this recruiting review here.]

Monday, October 25, 2010

Delone Carter's Run for the Record Book


This past Saturday in Syracuse's tremendous upset win in Morgantown, Delone Carter moved past another Orangeman on his journey up the All-Time Rushing Leaderboard. In just over a quarter of action on Saturday Carter picked up 75 yards on 9 carries.

DC3's action was limited due to a hip bruise he suffered early in the 2nd quarter. It was the same hip Carter injured in 2007 that forced to miss the entire season. Doug Marrone said Delone was cleared to practice and will be on the field today when the Orangemen look to continue their impressive play against Cincinnati on Saturday.

Carter needed just 29 yards to pass #9 on Syracuse's All-Time Rushing List Damien Rhodes who has 2,461 total yards. The 75 yard performance gives Delone 2,508 yards in his career, just 43 yards behind #8 rusher Bill Hurley's 2,551 yards.

Interestingly enough, Bill Hurley was not a running back, but in fact played quarter back at Syracuse University from 1975-1979. Hurley was born in Buffalo, NY and set 22 school records while on the Hill. When Hurley graduated he left Syracuse as the all-time leading passer, total offense leader and 3rd leading rusher. Bizarrely enough Bill Hurley was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 4th round as a safety and played much of his career at defensive back. Bill Hurley is currently 7th on Syracuse's All-Time Passing List and 4th All-Time in total offense.

Top Ten All-Time Rushers in Syracuse Orangemen History:
1. Joe Morris 4,299
2. Walter Reyes 3,424
3. Larry Csonka 2,934
4. James Mungro 2,869
5. Floyd Little 2,704
6. David Walker 2,643
7. Dee Brown 2,626
8. Bill Hurley 2,551
9. Delone Carter 2,508
10. Damien Rhodes 2,461

Photo courtesy of Michael Borkowski

Big East Conference Roundup (Week 8)


Aside from Syracuse's big upset win at West Virginia on Saturday, there were three other Big East Conference games this weekend. Kicking things off on Friday night in Cincinnati were the Bearcats and the South Florida Bulls.

In an absolute shootout, USF managed to hold off Cinci and won 38-30 behind a four touchdown performance from B.J. Daniels. Daniels threw for 2 touchdowns completing 13 of 16 passing attempts for 286 yards and ran for 2 more scores. Cincinnati QB Zach Collaros threw for an amazing 463 yards 3 touchdowns and 1 interception in the loss. Both teams were held in check on the ground, USF ran for 92 yards and Cinci ran for 78 in the loss. Collaros was forced to leave the game late in the 4th quarter after a hard hit and did not return. With the win USF is now 4-3 on the season and 1-2 in the Big East. The loss drops Cinci to just 3-4 on the year, 1-1 in conference play. Next week the Bearcats will host the Syracuse Orangemen at noon on ESPNU while USF will enjoy the week off on a bye.

In another Big East tilt, Pittsburgh held off Rutgers in the 2nd half to give the Panthers the victory. After going into the half tied 14-14, Tino Sunseri threw two second half touchdown passes and Dion Lewis ran for another to pull away from the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers scored a late 4th quarter touchdown to finish with a more respectable 41-21 final score. Sunseri threw for 307 yards 3TDs and 1INT and Dion Lewis added 130 yards and a score for the Panthers. Jon Baldwin also contributed 139 yards on 5 catches and a TD in the lopsided victory. Next week Pittsburgh will play host to Louisville and Rutgers will take the much needed bye week. The loss brings Rutgers to 4-3 on the season and 1-1 in the Big East while Pitt improves to 4-3, 2-0 in the Conference and 1st overall in the Big East.

Lastly, Louisville shut out Connecticut 26-0 at home to go to 4-3 on the season, 1-1 in the Big East. UCONN was held to just 11 first downs and 195 yards of total offense. Louisville kicker Chris Philpott kicked 4 field goals and Doug Beaumont returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown in the win. The lone bright spot for UCONN came from Jordan Todman who ran for 80 yards on 19 carries. UCONN hosts West Virginia next week on Friday night at 8PM on ESPN2. Connecticut is now 3-4 on the year and 0-2 in the Big East.

Conference Standings through week 8:
1. Pittsburgh 4-3 (2-0)
2. SYRACUSE 5-2 (2-1)
3. West Virginia 5-2 (1-1)
4. Louisville 4-3 (1-1)
5. Rutgers 4-3 (1-1)
6. Cincinnati 3-4 (1-1)
7. South Florida 4-3 (1-2)
8. Connecticut 3-4 (0-2)


The Evolution of Doug Hogue


When Doug Hogue arrived on campus in the summer of 2007 he was rated the 31st best running back in the East by Scout.com, and 4th best prospect in the state of New York. At Roosevelt High School in Yonkers Doug Hogue played both running back and linebacker and was selected to participate in the New York/New Jersey All-Star Classic. In an injury shortened senior year Hogue rushed for 589 yards and 2 touchdowns and averaged 12.5 tackles per game. Clearly Doug was no stranger to the defensive side of the ball.

