Doug Marrone made big strides in his second year at the helm of the Syracuse Orange and led them to an 8-4 record and a bowl victory. After such a surprising season it was only natural for a bit of a letdown in year three for Marrone. For starters, Syracuse had to replace the Big East's third leading rusher as Delone Carter and his 1,233 yards used up their eligibility in 2010. The real kicker was the off field issues for the Orange (including their third place finish in the Fulmer Cup). With those distractions we picked Syracuse to finish 7th in the Big East (Phil Steele picked them dead last).
Syracuse started out the season looking like they would make us look silly. They won five of their first seven games despite sometimes useing smoke and mirrors to do so. Two of their wins came in OT (against Wake Forest and a controversial win against Toledo) and one came by only 3 points against lowly Tulane. But it wasn't all smoke and mirrors in the first seven games. They also lined up and smacked our pre-season Big East favorite, West Virginia, right in the kisser with a 49-23 victory. Unfortunately, the highlight win of the season for the Orange was also their turning point. After beating the Fighting Holgersens, the Orange lost their last five games to finish 5-7 and on the outside looking in on the bowls. We caught up with Brian Harrison of the Syracuse based blog Orange::44 to gather some intel on the Orange.
CFBZ: Syracuse was 4-3 in the Big East in 2010 but went just 1-6 this year. What was the biggest reason for the lack of success the Orange had this year in conference?
Orange::44: The defense was not nearly as strong as last season. While the offensive output was basically about the same, the secondary played worse than last season and we lost major power at linebacker. Syracuse struggled to stop the run or the pass and only did so due to missed execution or luck from the opponent. The offense didn’t help in a lot of situations, but the defense kept games alive last year. They didn’t do it nearly as often this season.
CFBZ: I would call Doug Marrone's tenure at Syracuse a success thus far. Now that he's been in charge for three years what is the one thing you think he needs to do a better job at?
Orange::44: I’m very happy overall with the direction of the program and what Marrone stands for. He definitely needs to improve in games however. He plays an extremely conservative brand of offense and is very conservative when it comes to late game decisions, especially when playing from behind. While there is nothing wrong with being a bit conservative in theory, you cannot catch up and overtake a team from behind playing that conservative late in a game. Give your team a chance to win.
CFBZ: What is the lasting memory you will have of this season?
Orange::44: It has to be the massive regression and missed opportunities Syracuse squandered during the season. I need more than one hand to count the amount of crucial drops that would have resulted in scores or 4th down Red Zone conversions.
CFBZ: QB Ryan Nassib will be back for one more season but he was the only QB to throw a pass this season. Who is waiting in the wings to take over for him or fill in if needed?
Orange::44: Behind him is Charlie Loeb, known affectionately to SU fans as RGLCL (Ridiculously Good Looking Charlie Loeb). Dude could be in an Abercrombie catalog. He’s only been in probably two or three actual game series over the past couple of years. Reports out of practice is that he’s capable but he is very unproven and will remain the backup with Nassib playing.
CFBZ: What do you see as the biggest opportunities for Syracuse going into the off-season?
Orange::44: Recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. Syracuse needs better talent on the field. Only way to do that is hit the trail early and often. With no bowl game to prepare for, Marrone can’t give extra practice to the team, but he can personally go and try to get talented kids to come to Syracuse. That is the best way for Syracuse to get better right now.
Previous 2011 Exit Surveys
ACC- Miami Hurricanes
Big East- UConn Huskies