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July 20, 2008The Syracuse football program has fall under hard times as of late. Since head coach Greg Robinson took over in 2005, they have yet to experience a winning season, or even a .500 season. In fact, since Robinson was named head coach, the Orange have won just seven games total. Including a 1-10 season is 2005, and last year's season in which they went 2-10. Their lone Big East win last season came in a week 4 upset of the Louisville Cardinals.
In their 2007 matchup with the Cincinnati Bearcats, they put up a good fight in first half. However, the Bearcats talent and athleticism proved to be too much as they defeated the Orange by a score of 52-31.
The Bearcats hold a streak of three consecutive victories over the orange, and when the two teams tangle on November 29th in Cincinnati, the will be looking to not only increase that streak to four, but to continue on the road to a Big East Championship for the Queen City.
What Went Right
It is difficult to find much that went right for the Syracuse Orange in 2007. No unit performed very well, leaving only individuals as parts that went right for the Orange.
On offense, receiver Mike Williams showed tremendous athleticism. He led the team in most receiving categories, catching 60 passes for 837 yards and 10 touchdowns. Another solid big play threat was receiver Taj Smith. He caught 44 balls for 822 yards and 5 touchdowns. He carried an average of almost 19 yards per catch for the season.
Starting Quarterback Andrew Robinson did a solid job overall. He completed around 53 percent of his passes for 2192 yards and 13 touchdowns. He did throw 7 interceptions, but as a sophomore who had basically zero experience coming into the season, you would expect him to go through some growing pains.
Senior defensive back Joe fields was solid in the secondary for the Orange in 2007. He led the team with 4 interceptions to go along with 53 solo tackles and a couple of pass break ups. Linebacker Jake Flaherty was solid at middle linebacker, and recorded 45 solo tackles.
What Went Wrong
A lot of things went wrong for the Orange in 2007, and perhaps the most glaring weakness was the team's lack of ability to put the ball in the endzone and score points. The Orange's offense ranked a horrific 116th in the nation in scoring offense. Only Florida International scored fewer points per game in the nation. The running game was virtually nonexistent for the Orange. Their leading rusher was Curtis Brinkely who rushed for just 371 yards on 111 attempts with just 2 touchdowns.
The defense was not much better. They allowed opponents just over 34 points per game; more than twice the output of their offense. They ranked an awful 104th amongst Division 1 teams in points per game allowed.
Why This Year Will Be Different
On offense, Syracuse will return 6 starters from last year's team. While they do return quarterback Andrew Robinson, they will need to have new targets step up for him to throw to. Receiver Taj Smith left early for the draft, and top receiver Mike Williams was kicked off of the team for academic reasons. The team is hopeful that freshman running back Averin Collier will be able to immediately improve the run game, but it appears that the offense as a whole will again struggle to put points on the board.
On defense, the team returns 7 starters including star defensive tackle Arthur Jones. Jake Flaherty will also return and provide a solid player at the linebacker position. Both starting cornerbacks will return in senior Nick Chestnut and sophomore Mike Holmes. They will need two more players to step up and fill the safety spots. The two players who are most likely to do so are seniors Bruce Williams and AJ Brown.
The Orange will improve some in 2008, but not enough to compete on the level of most of the Big East teams. Don't expect them to contend in the conference, but they could very well get a few upset wins and spoil the season of a team or two.
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