As a true freshman for then coach Greg Robinson Hogue played in 9 games, one of nine true freshman to play that season. With four starts under his belt that year, Hogue was the 2nd leading rusher on the team, finishing with 251 yards on 77 carries. His best game of the season came against Buffalo when Hogue filled in for an injured Curtis Brinkley. Doug Hogue rushed for 83 yards on 24 carries and his first career touchdown.

Doug's sophomore season didn't go as well as he would have liked, only starting in two games and playing in 11, running behind Curtis Brinkley and Antwon Bailey. In both starts Hogue had a combined seven carries for 15 yards. However, against Rutgers Doug Hogue scored on an 82-yard touchdown run, the longest in SU history since Bruce Yancy scored on an 83 yard rush in 1953. Hogue finished his sophomore season with just 35 rushing attempts for 232 yards and three touchdowns (2 rushing 1 receiving).

In 2009 there was a change on the Hill. Greg Robinson was finally relieved of his "duties" as head coach (although its hard to call what GROB was doing 'coaching'). In his place was former Syracuse Orangemen offensive linemen Doug Marrone. Marrone played at Syracuse between 1983-1985 under Dick MacPherson and came to SU from the New Orleans Saints of the NFL where he served as the Offensive Coordinator for Sean Payton.

One of Doug Marrone's first coaching decisions was moving Doug Hogue from the platoon at running back to the defensive side of the ball. Marrone felt the move would be the best thing for the football team and add much needed speed to the defense. In the summer of 2009 Doug Hogue was officially moved to outside linebacker next to another former running back, Derrell Smith.

In Hogue's junior year it did not take long for the move to pay off positively for the Orangemen. In his first career start at linebacker against Minnesota in the Dome, Hogue recorded four tackles. Two weeks later against Northwestern Hogue led the defense with 11 tackles, seven of them solo. A week later against South Florida, Hogue added another 5 tackles and his first career sack.

Towards the end of the season against Rutgers Hogue had seven tackles, 6.5 of them for a loss, which was a new Syracuse record, 1 forced fumble and 3.5 sacks. For his heroic efforts in the game Hogue was named the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week. Hogue finished his junior season with 72 tackles, 49 of them solo, 9 sacks, 1 forced fumble and an interception. Doug Hogue averaged .79 sacks per game, which was 21st best in the nation and 2nd best in the big east. Doug was also first in the Big East with 1.33 tackles for a loss per game, 20th best in the nation.

This brings us to 2010, Doug Hogue's senior season. Hogue kicked his senior season off in style with 5 tackles, a sack, and a blocked field goal attempt on the road in Akron. Last week against Pittsburgh Doug Hogue had a team high 12 tackles, 1.5 for a loss.

And then Syracuse traveled to West Virginia. In a game for the ages, Syracuse's defense shut down the high flying Mountaineer offense, holding on for a monumental 19-14 victory. Dominating on the defensive side of the ball was none other than Doug Hogue, the running back turned linebacker by Doug Marrone. Hogue finished the day with 10 tackles, 8 of them solo, two interceptions, half a sack and knocked down a passing attempt. This performance earned Doug Hogue his second Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week award, and gave Syracuse a 5-2 overall record, 2-1 in the Big East. Hogue was also named the Big East Defensive Player of the Week, although that should come as no surprise.

With five games left in the regular season, Syracuse will continue to rely heavily on Doug Hogue to help earn the team their first trip to a bowl game since the 2004 season. Syracuse needs just two more wins to become bowl eligible.

photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Saturday, October 23, 2010

THE RETURN OF THE BEN SCHWARTZWALDER TROPHY!!


SYRACUSE 19
WEST VIRGINIA 14

The Syracuse Orangemen are back and The Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy has been returned to its rightful place. After an amazing defensive performance, lead by Doug Hogue and a relentless Mikhail Marinovich, the Syracuse Orangemen pulled off a classic upset win in Morgantown, West Virginia. It was Syracuse's first win on the road against #19/20 WVU since 2000 and it couldn't have come at a better time for the Orangemen, who also ended a 12 game home winning streak for the Mountaineers.

In front of a national television audience and 58,122 fans, just one week after being embarrassed in the annual Homecoming game with numerous recruits in attendance, Syracuse showed the entire country that they are no longer the doormat of the Big East. The Orangemen re-established themselves on the college football scene and improved their record to 5-2 on the year, 2-1 in Big East play. West Virginia came into the game ranked 19th in the Coaches Poll and 20th in the AP Top 25. The loss drops WVU to 5-2 on the year, 1-1 in conference play.

Syracuse got started early, with Doug Hogue intercepting Geno Smith (before ESPN2 realized that the NASCAR time trials had gone on long enough) and Hogue returned the ball to the WVU 26 yard line. Facing 3rd and long Van Chew dropped a pass which would have given the cuse 1st down and goal from the 2 yard line, and SU had to settle for a 28 yard Ross Krautman field goal giving SU the lead 3-0.

West Virginia responded with a 81 yard touchdown drive capped off by a Geno Smith 6 yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin to give WVU the lead 7-3. On the play both Mike Holmes and Da'mon Merkerson looked to be lost in coverage, however the two would respond to put together an extremely solid afternoon.

