SU football fans will have to wait ‘til next year, as the saying goes. But unlike past years when coaching changes translate into a “here we go again” attitude and limited success on the playing field, the Orange should head into the off season feeling good about the future.
It is Dino Babers’ way that can get Orange Nation anticipating the arrival of spring football.
Yes, it was a long shot the Orange were going to topple Florida State Saturday on Senior Day at the Carrier Dome. And despite the chatter the Orange could still go bowling with a victory at Pitt this weekend, in all likelihood this season will be billed as the bridge to the future.
The Seminoles were just plain more athletic and faster than the Orange who were missing key players , including quarterback Eric Dungey and junior linebacker Zaire Franklin, the leader on the defensive unit. Sure, stand-in QB Zack Mahoney gave the home crowd hope with his Hail Mary pass to Amba Etta-Tawo as the clock ticked off the first half. Brisly Estime, in his last game at the Dome, also did his part by helping the Orange special teams with two electrifying punts.
When the gun sounded, however for the seventh time this season, the Orange found itself on the losing end. SU is now 2-5 in the ACC.
“We didn’t play well against a very, very good football team,” the SU coach told the media afterwards. “The defense gave us turnovers, but offensively it was very difficult to move the ball.”
It’s unfortunate that Etta-Tawo only will have this year in the Babers’ system. The graduate transfer wideout from Maryland has garnered attention at the national level as the ACC’s leading receiver. Although he only had two catches for 58 yards, including the 46-yard score that put the Orange on the board, Etta-Tawo will leave as the school’s season record holder for most receptions and yards.
“I am really proud of Amba,” Babers said. “I am humbled that he had enough faith in this program to take this leap of faith.”
Etta-Tawo has 81 receptions for 1,304 yards heading into the regular season’s final game against the Panthers.
“He is an exceptional player,” Babers said, noting his accolades.
As he has done all year long, the first-year coach has kept his squad’s goals in perspective. Through all the injuries, player development and systematic challenges, he understands that long-term success is dependent on the foundation from this year’s journey.
“We still have to make plays and we are trying everything to move the ball,” he said. “Right now we have to do a better job.
SU will have one more game this season, for sure, this Saturday to continue the program’s transformation project.
“We’re trying to send the seniors out on a positive note,” Babers said. “We need to go out and play a good, competitive, football game.”