The “Old Gold and Black” invades Orange Country

Syracuse starts the 2011 regular season at home against Wake Forest, and Doug Marrone and company hope to open strong by shedding their woes at home.

Syracuse University’s first bowl win in nine years ushered in a new era for the Orange, or at least, fan hope it did. The win came in the inaugural after a controversial penalty helped SU hold on to beat Kansas State, earning them an 8-5 record, the program’s best finish since 2001.

Doug MarroneBut while SU fulfilled two big goals in 2010 by finishing above .500 and winning a bowl game, head coach Doug Marrone has his eyes set on winning consistently.

“We are trying to change the culture of our football program so that a couple of years from now I am going to stand up and say we have done this and we have done that and recent history will be on our side,” Marrone said in his press conference Saturday. “That is the greatest challenge we have as a program.”

Thursday marks the first opportunity for SU to continue moving forward as Wake Forest University visits the Carrier Dome for a primetime game on A home game against a team that finished 3-9 last season is hardly a test, but considering SU’s lackluster record against the Atlantic Coast Conference, Wake certainly offers a challenge. SU’s last win against an ACC team came in 2003 when Boston College, Miami University, Temple University, and Virginia Tech were still full-fledged members of the Big East. Their losing streak against ACC teams at home stretches much farther.

Marrone hopes to return to the days when teams feared visiting the Dome. The squad’s lone home wins last season came against a pair of Division I Football Championship Subdivision teams, Maine and Colgate.

“What I think we forget sometimes, or take for granted, is that from 1983-2004 we never had a losing record at home,” Marrone said. “That is what we want to do with this football program is get back to that consistency that we had shown in the ‘80s and ‘90s with our program.”

For the Orange to start the 2011 campaign strong at home, though, the defense needs to pressure Wake’s quarterback Tanner Price early and often. Price started nine games for the Demon Deacons last season as a true freshman. Much of Wake’s success will depend on how he develops in his second senior under center.

Price will be protected by an experienced offensive line composed of four seniors and one junior. Syracuse right end senior, Chandler Jones, should command much of their attention. Jones led the team with 4.0 sacks last season and made 9.5 tackles for a loss, second only to former-linebacker Doug Hogue.

Mikhail Marinovich (Sr., left end), Marquis Spruill (So., MLB), Phillip Thomas (Jr., FS), and Shamarko Thomas (So., SS) join Jones as the only returning starters on SU’s defense.

But the rest of the defense won’t just be a group of underclassmen as seniors Dan Vaughn (LOLB), Kevyn Scott (CB), and Deon Goggins (NT) take over as starters. Marrone expects the competition for starting nose tackle to continue into the regular season.

“The last scrimmage we had, the Ernie Davis scrimmage, he really played well,” Marrone said of Goggins. “It is almost like that is when the light came on and you are hoping that light stays on. We are excited because we needed him to step up, but we will have a lot of people playing in that position until someone emerges or someone who deserves more playing time.”

Senior quarterback Ryan Nassib leads an offensive unit returning eight starters. Antwon Bailey (Sr., RB) adds a dual-threat to the offense in taking the place of Delone Carter. As Carter’s backup in 2010, Bailey rushed for 554 yards and pulled in 35 receptions, second to senior wideout Van Chew.

The offense faces a 3-4 defense led by Kyle Wilber (Sr., ROLB). Wilber shined with the new scheme last season, leading the team with 6.0 sacks. SU’s offensive line will have a difficult time containing Wilber, but if they can, it should put them in a good position to win.

While Wake may not have finished with the best record last season, Marrone won’t take them lightly.

“I think the scenario of a team coming off a disappointing season; they will be ready to play,” he said of the Demon Deacons. “A team coming off a winning season, it really does not mean that much to us right now what we did last year. It is what we have been preparing for and how we have been preparing for Thursday night. That is what we have been trying to focus on with our players.”

Syracuse vs. Wake Forest, Thursday at 8 p.m. in the Carrier Dome


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