On Syracuse's next drive Van Chew atoned for his previous dropped pass by catching two balls, the first for a 17 yard gain to the WVU 29 yard line. On the next play Ryan Nassib found Van Chew again, this time for a 29 yard touchdown pass to put Syracuse back out in front 10-7. Van Chew, who finished the day with 2 catches for 46 yards and 1TD, dedicated the game to his grandfather who passed away earlier this week.

West Virginia would only need 3 minutes 14 seconds to respond. Geno Smith and Noel Devine lead the Mountaineers on a 77 yard drive which ended with a 1 yard Ryan Clark touchdown run giving WVU the lead yet again 14-10. With a shootout seemingly brewing, Syracuse's defense would shut the door on the Mountaineer offense. After giving up the 2nd touchdown of the game with 2:06 left in the 1st quarter, the Orangemen's D would not allow another point the rest of the game.

Ross Krautman connected on three field goals in the 2nd quarter, and was a perfect 4 for 4 on the afternoon. His 2nd quarter field goals were from distances of 19, 33 and 22 yards. Needless to say the Syracuse Orangemen's red zone offense was shown up by the #5 defense in the country. Thankfully for the cuse Krautman was perfect. Syracuse would go into the locker room up 19-14 at half time.

Geno Smith came into this game having only thrown 2 interceptions on the season. On this Saturday Doug Hogue had two interceptions of his own, and Phillip Thomas added a 3rd to help shut down the passing game for the Orangemen. Smith finished the game 20 of 37 passing attempts for 178 yards, 1 TD and 3 INTs. Noel Devine had a great day, totaling 122 yards on 24 carries, however he could not find the end zone.

In The Cuse Connection's pregame report, I stated that Syracuse's defense would have to play "out of their minds." I said that the defense would have knock down Geno Smith all day and be extremely aggressive. Thanks to the great play-call and scheming by Scott Shafer Syracuse was able to do just that and shut down the WVU offense in the 2nd half. The special teams also was able to prevent any big plays during returns, however Max Suter did fumble a kick return following WVU's second touchdown. Thankfully Phillip Thomas was able to negate the drive with a pick.

With enough good vibes to go around there was unfortunatey an injury in the game. Delone Carter was injured on a 2nd quarter rushing attempt and was forced to leave the game. He would not return. Carter had an absolutely tremendous 1st quarter, finishing the day with 75 yards on 9 carries. Antwon Bailey took over the rushing game and finished with 94 yards on 19 carries to go along with 2 catches for 11 yards. Prince-Tyson Gulley added 19 yards on 6 carries.

With 6:35 left in the game the Mountaineers got the ball on their 6th yard line. After two penalties by the Orangemen got the drive started, Geno Smith and Noel Devine again started moving the ball down field trailing only by 5. After a 17 yard pass completion to J.D. Woods down to the Syracuse 20 yard line with just 1:25 left on the game clock, Syracuse's defense really shined. Noel Devine was stuffed for no gain on 1st down and Shamarko Thomas sacked Geno Smith for a 12 yard loss, pushing WVU's offense back to the 32 yard line. An incomplete pass on 3rd down brought up 4th and 22 from the Syracuse 32 yard line. With only 49 ticks left on the game clock Shamarko Thomas and Anthony Perkins combined to sack Geno Smith yet again, getting Syracuse the ball back sealing the Orangemen victory.

Post-Game Notes:
  • Despite the injury Delone Carter moves past Damien Rhodes on Syracuse's All-Time rushing list to 9th place with 2,508 yards. He is now 43 yards behind #8 Bill Hurley on the All-Time list.
  • Ryan Nassib committed no turnovers however was just 5 of 15 for 63 yards and 1TD. Marrone showed little faith in him throwing the ball in the 4th quarter.
  • Syracuse is now 2 wins away from qualifying for a bowl game with 5 games left to play.
  • Chandler Jones had 2 sacks, giving him 4 on the season to go along with his 8 tackles.
  • First 4 FG game for Orangemen since Nate Trout in 1999 did it against Tulane.
  • The win was Syracuse's 682nd All-Time win, 15th best in college football.
  • Hogue had 2 interceptions and 10 tackles on the day to lead the Orangemen.
Next week Syracuse travels to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats at 12:00PM.


photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Friday, October 22, 2010

The First Poll of the Hoops Season is Out!


You know we are getting closer to tip-off of the 2010/2011 Syracuse Men's Basketball season when the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 Preseason Coaches Poll comes out. Syracuse pulled lucky number 13 in the rankings. This is a very respectable ranking to start the season, especially considering Syracuse lost three key components from last season's Sweet 16 squad. Also, with the lack of depth and experience at the center position it is a fair estimate of our preseason potential.

Although Syracuse should be pleased with their preseason spot in the poll, some of the teams ahead of the cuse are real head scratchers. Gonzaga #12? The team Syracuse beat soundly in the NCAA tournament's 2nd round. North Carolina #9? The very same team that missed the NCAA tournament last season and went 20-17. Ok, thats fair. They did real well with their preseason rank last season (4th). Florida is #11. We saw how Florida responded last season with a high early season ranking.

