Here are 10 things we learned from Syracuse’s 35-24 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday:
1. There was some awful officiating on Saturday. With the Orange down 7-0 in the first quarter, George Winn clearly fumbled the ball before his knee hit the ground and linebacker Dyshawn Davis recovered. It should’ve been first and 10 for the Orange on the Cincinnati 12 yard line. Until it wasn’t. The officials ruled the play dead and awarded the Bearcats possession, and somehow, the play was upheld by the replay referee. It was as bad a blown call as I’ve seen in 20 years of covering sports. Just an utter and complete disgrace.
2. To the official’s (begrudging) credit, they did get a fumble call right in the third quarter. UC quarterback Munchie Legaux took a keeper and ran the ball into the endzone for a touchdown. But the call was reversed because the replay clearly showed he fumbled the ball after a strip from Shamarko Thomas. The ball hit the goal line, but didn’t cross, and the ball was spotted at the 6-inch line. Syracuse coach Doug Marrone believed it should’ve been a touchback, but the officials made the right call. A ball that hits goal line and bounces back is offense’s ball. You learn something new every week…
3. After UC coach Butch Jones gave Legaux a vote of confidence all week long, Legaux was pulled in favor of Brendon Kay. It was a good move, as Kay led two touchdown drives that turned a three point deficit into an 11 point win. Legaux was just off all afternoon, and floated several passes that were ripe for interceptions. He finished the game with just 124 yards and an interception.
4. But it was the interception that got away that hurt the most. Legaux was hit as he threw in the third quarter, and Brandon Reddish seemed to have a sure pick with no Bearcats in front of him. But Reddish inexplicably dropped the pass, and Cincinnati went on to score on the next drive. The 14 point swing was the difference in the game, and reminiscent of a botched INT last year in the Rutgers game.
5. I can somewhat understand the multitude of penalties on the offensive line, but three false starts on the wide receivers? That is unacceptable. For all that Marrone preaches about discipline, 12 penalties for 104 yards is atrocious. Several of them were drive killing penalties. Just no excuses for that, and that’s an indictment of Marrone.
6. Speaking of atrocious, that is what Ross Krautman has been this season. Why did Marrone send Krautman to kick a 42-yard field goal with 14:22 left and the Orange trailing 35-24? We all knew what was going to happen. Every field goal try this season has been an adventure and I doubt anyone actually expected him to make that attempt. With a reliable kicker, the safe bet is to take the points. But Krautman hasn’t proven himself to be reliable this season.
7. Syracuse’s run defense was blasted by USF last week, and was again this week. The Orange put up little resistance against George Winn, as he ran for three TDs. The Bearcats gained 263 yards on the ground, and 470 for the game. Is this the same defense that allowed -6 rushing yards against Connecticut? (Side note: The Cincinnati sideline was heated and the SU sideline was not. That’s a great home field advantage.)
8. Helmet sticker to Jerome Smith for another 100 yard game, plus his first touchdown of the season. He had to earn it, leapfrogging several Bearcats in a goal line situation. Jim Boeheim should consider him for a walk-on spot. All together with me now: “Send it in, Jerome!”
9. Syracuse hasn’t won three straight games in the Big East since 2001. And it never will, again.
10. In my opinion, that loss cost the Orange a bowl appearance. No way they’re beating undefeated Louisville at home, and I don’t see them winning at Missouri. By the time SU faces a beatable Temple team, it will already be too late. Syracuse had every chance to beat Northwestern, Minnesota and Cincinnati, and ended up beating themselves with mistake filled games. Here’s to another 5-7 season that could’ve easily have been 7-5 (or better).