Tag Archives: Syracuse bowl game

Syracuse Football Season on Life Support

In football, there can be such a thin line between winning and losing. As the Syracuse football team has found out on a number of occasions this season, the plays that decide a game don’t always happen at the end of games; they can happen at anytime. In the Orange’s third game of the season, Terrel Hunt threw a pick-six in the red zone late in the 2nd quarter, creating a 14-point turnaround and turning what could have been a four-point halftime deficit into an 18-point deficit in a game Syracuse lost by 14 points. The Orange fell victim to similar circumstances in their most recent loss, as Syracuse looked poised to extend their lead to either eight or 12 points over N.C. State before a pick-six thrown by A.J. Long halted the Orange’s momentum and handed the Wolf Pack the lead, and ultimately the game.

Those are the two defining plays of the 2014 Syracuse football season. They turned a possible win against Maryland and a probable win against N.C. State into two Syracuse losses. Those two plays are also prime examples of how the Syracuse offense is solely responsible for the teams losing record this season. On those two plays the Orange offense gave away touchdowns to their opponents without giving the Syracuse defensive the opportunity to stop them; a Syracuse defense that has surpassed pre-season expectations and done everything in its power to give the team a chance to win in nearly every game this season, despite receiving little support from the offense. In fact, in Syracuse’s three wins this season, the Syracuse defense has only allowed three touchdowns, while also scoring three touchdowns and recording a safety, which shows just how one-sided the Orange have been this season, even in their victories.

With the propensity of the Orange offense to give games away and their continued inability throughout the season to take advantage of a hard-working defense or capitalize on the takeaways created by the Orange defense, the Syracuse football season is officially on life support. What has been a disappointing and frustrating season to watch unfold can only be salvaged by Syracuse winning its last three games in order to reach 6-6 and qualify for a bowl game. Based on the way the team has played throughout the season, specifically its inability to win competitive games against teams of comparable talent, there’s little hope that the Orange can all of a sudden catch fire and win three in a row. Even head coach Scott Shafer used the word “miracle” to describe the prospect of his team winning its last three games and reaching a bowl game.

Despite Shafer’s optimism after every loss this season and his excitement at the challenge of winning three straight games to close out the season, his use of the word “miracle” speaks to how seemingly hopeless the situation is in which Syracuse finds itself. Shafer’s constant enthusiasm has also masked the fact that he has simply not had the answers necessary to get the Orange’s season turned around. This makes it hard to believe he’ll find those answers in time to save Syracuse’s season, as the Orange’s bowl hopes may very well die on the Carrier Dome turf this week against Duke, a loss which would cap off an embarrassing 1-5 home campaign.

Of course, three wins in three games is possible for any football team, and there are things the Orange can do to put themselves on the right side of the thin line that separates winning and losing. Even one or two wins over the final three games would give Syracuse a better taste in their mouth heading into the offseason and a bit more optimism for the future, especially considering the injuries the team has suffered and all the young players that have been forced into action. But coming up a win or two shy of a bowl game would also make the Orange kick themselves all offseason at the times they found a way to lose a game instead of finding a way to win a game. It’s that small collection of game-deciding plays that has caused the Syracuse football season to be put on life support heading into the final three games, needing a miracle to survive.

Syracuse Must Spring An October Upset

With the Syracuse football team suffering back-to-back losses, and a brutal October schedule ahead of them, the Orange are approaching a danger zone, as it pertains to reaching a bowl game for the fourth time in five years. At 2-2, there is a distinct possibility that the Orange could fall to 3-5 by the time their schedule starts to get somewhat more manageable in November, leaving them with a small margin of error over the final month of the season. The only remedy for this would be for Syracuse to pull off an upset over one of the three big-time opponents on its schedule in October: Louisville, Florida State, or Clemson.
In November, the Orange will play home games against N.C. State and Duke before finishing the season with road games against Pittsburgh and Boston College. It stands to reason that Syracuse can split those four games, as all four games will likely be tossups on paper. However, without pulling an upset in October, the Orange will have to win three games in November in order to qualify for a bowl, assuming Syracuse wins an October road game against Wake Forest, a team they should be favored to beat. The Orange pulled off a 4th quarter comeback in its final regular season game last year to reach a bowl game, but to avoid putting themselves in a similar situation this year, Syracuse must pull off a surprise upset in October.
In order to pull off an October upset over Louisville, Florida State or Clemson, the Syracuse offense must show considerable improvement. The Orange defense has been fine and done its part to put the team in position to win games. Outside of allowing a few big plays the last couple of weeks, which are bound to happen to any defense that’s as aggressive as the Syracuse defense, the Orange have been solid defensively. The issue is the inconsistency of the Syracuse offense, which has they’ve failed to finish drives and capitalize on opportunities. Now, the Orange offense appears to be banged up, with a slew of injuries, both small and significant, to several key players. But to pull of the upset they need, the Orange will have to overcome those injuries and start putting points on the board with more regularity in support of a defense that’s held up its end of the bargain.
The best chance Syracuse has to get the win they covet could be this week at home against Louisville. The Cardinals are 4-1 on the season, but they’ve had some ups and downs this year and are coming off a rather unimpressive victory of Wake Forest. Bobby Petrino’s team may also have to rely on true freshman quarterback Reggie Bonnafon if Will Gardner doesn’t return from injury by Friday night. An aggressive Syracuse defense inside the Carrier Dome against a true freshman quarterback making his second career start is a scenario that would certainly favor the Orange. However, Louisville has one of the best defenses in the country through the first month of the season, which could make it tough for the Orange offense to get going, as they try to pull off an upset of the Cardinals.
The next opportunity for an upset will come the following week at home against Florida State. Most would have counted this one in the loss column for Syracuse before the season started, but the Seminoles have looked a little vulnerable this year and haven’t exactly looked the part of the top team in the country. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that the Orange will have to play close to perfect just to have a chance against Florida State. There is some glimmer of hope in that the Seminoles could take Syracuse lightly or look ahead to a showdown with Notre Dame the following week, which could open the door for the Orange to make things interesting.
Finally, the Orange will close out October with a trip to Clemson, which is arguably the toughest road venue in the ACC. The Tiger’s defense hasn’t quite lived up to its preseason billing, but it does return many of the players that made it difficult for Syracuse to put points on the board last season against Clemson. While this game is nearly a month away, it could be another game that puts too much pressure on the Syracuse defense if the Orange offense doesn’t show substantial improvement between now and then. Otherwise, this could be the toughest game on Syracuse’s October schedule.
Mathematically, it’s possible for Syracuse to reach six wins and become bowl eligible without beat Louisville, Florida State, or Clemson. With a 2-2 record at the end of September, Syracuse can reach a bowl game with a 4-4 record in ACC play, which is the same record they had last season. However, without pulling off an upset over one of the ACC’s top teams in October, the Orange will have a substantial amount of work to do in November. Moreover, it may be difficult for the Orange to overcome the psychological burden of entering November with a 3-5 record, especially if they suffer one or more blowout losses in October. Thus, for Syracuse to create a manageable schedule in November and give themselves some confidence after three sub-par performances over the first four games of the season, the Orange must find a way to pull off an upset at some point in October; otherwise, Syracuse runs the risk of their season getting away from them.