There are three other Big East teams in the preseason poll, Pittsburgh (4), Villanova (6) and Georgetown (21). Additionally, December 7th opponent in the Jimmy V Classic in New York City Michigan State is currently ranked #2 in the nation. That's a great opportunity for the Orangemen to splash onto the scene, just like they did last season when Syracuse beat then #4 UNC in the Garden to kick start their season.

Once again, the Big East Conference doesn't get the respect it deserves around the nation. This time by someone named Andy Glockner who works for Sports Illustrated. He ranks the Conferences: 1. Big Ten, 2. Big 12, and 3rd The Big East. Top to bottom there is no better conference than the Big East. Some of these Big 12 schools would never survive the 18 game conference schedule the Big East boasts.

You can count the "good" teams on one hand for the Big 10 and Big 12, you might need to start counting toes when looking at the Big East! When will the rest of the country just admit that there is no better basketball conference than the Big East? At least Glockner didn't say the ACC was better than the Big East because if he did I think my monitor would have exploded.

In other hoops news, tonight is the big MIDNIGHT MADNESS party in the Carrier Dome. Of course it's not at midnight. It will start at a much more socially acceptable time, 7:30PM. College kids don't stay up past midnight! Tickets to this event which will feature Naughty By Nature and the Harlem Wizards have sold out. However, since the tickets are free you might find some people with extras outside the Dome.

photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Syracuse Looks to Get Back on Track in Morgantown


This Saturday the Syracuse University Orangemen are traveling to Morgantown to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers. Coming off an extremely disappointing loss at home to Pittsburgh on Homecoming Weekend (45-14), the Syracuse Orangemen are facing their toughest opponent of the season. Head Coach Doug Marrone calls Milan Puskar Stadium (Mountaineer Field) one of the toughest venues in all of college football, and in his opinion WVU is one of the Top-10 football teams in the country.

Syracuse has not beaten West Virginia since 2001, when the Orangemen won 24-13 in the Carrier Dome. The last time Syracuse won in Morgantown was in 2000 when the Orangemen defeated the Mountaineers 31-27. Following that game long time WVU coach Don Nehlen announced his retirement. As always, The Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy will be on the line. WVU has won the trophy 8 straight games.

The Mountaineers (5-1, 1-0 Big East) are ranked 20th overall in the AP Top 25 and 19th in the USA Today Coaches Poll. WVU is coming off a 20-6 win over the South Florida Bulls and have a defense that is ranked 3rd nationally in Points Allowed. For a Syracuse offense that struggled to set up a running game against the Panthers defense last week, the Orangemen are going to have their work cut out for them. West Virginia's lone loss came at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge when LSU beat them 20-14. LSU is now the #6 team in the country.

WVU's rushing defense has allowed 83.2 yards per game, which is 4th best in the nation. Their 248.5 total yards per game allowed is 5th best in the country. Doug Marrone is going to have to out coach, out wit, and out scheme WVU head coach Bill Stewart if Syracuse has any dreams of walking out of that stadium with a win. If the Orangemen had any trick plays up their sleeves that they have been saving, this is the game we will want to execute them!

On the other side of the ball for the Mountaineers, they are equally as dangerous as they are scary. Sophomore quarterback Geno Smith is coming into the game with 1,358 passing yards 14 touchdown passes and just 2 interceptions with 121 completions in 177 passing attempts. Syracuse can not just load up the box and dare Smith to beat the defense through the air, because he will have no trouble finding receivers.

So far this season, Geno Smith has found seven different receivers for a touchdown. Tavon Austin has 32 receptions for 413 yards and 2 scores. Jock Sanders (is that his real name?) has 36 catches for 317 yards and 2 TDs. Stedman Bailey has 13 catches for 195 yards and 3 TDs. Brad Starks has 6 catches for 145 yards and 4 TDs. Their passing offense is EXTREMELY balanced as you can tell, and Syracuse's defensive backs and safeties are really going to have to be in top form if Syracuse wants to keep this game close.

Out of the backfield WVU has more weapons, most notably Noel Devine. Devine has 103 carries on the year for 504 yards and 4 rushing touchdowns. Add that to his 17 catches for 126 yards and another TD catch, that gives him 5 total TDs on the year. In each of the first 3 games Devine rushed for over 100 yards, however he hasn't hit 100 yards in a game since. So we have that going for us. Another option at running back for WVU is Ryan Clark who has 43 rushes for 151 yards and a score. Devine is their go-to-runner and can beat Syracuse single handedly if Syracuse does manage to shut down Geno Smith's passing attack.

As for Syracuse, Ryan Nassib needs a MUCH better performance after last week's debacle against Pittsburgh. Nassib threw two interceptions, one of which was returned 80 yards for a touchdown. Overall, if Syracuse has any chance at all of being in this game they cannot turn the ball over. Not even once. Syracuse's execution has to be perfect. Marrone cannot be afraid to air out the ball and if Syracuse's rushing attack is getting stuffed at the line, the Orangemen can not afford to waste drives going 3 and out running up the gut twice.

