Syracuse football: Midseason report

Midway through the 2011 football season, Syracuse sits in prime position for another bowl-worthy season.

This year's Syracuse football team can be described simply as heart-stopping.

Just look at the evidence. Throwing out a loss at Southern Cal, three games have gone to overtime, another came down to the final play, and the fifth required a Phillip Thomas interception with 1:36 remaining on the clock. It's been a roller-coaster season full of touchdowns and turnovers, upsets and nearly devastating losses. Here's Newshouse's recap of the Orange's season thus far. 

Photo: McKenzie Carlile
The first six games included a rare trip to California to face USC in a non-conference matchup. It was SU's only nonconference loss in 2011.

Syracuse 36-Wake Forest 29 OT

“In the fourth quarter, we started clicking. Our offense realized the situation we were in and realized we had to start making plays,” Ryan Nassib said after the game.

SU's opening game this year looked like a sure loss as the teams started the fourth quarter. The Demon Deacons, led by quarterback Tanner Price, dominated the game, seemingly moving the ball at will, while stifling the Syracuse offense. The 29-14 score after Wake Forest’s opening drive in the fourth quarter made many fans of the Orange file out of the Carrier Dome. 

That is, until 11:02 remained in the fourth quarter. Then, SU's offense broke loose.

That stagnant Syracuse offense? Gone, as Nassib found Adam Harris for one touchdown, Antwon Bailey rumbled 53 yards for the next and Nassib found Van Chew for the two-point conversion and the tie.  

Price? He was injured, replaced by Ted Stachitas, who not only couldn’t find a rhythm, but also threw an interception that nearly cost the Demon Deacons the game. A missed field goal by Wake Forest at the closing seconds meant the teams were heading to overtime.

Nassib found Chew on a pass to the corner of the endzone, Stachitas threw two straight incompletions, and the Orange left the Dome with an improbable 1-0 record.

Syracuse 21-Rhode Island 14

“It was wonderful," Michael Acchione said of his touchdown, the first in his collegiate career. "Coming from a small town, you have a lot of expectations. The coaches always had my back. The players always motivate me to get better every day. When my time came, I made the most of it.” 

Odds are no one outside of the Acchione family expected Michael to be in that situation against the Rhode Island Rams. After all, the teams were deadlocked at 14 midway through the fourth quarter. Why would the senior walk-on from Solvay, N.Y. even see the field in that situation?

What everyone else didn’t know was that Acchione would make the most critical reception of the game, a 12-yard touchdown reception that put the Orange up for good against the pesky Rams. 

Acchione wasn’t the only player on the offensive side of the ball to have a big day. Nassib threw for a career-high 318 yards and three touchdowns, while Alec Lemon and Chew combined for 18 receptions, 228 yards and two touchdowns.

The offense, though, struggled on third down as the Rams defense recorded nine separate stops on third down.

The last drive for the Rams saw two sacks from Marquis Spruill and an interception by Phillip Thomas to ensure the Orange held on for the win. 

USC 38-Syracuse 17

“We’re all disappointed, but we can’t really dwell on this," Mikhail Marinovich said following the loss. 

Syracuse had no answer for the talent of the Southern California Trojans in this one, as the team couldn’t handle the high-powered offense or defense of the now 4-1 Trojans.

Matt Barkley, the quarterback for the Trojans, torched the Syracuse defense for 324 yards and a school record five touchdown passes to five separate receivers, while not throwing an interception. The Trojans also racked up 501 yards of total offense against the Syracuse defense, including 79 yards by Marc Tyler, the senior running back.

It wasn’t all disappointment for the Orange, however. Nick Provo, the senior tight end with just four catches in the first two games, suddenly exploded for eight receptions. Lemon threw for the first touchdown of his Syracuse career, a wobbly lob that somehow found its way into the arms of Chew. Nassib finished with 230 yards through the air and a touchdown.

In the end, though, the Trojans were too much for the Orange. 

The most shocking news of the weekend, though, came when word broke that Syracuse and Pittsburgh was heading to the Atlantic Coast Conference. By Sunday, the news was official

Syracuse 33-Toledo 30 OT

“It definitely went through," Ross Krautman said in the postgame press conference. "I was nervous, though, when they reviewed it."

After a review, the on-field officials ruled that an extra point attempt by Krautman toward the end of the game was good. Later replays, however, proved that the officials had erred. Krautman actually missed the kick to the left. Toledo filed a protest against the game, arguing that if the kick had not been good, the Rockets would have won. Though the Big East admitted that an error had been made, they did not overturn the victory.

Unfortunately, the kick took away from an entertaining game. Toledo's Eric Page ran amok in the Syracuse secondary, with 13 receptions for 158 yards. Bailey accumulated 114 rushing yards, while back-up Prince-Tyson Gulley added another 66. Kevyn Scott made an unbelievable interception to keep Toledo from scoring in overtime, stepping in front of a pass intended for Bernard Reddy.

So yes, the kick was important. But the game was pretty good, too.

Rutgers 19-Syracuse 16 2OT

“It’s a team game and as a team they got the best of us, so we’re just going to have to come back and work hard, Marinovich said after the heartbreaking defeat. 

It was a tale of missed opportunities. The Orange had a field goal and extra point blocked during regulation. Nassib, who had thrown one interception in the first four games of the season, threw three against Rutgers, along with his lowest yardage total of the season. Bailey, who ran for 124 yards during the game, fumbled twice. 

On the other hand, the defense had a whale of a game against the Scarlet Knights. Dyshawn Davis had one of the hardest hits you’ll ever see on a football field, body-slamming Jawan Jamison to the turf, and forcing a fumble that Ri’Shard Anderson returned for a 66 yard touchdown. Marinovich added his first two sacks of the season, one of which forced a fumble. Phillip Thomas added an interception, and nearly had another that would have led to a sure touchdown.

But in the end, the mistakes were too much for the Orange, who fell to 3-2 after the defeat.

Syracuse 37-Tulane 34

“You can’t ask for much more coming out of this game," Bailey said, courtesy of "We didn’t win big, but we won.”

At least they make it exciting.

Despite running out to a 24-7 lead midway through the second quarter, it took all sixty minutes for the Orange to pull out a victory, as Krautman’s 21-yard kick gave the Orange a 37-34 victory over the Green Wave.

The hero of this game was another relative unknown. Dorian Graham, the senior wide receiver, picked a great time to have his best game of the season. Graham had four catches for 55 yards and two touchdowns and added 22 yards on two carries.

He wasn’t the only member of the Orange to breakout. Bailey had yet another 100-yard effort, going for 111 and a touchdown in the Louisiana Superdome. Don’t forget Jeremiah Kobena either, who averaged 44 yards per kickoff return, and nearly took one 79 yards to the endzone.

After the bye week, Syracuse returns to Big East action, as West Virginia comes to the Carrier Dome on October 21st. The talented Moutaineers have dominated in nearly every contest, save a 6 point victory over Maryland and a 26 point defeat at the hands of top-ranked LSU. The team is also the only current member of the Big East ranked in the AP poll.

It would seem that the Mountaineers have an advantage over the Orange, despite being the away team. But if it's anything like Syracuse's previous six games this season, get ready for a wild one.

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.