Winless Syracuse wary of FCS power Stony Brook
Syracuse coach Doug Marrone scowled at the thought of his Orange having a letdown against Stony Brook.
''How do you have a letdown when you haven't won a game?'' Marrone said.
Coming off consecutive losses to Northwestern (42-41) and No. 2 Southern California (42-29) to start the season, Syracuse isn't likely to take Stony Brook (2-0) lightly. The Seawolves may play at the second level of Division I, but they're ranked No. 16 in the latest poll and are ready to test their mettle against the Orange on Saturday in the Carrier Dome.
''I think we're going to come out and play hard,'' said Stony Brook wideout Adrian Coxson, a transfer from Maryland. ''Of course, everybody's expecting us to lose, but we have a chance. We've got very good players.''
Syracuse has won its last 28 games against current members of the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA, a streak that dates to a 14-13 loss to Holy Cross in October 1958.
No cause for concern, right?
''Sometimes, you have to watch yourself,'' Marrone said. ''There comes an opponent that everybody's saying that you should beat because you've already shown that you are this type of team. That's when I think you have to be leery.''
The Seawolves are 0-3 against FBS opponents, with two of the losses - to UTEP (31-24 in overtime) and Buffalo (35-7) - coming in the first two games of 2011 and the other in 2010 at South Florida (59-14).
''Certainly, we're going to be challenged,'' Stony Brook coach Chuck Priore said. ''We've got to handle the adversity of playing away. We've got to handle the adversity of playing indoors from a noise perspective, and we're going to have to handle the speed of the game change. I think, physically, we match up OK. It comes down to the scholarships they have. Certainly, the depth is a concern. But we're excited about getting an idea of where this team falls as a program.''
The Orange are 9-0 in the Carrier Dome against FCS foes and anxious to snap a long losing streak - seven straight - that dates to last season.
''We're still an 0-2 team, we're still looking for our first win,'' said Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, second in the nation in per-game completions (37.5) and passing yards (802). ''That's our main priority now, do whatever we can to win. Getting our first win proves to ourselves that we can do this.''
Stony Brook is competing for the last time in the Big South, where it has won three straight conference championships. Next year, the Seawolves will join the Colonial Athletic Association, one of the strongest FCS leagues in the nation. They seem more than ready for the move right now.
Stony Brook had 521 rushing yards in a 77-7 win over Division II Pace a week ago, giving the Seawolves their first 2-0 start in five years. They outgained Pace 603 to 104, allowed just nine first downs, and scored touchdowns on their first 10 possessions. Running back Marcus Coker, a transfer from Iowa, and Miguel Maysonet have combined for 380 yards and seven touchdowns already, and Maysonet led the Big South with 1,633 yards last season.
''We have to tackle well,'' Marrone said. ''When those players get the ball on the perimeter, they have the speed to take it to the house. Their offensive line is actually bigger than our offensive line (Stony Brook's averages 305 pounds). We're going to have to play well. With those backs, they have the opportunity to wear you down.''
Syracuse's Achilles' heel has been its special teams, which Marrone oversees this year. The Orange rank last nationally in punt-return defense, allowing over 44 yards per return, and next to last in net punting with an average of 18.56 yards.
Against Northwestern, the Orange allowed an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown by Venric Mark, and he also had a 52-yard punt return that set up another score. Last week, Robert Woods returned a punt 31 yards to set up a touchdown in the fourth quarter as USC pulled away late in a game that, surprisingly, was very close for three quarters.
The loss continued a forgettable slide that began last October. The Orange are anxious to get something good started.
''I'm real eager to get our first win,'' said wideout Marcus Sales, who leads Syracuse with 20 receptions after being suspended for all of 2011 because of drug charges that were eventually dropped. ''Not playing in two years and still not having a win, I feel like our goal is not accomplished until we get a win.''