On special teams, Syracuse simply can not afford any big returns. Giving WVU a short field is a death sentence and giving up points on special teams will surely spell doom for the Orangemen.

Defensively the Orangemen must play out of their minds. They need to be lights out. They have to get to Geno Smith, knock him down early and often. The linebackers need to identify the rush or the pass and get in position to make a play. If they sit back and wait for the game to come to them they are going to be embarrassed. The entire defense needs to anticipate the play and be extremely aggressive. That is the only way Syracuse can stay in this game.

If this preview of the Mountaineers hasn't scared Syracuse fans away from this game, than tune into ESPN2 at 12:00PM for the kickoff. It will be the Orangemen's first nationally televised game of the year. Syracuse is 4-2 overall, 1-1 Big East.

photo courtesy of syracuse.com


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On the Line Saturday: The Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy


This Saturday when Syracuse travels to Morgantown to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers there will be more on the line than just a Big East Victory. Both teams will be competing for the Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy, awarded to the winner of the annual SU-WVU game since 1994. West Virginia won the first trophy game 13-0.

Most of you should know that Ben Schwartzwalder coached at Syracuse University from 1949-1973, leading the Orangemen to a 153-91-3 overall record and the 1959 National Championship. He coached the greats. Jim Brown. Ernie Davis. Floyd Little. Larry Csonka. Jim Nance. These aren't just run of the mill players, they are legends. He is the winningest coach in Syracuse Football history.

Before arriving at Syracuse Ben Schwartzwalder was a Captain in the 82nd Airborne during World War II. He was on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, a Purple Heart and four Battle Stars during his tour of duty. After the invasion of Normandy, Schwartzwalder was promoted to Major. This was not a man to be trifled with!

In college Ben Schwartzwalder attended West Virginia University, where he captained the football team in 1933, despite weighing only 146 pounds. He was also an all-campus wrestler during his time at the school.

So naturally, upon his death in 1993, former Syracuse player Jim Ridlon sculpted the 55 pound trophy to be awarded to the winner of the annual match up. Jim Ridlon played at Syracuse from 1954 to 1957 at both halfback and defensive back under Schwartzwalder's command. He would go on to be an art professor at Syracuse University after finishing his NFL career. Fans will remember him as the color commentator for Syracuse games on WSYR between 1961 up until 2000.

The last time Syracuse won the trophy was in 2001, when the Orangemen defeated the Mountaineers 24-13 in the Dome. WVU has won the trophy eight straight years.

Syracuse has the edge on West Virginia, with a 30-27 overall record. The teams have met every single year since 1955. The last time Syracuse beat WVU on the road was in 2000 when the Orangemen edged the Mountaineers 31-27.

This has gone on long enough!! It's time to bring the trophy home where it belongs! IN SYRACUSE!!

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.

Monday, October 18, 2010

DaShonte Riley Opting for Surgery

Late Friday news came out that Syracuse University center DaShonte Riley will be undergoing surgery to mend his injured right foot. The injury is believed to be an old fracture, possibly even suffered late last season. Trainer Brad Pike said the surgery will either remove a bone fragment or "fixate the bone."

This essentially will end the 7' sophomore's season and leave Syracuse extremely thin at the center spot. The Orangemen now will have to rely on incoming freshman Fabricio de Melo to fill the shoes left by center Arinze Onuaku (graduated) and the now injured Riley.

Head coach Jim Boeheim said "Ricky's going to play forward for the most part this year, if not all the time. Which leaves us with the two freshmen." The other freshman Boeheim alluded to is Baye Moussa Keita out of Oak Hill Academy. Many saw Keita's freshman year at Syracuse to be spent learning and watching from the bench while adding much needed muscle, however now he may be required to play a much larger role this season.

Keita, who was born in Senegal, is 6'11" and roughly 210 pounds. The offensive side of his game has been described as "raw," however he is very athletic and runs the floor very well. He has a very long wingspan which will fit in great in the 2-3 zone for the Orangemen, and is a very sound shot blocker and a great jumper. He needs to add muscle to his 6'11" frame if he wants to compete inside with the very physical centers in the Big East. While many observers hoped that Baye Moussa Keita would get this season to increase his strength and offensive game, it has become clear that he will not be afforded that opportunity.

While there is a possibility for a January return for DaShonte Riley, it is unlikely that it occurs. Riley expressed concern of his own for a January return, stating "I don't know what kind of condition and what kind of shape I'll be in January. So, more than likely, I'll take the year off."

And just like that Fab Melo is our starting center for 2010/2011.

Big East Conference Roundup (Week 7)


One cannot talk about Big East Football this week without starting with Rutgers junior defensive tackle Eric LeGrand. During Saturday's game against Army at the New Meadowlands Stadium, LeGrand ran down the field on kickoff coverage with 5 minutes and change left in the game and delivered a tackle to the Army return man Malcolm Brown. He laid on the ground motionless and was carted off the field.

Yesterday, everyone's worst fears became reality when they announced that LeGrand underwent emergency spinal cord surgery and it was determined that he is now paralyzed from the neck down.

