Blue White Roundtable: Alabama Week Edition
September 7, 2011 – | 1 Comment

Once again, it’s Adam Collyer over at BlackShoeDiaries providing the questions, and we, your humble bloggers, providing the answers. Mine are below, and you can venture off to the remote areas of the blogosphere that …

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Know Your Enemy: Syracuse Orange

Submitted by on September 10, 20094 Comments

To prepare for Penn State’s upcoming game this weekend, I traded some questions with Brian Harrison, who writes the Syracuse blog Orange::44. This will be a weekly feature here at quebecpenspinning before every game. To read my answers, and those of Zombie Nation, to his questions, such as where we think Penn State will finish in the standings this season and our players to watch for this weekend, click this link. What follows are the insightful answers Brian gave to my questions.

quebecpenspinning: Greg Paulus’s day ended with that brutal interception in overtime. Critical mistake notwithstanding, how you feel about his performance in his first football game in 5 years?

Orange::44: I think he played really well. Were it not for the hype, he would have been just like any other first year quarterback. And in that debut, save for the ending interception, he played an almost perfect game. He evaded well in the pocket, passed extremely well and accurately, took some hits, and made good decisions. He knows he should not have thrown that final ball, and I believe that those kinds of situations will not happen the rest of the season. He would have had an even better day, but the wide receivers made some drops in the second half. Moral of the story, he is a refreshing change at the QB position for Syracuse and their fans.

NWO: Aside from Paulus, who should Penn State fans be on the lookout for?

O44: Clearly the player on the team that most opposing players worry about is Mike Williams. Despite what you think of Syracuse’s offense the past few years, Mike Williams has the longest streak of touchdowns in the nation with ten consecutive games (he sat out the 2008 season due to academic issues). He is a playmaker that can get open, but most importantly can make players miss after the catch, and is tough to tackle. Look for him to get several touches in the game, and he will have shaken all the rust off and have little to no drops this week. Additionally running back Delone Carter is a dynamic back that, if given running room, can do good things on the ground. He was the best player in the State of Ohio coming out of high school, and can be dangerous if underestimated. Finally, Art Jones is the all star “big ugly” up front on the defensive line. A bone fide playmaker, he can plug running lanes, make tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and will be a hand full for any offensive lineman. These players would be getting national attention if this was a different era in Syracuse football.

NWO: Looking at the box score for last week’s game is a little odd. Syracuse gave up 183 yards to Minnesota’s wide receiver Eric Decker but Minnesota only managed 20 points in regulation. How’d you accomplish that?

O44: Decker only had one reception in the first half, and only two receptions before the fourth quarter. The secondary was playing extremely well and the base defensive scheme Syracuse was running was generally working. Frankly, it worked most of the day as Minnesota was only 5-17 on third down conversions. However, the offensive failed to make plays and conversions in the second half allowing Decker and the Minnesota offense to get back to work, which tired the defense out. That then allowed Decker to find success and put Minnesota in field goal range with the clock ticking down. This team is benefiting from new coaches getting the most out of the same players that “Defensive Guru” Greg Robinson could never seem to. Moral of the story, the defense played well, but they cannot do it all.

NWO: Even though Syracuse lost to Minnesota, they almost beat, and forced overtime against a decent Big Ten team. Is there such a thing as a moral victory, and was last week’s game one?

O44: If there is such a thing, we definitely had one. I’m not big on the entire moral victory thing, because at the end of the day a loss is a loss, and that is the one stat that matters the most in college football. However, for the first time in four years, the Carrier Dome was full of 48,000 plus until the very end of a game. Coach Doug Marrone is a Syracuse alumnus, a very likable person, and a breath of fresh air compared to the previous owner of that job. He has said the right thing and made all the correct moves since getting on campus last December. This game, although not pretty at times, was miles better than any product Syracuse featured on the football field last year. Although we left the Carrier Dome disappointed, at least everyone knew the program was on the upswing and on the right track. At that moment, that was enough for us.

NWO: What do you think the gameplan will be against Penn State? Where will Syracuse be successful, where will they struggle?

O44: Syracuse will look to score on an always tough defense by mixing their offensive packages up, and letting star receiver Mike Williams make plays for Greg Paulus. They will also look to get a good running back in Delone Carter to make some plays, find some holes, and keep the defense honest. In terms of defense, Syracuse will have to pressure the quarterback and try to cause some turnovers to keep this game close. Syracuse should be successful in limiting the rush attack of Penn State, but may get burned in the secondary on the passing attack, similar to the Akron game State just played. In terms of offense, Paulus to Williams will eventually happen, and there will not be much Penn State can do about it. Where Penn State could succeed is overpowering an inferior offensive line, and pressuring Paulus, wearing him out with hits. Syracuse will most likely not find success in their traditional running attack, so look for special formations, such as the “Stallion Formation” that debuted this past week in the Carrier Dome. This would be Syracuse’s version of the famed “Wildcat” offense that is all the rage. Don’t be fooled by the gimmick, as Doug Marrone was the offensive coordinator of the best offense in the National Football League last year, and Syracuse averaged around four yards whenever this formation was used. This will be effective against Penn State, at least in the first half.

NWO: Obviously, we don’t want to overanalyze one game. But how has the Doug Marrone era already distinguished itself from that of Greg Robinson?

O44: Only in every way measurable, save for wins. Although for the record, famed Syracuse coaches Ben Schwartzwalder and Dick MacPherson also lost their debuts. Almost every Syracuse fan could see the marked improvement in both the offense and defense from what was placed on the field. The offense was not anemic, and Paulus could actually evade pressure, unlike the last few QB’s Syracuse has had. The defense was really where the improvement could be seen though. Syracuse held Minnesota to only three points in the third quarter. Last season that number would have been asinine. Syracuse didn’t use a time out in the first half. The previous coach would have used three by the end of the first quarter. It is astounding the excitement and confidence that Marrone brings to the fan base.

NWO: Penn State is marketing this game as “Classics Day” at Beaver Stadium, reminding the fanbase of the 1960s, when this rivalry was at its best. What do you think the odds are of Cuse playing pulling off the upset? What’s the best case and worst case scenario for this game for Syracuse?

O44: Personally, I think that there is around a 0% chance of pulling this game out. However, the optimist/fan in me is saying there is a 25% chance that Syracuse could make some magic happen in State College. The best case scenario is that Syracuse pulls out some different plays that they haven’t run yet, finds some success on the offensive end, and puts several points on the board. On defense, they limit the Penn State receivers to small days, and continue their successes on third down stops, along with the overall number of first downs. Also they manage to get pressure on the quarterback and cause some turnovers. The worst case scenario is that Paulus throws three picks, and Carter fumbles twice. They fail to get more than 150 yards on offense. For the defense, they fail to get any pressure on the QB, they allow four passing touchdowns and three rushing, and let Penn State convert 90% of their third downs. I have a feeling that Syracuse will have a modestly successful day on offense and do well, but that Penn State will betoo much to handle on offense, and simply outscore to win the game.

Thanks once again to Brian for answering our questions. To read the answers I have to his questions, visit his site.  We’ll be back tomorrow with a Syracuse preview of our own.  Thanks for reading.

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