Syracuse: Does Not Lose
This author has been historically positive regarding Syracuse Orange football… looking for positives in the midst of a negative period. It was the only way to cope with the Greg Robinson era and its sequellae. Not to be a Pollyanna, but to find some positive reality in the middle of a negative stretch. Unfortunately, the only way to describe the Syracuse-Villanova game, which ended with a 27-26 score in favor of Syracuse, is to describe it as Syracuse “did not lose.” Notwithstanding the scoreboard, sitting in the Carrier Dome for 4 hours did not persuade me that my team actually won. Here is my synopsis…
First, Scott Shafer and his staff were outcoached. Shafer’s time management at the end of regulation was abysmal. To call a timeout after the other team achieves a first down is unacceptable when there are 90 seconds left in the game and you might need time to make your own game-ending drive. Predictably, Villanova’s coaches ran the clock down to 14 seconds. While they missed the FG inexplicably, Villanova set themselves up for a win with the assistance of poor coaching by Shafer. (And, when Syracuse did get the ball back, it responded with a delay of game penalty).
In addition, it remains perplexing that the team could not figure out a way to stop an FCS quarterback. The defensive ends routinely lost contain. Regardless, there was no solution and Villanova largely moved up and down the field with little resistance. But for poor special teams play out of its kicker, Villanova lost out points on two drives.
Offensively, you get the ball on the 1 yard line with a first down in overtime, you should score a touchdown. However, if you decide to line up in a Pistol formation and hand it off to a bruising RB at the 6 yard line, you have the potential to lose yardage–which they did twice. Regardless, the inability to move the ball on the ground against undersized Villanova does not bode well. Similarly, the staff failed to realize that they did not have the speed to get around the end against an FCS foe. At some point, coaches have to realize the situation presented.
Second, not sure why the Internet criticism over Austin Wilson’s performance. It was his first game ever. Not like we saw great things out of every historical Syracuse QB in his first game. And few of them came in unexpectedly in a close game, as Wilson had to do. He committed no turnovers. The playcalling was suspect on his behalf. The kid did fine. I have full confidence in him moving forward. And even if he never plays all year again, he got valuable experience and is 1-0 as a starter.
Third, despite the above issues, a win is a win is a win. Villanova could have won, had its kicker hit a 25 yard field goal. Villanova’s decision to go for 2 was logical–Syracuse had not been able to contain their QB. The playcall was odd–the play that Syracuse could not stop was QB in the pocket, deciding to tuck it in and run. He always beat Syracuse defenders to the end… not sure why a run inside the tackles was pondered. So in many ways Villanova simply lost the game. And that is how the game gets described: “Syracuse did not lose.”
A win is better than a loss, even if it is not pretty. But the ugliness is hard to forget.