Here are three highlights from Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone’s press conference on Monday.
One week after getting humbled by Connecticut wildcat quarterback Scott McCummings (13 rushes, 59 yards and two touchdowns), Syracuse will take on South Florida, another team with a mobile quarterback, on Friday. B.J. Daniels is currently ranked 15th nationally in total offense at 308.4 yards per game. But it’s the damage he can do with his feet (55 yards rushing per game and four touchdowns) that will create problems for the Orange. SU should look to last year’s tape to see how to slow him down. In Syracuse’s 13-9 win against the Rams last year, the defense held Daniels to just 9 for 23 passing for 124 yards and -1 yards on 13 rushes.
“It’s very easy to take a receiver out of the game or a tight end, or for a running back, you can put extra guys in the box. But the quarterback has a chance to do a lot of different things, and he’s probably one of the toughest players to defend when he’s multi-talented like B.J. is. So for us, what we have to do is the same thing that worked before – we have to keep mixing things up and keep him uncomfortable. When you’re against a playmaker at quarterback, once he feels comfortable, you’re in for a long day.”
One of the reasons that Syracuse lost to Connecticut was poor field position. Four times, the Orange started with the ball inside its own 20 compared to just once for Connecticut. That’s because SU’s special teams had a particularly difficult day. Punter Jonathan Fisher averaged just 33 yards on his five punts. Kicker Ross Krautman missed his only field goal attempt of the game, booted a kickoff out of bounds and kicked short several other times, allowing dangerous return man Nick Williams to amass 123 yards on three returns.
“Going back through that last game, one of the keys for us, without wanting to take any credit away from the team we played, was field position. That’s the one thing where we weren’t able to win that battle, whether it was caused by turnovers or special teams. In the beginning of the game when our defense was able to cause some turnovers, we weren’t able to take advantage of it. And in the second half, offensively, we had a couple of good drives for touchdowns, but we just didn’t have that last one in us, and we lost the game. So you struggle when you get the lead, and then you can’t keep it and you can’t build the lead early on when you create those turnovers. And then, obviously, field position became a major factor in that game.”
Marrone has been preaching to his players this season that the team needs to build off last year’s bowl win in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Syracuse hasn’t been to back-to-back bowl games since the late 90s. Getting a sixth win would make SU bowl eligible, but after two-straight losses, a reporter asked Marrone whether the team was down.
“They’re not down. Now, are they upset? Absolutely. We all are. It’s very difficult for everybody, and you have to manage all the things that are around you, all the outside influences – family, friends, students, and everything that goes on. And you have to understand that we’re on a mission – our goal for this team is to establish a foundation where we’re competitive year in and year out. And you’re going to go through some adversity when you go through this type of transition. So for us, how we react to things and how we come to prepare – and we talk about it from the standpoint of accountability – it is the most important thing.”