In a sport as violent as football its a wonder more serious injuries don't occur every day. However, when it does its always a shock. Eric LeGrand, a 6'3" 263 pound junior from Avenal, New Jersey is currently in the Intensive Care Unit at Hackensack University Medical Center.

Fans who wish to send Eric LeGrand a message can do so by clicking here thanks to a website set up by Rutgers University. I'm not sure what one says to a young man who loved the game of football as much as he did, and who now has now has to make sense of this tragedy, but for those of you who are able to find the words you can click here and send them directly to him.

Scores from around the Big East:
West Virginia defeated South Florida 20-6 in a Thursday night match up. BJ Daniels followed up his awful performance against the cuse with an even worse one. Daniels threw 3 interceptions on 20 of 30 passing for just 119 yards. He ran for 4 yards as well. West Virginia is now 5-1 overall (1-0 Big East) and ranked 20th in both polls. Next week West Virginia will host Syracuse at 12 noon on ESPN2. South Florida (3-3 overall, 0-2 Big East) will travel to Cincinnati for a Friday night game.

Speaking of Cincinnati, they won a shootout against Louisville 35-27 on the road. Zach Collaros threw for 5 touchdowns (and 2 interceptions) on 18 of 28 pasing attempts for 275 yards for Cinci. Isaiah Pead ran for 145 yards on 21 carries for the Bearcats, and Bilal Powell ran for 209 yards and 2TDs for Louisville. Armon Binns caught 8 balls for 175 yards and 3 TDs for Cinci as well. Louisville will host UCONN at home Saturday at 3:30PM on ESPNU.

Finally Rutgers defeated Army in overtime 23-20 in East Rutherford, NJ. Rutgers will travel to Pittsburgh on Saturday for a noon kickoff.

Current Big East Standings:
1. West virginia 5-1 (1-0)
2. Rutgers 4-2 (1-0)
3. Cincinnati 3-3 (1-0)
4. Pittsburgh 3-3 (1-0)
5. SYRACUSE 4-2 (1-1)
6. Connecticut 3-3 (0-1)
7. Louisville 3-3 (0-1)
8. South Florida 3-3 (0-2)

Syracuse's loss drops them from 1st place down to 5th place in the Big East standings.

Pittsburgh Outclasses Syracuse, Defeats Orangemen 45-14


PITTSBURGH 45
SYRACUSE 14

In front of 40,168 orange-clad Syracuse fans, the Syracuse Orangemen were absolutely dominated in every facet of the game by the Pittsburgh Panthers. There were very few bright spots on this Saturday afternoon, and the loss dropped Syracuse from first place in the Big East back down into reality. Syracuse is now 4-2 on the year, 1-1 in the Big East.

Clearly, Syracuse was not ready to take the next step against Pittsburgh on this Saturday afternoon. After the Orangemen went three and out to open the game, the Panthers scored on their very first play from scrimmage, a 79 yard touchdown pass from Tino Sunseri to Devin Street. Just like that all the excitement and momentum the cuse had been gaining over the first six weeks of the college football season were seemingly zapped from the Dome in that instant.

Syracuse would respond with a touchdown drive of their own to tie the score at 7-7. Alec Lemon caught a 41 yard pass from Ryan Nassib to bring the Orangemen down to the Pittsburgh 13 yard line. From there Delone Carter banged into the Pittsburgh end zone to tie the game. Syracuse's timely response gave Orange fans everywhere a reason to believe again, although it would be short lived.

After Syracuse and Pittsburgh exchanged three and out drives, Syracuse was held to a punt again by the Panther's defense. This time the punt coverage unit for the cuse couldn't answer the call. Pitt ran the ball down to the Syracuse 20 yard line on the return and a 14 yard touchdown pass from Sunseri to Ray Graham with under a minute left in the 1st quarter would give Pittsburgh the lead for good. The game would never be in doubt again.

The Panthers would score three more touchdowns before Syracuse got on the board again in the 4th quarter. The Orangemen had chances to get back into the game, but every time the cuse crossed into Pitt territory, there was a fumble or an interception waiting for them on the other side. In total, Syracuse turned the ball over four times, compared to zero for Pitt.

Ryan Nassib had one of his worst days of the season on Saturday, and he was not alone. Nassib finished the afternoon with 25 of 46 completions, 231 yards 1TD and 2INTs. One of the interceptions opened the 2nd half scoring for Pitt when it was returned 80 yards by Ricky Gary for a Pittsburgh touchdown. Additionally, Delone Carter rushed for just 38 yards on 13 carries and 1TD. Bailey added 25 yards on 7 attempts with 13 receiving yards on 3 catches. Syracuse's dynamic running back duo was completely shut down.

With the lack of a running game, and Ryan Nassib having one of his worst showings of his young career, Syracuse's defense was forced onto the field with very little time on the sidelines. The Orangemen were just 4 of 13 on 3rd down attempts. Syracuse was out hit, out run, out coached, out everything'd in this game.

Syracuse fans watching the game Saturday were left scratching their heads wondering if SU addressed how to tackle in practice last week. Well fear not cuse fans, because I can assure you that they will certainly be working on tackling much of this week! Pittsburgh knew Syracuse's weakness was in the secondary and they exploited it all afternoon. Sunseri finished the day 17 of 24 passing attempts for 266 yards 4TDs and no picks.

