Syracuse: 3 more games to get it right
With two straight losses, all of a sudden the pressure is starting to build for the Syracuse Orange. They need one win to become eligible for a bowl game, and there are just three games left to get it.
So far, the Orange (5-4, 1-3 Big East) are 0 for 2 in their quest to reach the postseason after losing 28-21 on Saturday at Connecticut. That sixth win isn't coming easy for this team.
''Am I down? Absolutely,'' coach Doug Marrone said Monday. ''Am I upset? Yes. But I need to move on.''
A year ago, Syracuse went 4-0 on the road in the Big East, played in its first bowl game since 2004, and finished the season 8-5 after beating Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Things haven't gone so smoothly this time around. The Orange are winless in two games on the road in the conference, falling to Louisville and Connecticut. Syracuse lost 28-21 on Saturday to the Huskies, led by former Orange coach Paul Pasqualoni.
''It's very difficult for everybody, and what you have to do is you have to manage all the things that are around you, all the outside influences,'' Marrone said. ''You have to understand that we're on a mission. Our goal is to make sure we create a foundation where we're competitive year in and year out.
''There's adversity when you're talking about going through this transition. How we react to things is the most important thing.''
Despite the damper the latest losses have placed on the season, Marrone said his players were coping well.
''You learn about who's accountable and who's not,'' he said. ''Sometimes you learn more about people through these tough times than you do through the good times. You don't want to have that happen to find out, but when it happens that's the one thing you look at. Right now, there's no sign of that on this football team.''
That's a good sign considering what happened against Connecticut: Nick Williams found a lane on the right side of the field and returned the opening kickoff to the Syracuse 33-yard line to set up the game's first touchdown; the Huskies had five first-half turnovers, including two interceptions by Big East leader Phillip Thomas, and Syracuse netted zero points on them; and UConn scored the decisive touchdown late in the fourth quarter after intercepting Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib for the second time.
''You look around the country, momentum swings, there's a touchdown on a kickoff, a missed opportunity to score, turnovers come into play,'' Marrone said. ''It still goes back to the same thing - it comes down to how you play that game, what you do and how do you take advantage. It's just the opportunities that come, you have to be able to play every step all the time.''
At least the Orange are back home this week. They face South Florida (4-4, 0-4) on Friday night, then have a bye week before hosting current Big East leader Cincinnati.
''We're coming off the road for two weeks,'' Marrone said. ''From that standpoint, you'd think that would help. We'll get a little more rest. Whether you're going on vacation or not, travel still wears you (down) a little bit. But I think once they get out there, the adrenaline and the emotion that's going to happen for both teams, I think that'll take it right out.
''South Florida is in the same situation. They've got to get back on track.''
Note: Syracuse wideout Alec Lemon was named to the Big East weekly honor roll. He caught nine passes for a career-high 157 yards and one touchdown against UConn and leads the team with 47 receptions for 531 yards.