Syracuse can still prove legitimacy in Big East play

first_imgAfter Syracuse’s 17-10 loss to Minnesota, Doug Marrone tried to keep his players believing. Their 1-3 record said they were anything but a good football team, but the head coach sat in front of the microphone and said otherwise.Marrone said he and his players knew they were better than their record, despite the inevitable beliefs of those outside the program.“I told them that perception is what other people think of you,” Marrone said after the loss. “Your character is who you are.”Right now, the perception of the Syracuse football program is reality. The Orange has lost eight of its last nine games, and its lone win during that stretch came against Football Championship Subdivision-opponent Stony Brook. It’s hard to believe the program can turn it around based on its first four games this season.But when Syracuse takes on Pittsburgh in the Carrier Dome on Friday, Marrone and his players have the chance to show everyone who they are. They have the chance to prove they’re better than their record — that their season isn’t over. And they’ve had a bye week to shore up the turnovers and penalties, and the red zone and tackling issues that have been prevalent during their disappointing start.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange’s Big East opener represents its last chance to prove the doubters wrong and get back on track. In a conference with just two teams in the Top 25 that has traditionally been the weakest Bowl Championship Series conference in the nation, Syracuse can make its season with a strong showing in league play.It starts against a Pittsburgh team that lost its first two games to FCS opponent Youngstown State and Cincinnati by a combined 65-27. Though Pitt recovered to win its next two games, it’s a team SU needs to beat if it wants to save its season.And with a full week to prepare, the Orange should be ready to go. Marrone heaped blame on himself in the past week on the Big East coaches’ teleconference, saying the program’s performance has been unsatisfactory under his standards. He said he’s failed to prepare his team in nearly all aspects.“You would hope that the motivation level and the inspiration level is at its highest point each time, and I think that’s something obviously I’ve done a poor job of,” Marrone said during the teleconference on Monday. “And I have to find a way to get this team ready to play like we have played at times during the course of my three years here.”Marrone repeated during the last two weeks that turnovers and penalties have killed the team through four games. And those failures are a direct reflection of him as a coach.Syracuse ranks 109th in turnover margin and 114th in penalties per game out of 120 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.On Monday, he took a moment to reflect on the team’s last Big East win over West Virginia — a team making headlines this season as a member of the Big 12.It was the Orange’s last Big East win. SU committed just three penalties for 25 yards and didn’t turn the ball over once in that game.“We played extremely hard. We played well. We didn’t turn the ball over. We didn’t commit penalties,” Marrone said of the 49-23 win over WVU during the teleconference. “We did a lot of things that I’ve talked about previously we were very good at.”Since then, those strengths have become weaknesses and SU hasn’t put it all together.But that’s the type of team Pittsburgh head coach Paul Chryst expects to face Friday night in the Carrier Dome.“They’ve had some tough games but also played some, I think, some really good teams,” Chryst said during the teleconference. “So I expect that they’ll be very well prepared.”After a bye week in which Marrone reexamined his work over the last four years building the program, Syracuse needs to come out sharp on Friday to back up Marrone’s words after the Minnesota loss.“We have to work extremely hard to keep getting better and correct the mistakes that we’re making,” Marrone said at the postgame press conference. “And when we do that — and it’s probably not as much as what people are going to say or talk about — but when we do that, we’ll be a very good football team and we’ll win a lot of games.“And I believe that we will do that.”Whether or not Syracuse wins this Friday will reveal its character and identity, and whether or not perception of the program will remain a reality for the 2012 season.Ryne Gery is the sports editor at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on October 2, 2012 at 2:56 amlast_img