Additionally, Dion Lewis torched Syracuse all afternoon, running for 80 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. After a week of shutting down the South Florida Bulls offense on the road in Tampa, the Syracuse defense was no where to be found in the Dome. Perhaps it was just a let down game after a huge emotional road win.

At the end of the day it is only 1 loss against a team that everyone had high hopes for at the start of the season. Pittsburgh shined on this day while Syracuse reverted back into its former self. Still, Syracuse is only three wins away from clinching a Bowl Game appearance for the first time since 2004, and with six games remaining on the schedule Syracuse fans can still be hopeful that we can get there.

A few game notes now:
  • Michael Hay (#74), who I have been hard on, had one of his best games of the season. The entire offensive line did their best job protecting against the pass rush this year.
  • What are the odds that #85 on both teams is named Cruz?
  • After promoting the Homecoming football game all week (or Orange Central) Syracuse still couldn't manage to sell out the football game. Not sure what its going to take to win back the hearts and minds of the locals.
  • Delone Carter's 1st quarter touchdown gave him 21 for his career. That ties Carter with Malcolm Thomas for 9th on Syracuse's all-time rushing TD list.
  • Doug Hogue had a career high 12 tackles and Derrell Smith tied his career best with 9 solo tackles. Of course this was a result of them being on the field all afternoon.

Syracuse's schedule will not get any easier going forward. From here, the Orangemen will travel to Morgantown to take on #20 West Virginia. The game will be televised on ESPN2 live at 12:00PM.

photo courtesy of syracuse.com

Friday, October 15, 2010

UPDATE: DaShonte Riley to Have Surgery, Out for Season

As many expected DaShonte Riley will undergo surgery next week for his injured foot and will likely miss the entire season. In the event that he does miss the year he will be eligible for a medical redshirt. More later on this loss for the Orangemen, who have lost the 7 foot sophomore for what is likely the season.

Fundraising Drive at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician

Just wanted to give all The Cuse Connection folks a heads up. The readers over at Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician have been collecting donations all day to send kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Syracuse to the homecoming football game Saturday. In what started out as one fan (username: menotti) wanting to donate a few tickets to some kids has grown into over $1000 donated to send 22 kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Syracuse plus 10 kids from Southwest Community Center to the game with free tickets and "Orange Out" t-shirts for all the kids, along with some money for some Dome Dogs.

Please follow this link to take you to the page where you can get all the information you need to help along this righteous cause. Give as much or as little as you can. All the details are available there. CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE DONATION INFORMATION PAGE!

Make some kids happy and help fill the Dome for the biggest home football game in years! This one fan has done more good for the SU football program this afternoon than Greg Robinson did as the head coach for 4 seasons on the Hill!

Friday News and Notes:


Homecoming weekend is officially underway today, although the awkwardness of "Orange Central" has been going on all week. As Syracuse University's alumni make their way back to the Hill, they will be looking forward to a weekend of drinking, fine pitas, and of course Syracuse Football.

There are three distinguished alumni coming back for this weekend and they will not be in town strictly for the football game. Jonny Flynn, Wes Johnson and NBA journeyman Jason Hart will be in the Carrier Dome tonight for a homecoming of their own. All three are currently on the Minnesota Timberwolves roster, although Hart is there on a try-out basis. The 'Wolves will be taking on the Detroit Pistons. Tip-off is at 7:30PM and Jason Hart and Wes Johnson will be taking to the 'Jim Boeheim Court' for a preseason NBA game. Unfortunately JFlynn is being held out due to injury.

For those young fans out there Jason Hart was a true pleasure to watch on the court. He currently ranks as the all-time leader in steals and 2nd in assists to Sherman Douglas. Jason Hart came to campus in time for the 1996/97 season. He replaced Lazarus Sims (who graduated) as the starting point guard in his freshman year. He would remain a starter all four years. The 1999/2000 team lead by seniors Hart, Etan Thomas and Ryan Blackwell started the year 19-0 and wound up losing to the eventual National Champions Michigan State in the Sweet 16. For the fans who grew up watching Hart, who is also current SU point guard Brandon Triche's cousin, it will be a great chance to show their respects for one of the great competitors and defenders in SU hoops history.

For those fans driving to the games at the Dome this weekend, there is some roadwork they will want to be aware of. According to Syracuse.com there's construction on i-81 south (which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone). There will be construction, there will be lane reductions, and there will be encouragement to take i-481 south around the city to the Brighton Avenue exit. They then advise fans to follow signs for Dome parking. Also the on ramp to i-81 north to i-690 is closed for when fans are leaving the game.

Remember fans, the Homecoming game is on at 12 noon Saturday. The Syracuse Orangemen v. The Pittsburgh Panthers. Televised live on SNY the Big East Network. Although if you live in the Syracuse area the only way to truly watch the game is inside the Carrier Dome where tickets are still available. Rumors on the internet are gathering that the Dome expects to reach 40,000 tickets sold sometime today. Don't be afraid to walk up on the day of the game and buy a ticket! Also, remember to wear orange, as its an 'orange out'.

