Orange looking to tame Black Bears

Syracuse hosts Maine in its home opener Saturday.

College football is experiencing an upheaval. It seems like every week, an upstart from the FCS is upsetting one of the big boys. Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, Kansas and Minnesota have all been victims of this phenomenon. Saturday, Syracuse will try and avoid the upset trend as it hosts Maine in its home opener.

Orange head coach Doug Marrone has been preaching the importance of not overlooking an opponent all week. After trailing the Black Bears at halftime last season, he probably won’t have a hard time getting his players attention.

“If we were a top team that had won consistently for a long period of time some people refer to these games as trap games,” Marrone said. “For us, with the direction we have as a football program, we’re playing the best team in the country this week. That is exactly how it is put to the players and exactly how we prepare for it.”

Coming off a disappointing loss on the road at Washington, Syracuse is also looking to get back on the winning track. The Orange are excited to finally play in front of their home crowd and show Syracuse fans what’s in store for 2010.

“We’re excited to show them what we’ve been working on, and how much we’ve changed for the better,” quarterback Ryan Nassib said. “We’re excited to show what our new offense can do, and the guys on defense, how they made advancements from last year, and really how much we are a different team from last year and previous years.”

The Orange is definitely hoping to be a different team than the one that trailed the Black Bears by four at the half in 2009. Though SU ended up winning by 17, Marrone said the game was much closer than the final score showed.

Running back Delone Carter led the Orange with four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) in that game. As a senior, and having faced Maine before, Carter said it’s his responsibility to make sure his team is focused.

“It’s just being mature in your game and taking it as a professional,” he said. “It’s our responsibility to prepare the same way and go out there and practice just as hard.”

One area of focus for the Orange has been staying home on defense. Last year the Black Bears used a variety of trick plays in an effort to upset Syracuse. Senior linebacker Doug Hogue said the defense has learned from that experience.

“Basically, everything that they did last year worked, and we’ve got to be ready for it,” Hogue said. “Coach Shafer’s going to have us prepared for anything and everything this week. Last year they took us by surprise, but it’s not going to happen again.”

The defense is also looking to rebound from a subpar performance against the Huskies in week two. The Orange gave up 28 second half points and struggled to close out Washington on third down situations.

On the opposite side of the ball, the SU offense is hoping to improve its third down percentage after going just 5-of-16 against the Huskies. Syracuse was able to move the ball fairly well against Washington, but struggled once on the Huskies side of the field.

SU quarterbacks coach and play caller Nathaniel Hackett knows the Orange put themselves in a good positions. He said the offense is still learning, but that they need to convert when they have the opportunity.

“We had some great opportunities … we were moving the ball, we converted a couple of them, then all of sudden we couldn’t get it done,” Hackett said. “Now it’s just how can we get better and better and better and really capitalize and learn off that.”

Saturday’s game is scheduled to kickoff at 7:15 p.m in the Carrier Dome.



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