In second season, Marrone has Syracuse near a bowl
Syracuse suddenly is playing for more than its first bowl since
With Pittsburgh’s loss to Connecticut on Thursday night, Doug
Marrone and his Orange (6-3, 3-2 Big East) are a loss behind the
Panthers in the race for the conference title heading into
Saturday’s game at Rutgers (4-4, 1-2).
Not bad for a team picked to finish next to last in the
preseason conference poll.
However, the conference has been very competitive and things can
change quickly. Rutgers, after all, looked like it was on the road
to a sixth straight bowl berth a couple of weeks ago after a win
over Army. But it has dropped consecutive games to Pittsburgh and
South Florida and now faces the prospect of needing to win two of
its final four games to become eligible.
Syracuse still needs to win a game to become eligible since two
of its wins in Marrone’s second season were vs. FCS opponents. The
Orange missed a chance to do so last week, dropping a 28-20
decision at home to Louisville.
”It is on everyone’s mind, but I don’t think there’s as much
talk as there was last week,” Syracuse defensive tackle Andrew
Lewis said. ”I don’t want to say we took our eyes off the prize,
or that we forgot what was important, but, really, we just want to
win. If we handle a win this week, a win next week and the week
after, then a bowl game is inevitable. That’s just the mindset that
this team has right now.”
Syracuse’s schedule after Rutgers is not easy, with Connecticut
and Boston College at home.
”There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to get that
seventh win,” Orange linebacker Doug Hogue said. ”We’ve just got
to make sure we play harder. We just didn’t get the job done
Syracuse has won all three conference road games this season,
beating South Florida, West Virginia and Cincinnati. The Orange’s
lone road loss was a bad one – 41-20 at Washington – in the second
game. But they also won at Akron in the season opener.
Rutgers has struggled at home, losing to North Carolina and
Tulane. The Scarlet Knights even sputtered against Norfolk State
for a half in the season opener.
While the Scarlet Knights have beaten Syracuse three straight
times at home, the Orange snapped a four-game losing streak against
Rutgers last season with a 31-13 win at the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse sacked then-starter Tom Savage nine times, tying a
school record. That does not bode well for current starter Chas
Dodd, who replaced an injured Savage four games ago. Rutgers has
allowed 35 sacks this season and is ranked last in the NCAA for
sacks allowed per game.
After watching cutups of last year’s game, Dodd knows Syracuse
is going to blitz … a lot.
”It’s just a matter of preparing mentally for it,” said Dodd,
who has spoken with Savage about dealing with the pressure, ”and
knowing what you have to do and what to look for.”
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said the Orange blitz as much as 60
”They believe it. They do it,” Schiano said. ”They don’t care
what you are in. Certainly, we experienced it last year, not very
successfully for our part. We are trying to prepare for that.”
Syracuse’s last bowl was the Champs Sports, where they lost
51-14 to Georgia Tech on Dec. 21, 2004. Coach Paul Pasqualoni was
fired after the season and replaced by Greg Robinson, who posted a
10-37 record in four seasons.
But Marrone is on the verge of making all those painful memories
”It’s like night and day, night and day,” Lewis said. ”I
can’t really put my finger on just one thing, but the biggest thing
that stands out is the collectiveness of the team. We all come
together as one. That’s different from years past.”
AP Sports Writer John Kekis in Syracuse contributed to this