LETS GO ORANGE!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Orangemen v. Pittsburgh: Homecoming 2010


This Saturday at 12PM in the Carrier Dome the Syracuse Orangemen will be hosting the Pittsburgh Panthers in a Big East conference showdown. The game caps off a week long series of events titled "Orange Central," however us real fans know that it is indeed Homecoming weekend. As the school's long list of distinguished alumni make their way back to campus for a fun filled weekend of debauchery and Max Weinberg, we can once again look to the football team as a source of pride for the Syracuse community.

The Orangemen are returning to the Dome after a tremendous win at the University of South Florida, which propelled their record to 4-1 for the first time since the 1999 season. The three headed monster of Ryan Nassib, Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey lead Syracuse on a 98 yard 14 play touchdown drive in the 4th quarter, and Syracuse's defense held on to give syracuse a 13-9 win and a much needed conference road victory. The win left the Syracuse Orangemen alone at first place in the Big East!

The Pittsburgh Panthers come into the Dome after losing on the road in South Bend last weekend, 23-17 to the hated Notre Dame Fightin' Irish. The loss dropped the Panthers to just 2-3 on the season. This will be the first Big East game of the season for Pittsburgh, who were many experts pre-season pick to finish first in the conference. The Panthers were preseason ranked 15th in both the USA Today and AP polls. They have since dropped from the rankings.

Pittsburgh is lead into the Dome by sophomore QB Tino Sunseri. In his first season under center, Sunseri has completed 90 of 139 passing attempts for 961 yards and 5 TDs. He has also thrown 3 interceptions and been sacked 9 times. Last weekend against Notre Dame Sunseri was 27 of 39 for 272 yards with 1TD and 1INT in the loss. He also ran for 1 TD, so Syracuse's defense will have to contain Sunseri in the pocket, much like they accomplished last weekend when they were faced with USF quarterback B.J. Daniels.

On the ground Pittsburgh has Ray Graham and Dion Lewis taking the carries. Each has 60 rushing attempts, however Ray Graham has been the more productive back thus far this season with 536 yards and 5TDs compared to Lewis' 206 yards and 2TDs. In the air Pittsburgh's #1 receiver is Jon Baldwin. Baldwin has 24 catches for 322 yards and at team leading 3 receiving TDs. Mike Shanahan has 19 catches for 239 yards and Devin Street is another WR target for Sunseri, 9 catches for 113 yards.

Last weekend, Syracuse was catapulted into respectability primarily because of their defensive performance. Max Suter's 8 tackles (six solo, three for a loss, and a sack) earned him Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors, and Shamarko Thomas contributed 6 tackles and a sack. Both Da'Mon Merkerson and Jeremi Wikles each had an interception and Syracuse's defense looked stronger than it has at any point this half of the decade. Each time they were asked to make a big stop, they provided the pressure and got SU the ball back. It will take another great all around effort from the defense in order for Syracuse to be successful on Saturday.

The game will be televised live on the Big East Network (aka SNY), although it is STRONGLY suggested that if you live in the Syracuse area that you ATTEND the game! There are plenty of tickets and good deals still available for SU fans which should enable fans to make it inside the Dome. If you go, make some NOISE! If someone asks you to sit down on 3rd and long tell them "politely" to STAND UP and cheer! Also, if you are attending the game be sure to wear ORANGE! I'm not sure why we have to tell people that, but regardless, get it done!! It's an ORANGE OUT!

[The t-shirt pictured above I received Homecoming weekend 2002 during my freshman year. Back then they weren't afraid to call Homecoming "Homecoming"]


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dave Wannstedt Wins Big East Celebrity Look-a-Like Contest

Well the results are in and its good news for the University of Pittsburgh. Dave Wannstedt finally put his mustache to good use and took 1st place in the Celebrity Look-a-Like contest with Dennis Farina, star of stage and screen. Farina has stared in such movies as Snatch, Get Shorty, Saving Private Ryan and Midnight Run. His career has spanned nearly three decades.

Dennis Farina was not immediately available for comment. No word on whether or not Dave Wannstedt will have his 1st place trophy with him on the sidelines this Saturday when Pittsburgh travels to Syracuse to take on the Orangemen on Homecoming Weekend.


Tickets are still available by calling the Dome box office (1-888-DOMETIX) or going to suathletics.com. Word is starting to spread that only 35,474 tickets have been sold thus far. Fans in the Syracuse area please try and do everything in your powers to attend this Saturday's game at 12:00. If Syracuse wants to dominate at home than they are going to need their fans behind them. Making some noise. They need everyone tuned into the game. Go support the defense that gave so much last week, pulling out a much needed win in Tampa. You will not be disappointed.

Also, there are Orange Out the Dome t-shirts on sale at Manny's this week for the upcoming game. They look very fresh, $9.98 plus shipping. T-shirts were designed by Michael Borkowski who does a tremendous job each week drawing SU sketches, among many other projects.

Isn't it funny that Syracuse has to actually tell people to orange out the dome? People who aren't wearing jerseys should be required by law to wear orange into the Dome!