College football is all about ambiance; what it's like to actually be at the game. And, since only 45, 418 people were actually at the Syracuse opener, I thought I'd give the rest of you a taste. What follows is one fan/journalist's experience at the Syracuse/West Virginia game.
:The Star-Spangled Banner is playing. Man, I've missed college
football. I don't know what it is, but just walking through the Quad seeing the
kids playing catch with each other and smelling the burgers we all know are bad
for us, but eat anyway. I love it. Anyway, enough with the Hallmark moments,
let's get down to some football.
: The new field is awesome! It actually
looks like a giant bed of grass. Should definitely cut down on injuries,
although I can't remember too many
Syracuse players being seriously
injured because of the dome carpet. Either way, The field turf looks great. The
pale green grass and blue and orange end zones are sharp.
Syracuse captains walk out of the
tunnel to Eminem's, "Lose Yourself". Everyone's going nuts. I'm even going nuts.
This is a significant goosebump moment here. I can barely stand
: Kickoff baby! Freshman
Syracuse running back Kareem Jones
fumbles (oh god). He picks it up and almost breaks free. I'm so juiced that I
yell "RUNNN" from the back of the press box. Now, theoretically journalists are
supposed to be unbiased, and definitely never cheer like a normal fan. Needless
to say, everyone turns around and stares at me. I feel like I'm in the middle of
one of those Snickers commercials. Need
to get away? ...Yup.
Syracuse's offense looks
horrible. Perry Patterson rolled out on third and two and got sacked. Then the
Cuse got bailed out by a lucky roughing the kicker call. Offense still can't get
out of its own way though. Syracuse
: Now I get a look at the defense.
Should be Syracuse's strength with
Robinson (a defensive minded coach) and some good athletes, probably will keep
the Orange in a lot of games they
shouldn't be this year. .
: Option,fake pitch by West Virginia QB Adam Bednarik. He gains 34 yards on the play. This doesn't look good so far. I have
that feeling every Cuse fan knows well. The one where I know it's too early to
get down on the team, but I can almost see this game ending badly for
: Timeout. I know everybody is on the
new Orange bandwagon where Athletic Director Daryl Gross
is changing everything. And to a certain extent, I am on the wagon too, but
these new white home jerseys are horrible.
Syracuse looks like the Cleveland Browns: the team with the ugliest uniforms in the NFL. I understand they were
going for the whole "remember the past, go into the future" mix with the change,
but this just doesn't work.
: FUMBLE! first quarter. Syracuse cornerback Tanard Jackson
recovers. I know this is totally cliché, but I'm saying it anyway. I really feel
like one play can alter the course of a season, or at the very least, a game.
Maybe this is it. Syracuse was
looking at a dead offense and a defense that couldn't stop WVU, and now they
have the ball with good field position and momentum.
: Forget what I just said, all the
momentum in the world isn't going to help
Syracuse if the offense keeps
shooting itself in the foot. The
Orange already has a false start, an
illegal substitution, and a personal foul on offense. The first quarter isn't
even over yet! Does anyone else think somewhere out there former offensive
coordinator George DeLeone is laughing uncontrollably?
: The defense stuffs
West Virginia on third down.
Robinson blitzed two linebackers and forced the quarterback into a quick
decision. Love the call. So that's what an attacking defense is. I always
thought it was just something all coaches say to get the media and fans off
punts again. The defense can't keep bailing out the
Orange. They've been on the field
the whole game, eventually they're going to start to tire. It's not like
Syracuse has to score, it just needs
to get a few first downs.
Syracuse recovers. The crowd is
insane right now. The Carrier Dome is funny that way. There never seems to be
middle ground. Either the crowd is 45,000 plus screaming their heads off, or
it's 36,000 people talking to each other about gas prices and their kids little
league team instead of watching the game. Today, though, is definitely the
: illegal substitution and a 15-yard
facemask. It's first and 30 … give me a break. Now I'm positive George DeLeone
is laughing. Drive stalled again.
: First quarter over. 0-0. Both
offenses are playing like crap.
Syracuse can't move the ball and
West Virginia can't hang on to it.
If either was even decent in the first quarter, the game would be a blowout.
: Cuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim is
in the press box, and amazingly he has the exact same expression on his face
that he has every basketball game. Everybody in
Syracuse should know what I'm
talking about. It's the semi-upset, semi-happy face. The guy is like the Mona
Lisa of college basketball. I didn't know he looked like this all the time
though… A part of me really wants to look at his wedding pictures and see how
far this constant expression really goes.
: Timeout. left to go in the half. After a good punt return and
a couple runs by Damien Rhodes,
Syracuse has a chance to score. It's
first and goal from the eight. In the meantime there is a "throw the ball
through the hole" contest going on down on the field. I have absolutely nothing
but my own experience to back me up on this, but it always seems like they pick
the worst athletes for these things. It's always some college student who throws
like a girl, and some girl who…well… throws like a girl.
: Touchdown! 7-0
Syracuse. Damien Rhodes and the
offensive line just ran over West
Syracuse looks awesome in a power
formation. I'm convinced Rhodes runs much better when he
has a lead blocker.
Boeheim expression check:
: Big third down for
West Virginia. The Mountaineers
just gave up a score and if Syracuse
stuffs them here, the Cuse could start rolling...Tipped ball…punt. Things are
: I'm talking to my buddy Jay in the
press box, and out of the corner of my eye I see the pass. Interception by
Patterson returned for a touchdown! You can feel the whole dome collectively
shake their heads. This wasn't just an interception, this was bad. I could have
made this pick easily, and I'm nowhere near a division-one athlete. 7-7.
left in the
: Cuse stalls again. A short run,
followed by two straight bail out passes to the flat for no gain. Patterson is
obviously rattled. He's trying not to make a mistake.
: Big hit by cornerback Steve Gregory.
He banged himself up on the play, but has looked awesome so far. Moving him to
receiver last year was one of the dumbest things I've ever seen in college
(Interviewing him was always great too because he
publicly supported the coaches decision, but you could obviously tell he had no
idea why they would make him a receiver. Glad to see him on defense where he
: On fourth and one,
West Virginia's quarterback pooch
punts. That was great. I don't think I've ever actually seen a pooch punt. I
thought it was just something they showed on ESPN Classic. The play works too,
Syracuse gets pinned, but a penalty
is called and a real punt happens this time.
: Another stalled Cuse drive and
West Virginia gets the ball back.
They fumble again! That's the third turnover of the half for the Mountaineers. I
can't figure out which way I want to look at it. Should I be upset that
Syracuse isn't up by at least two
touchdowns with all the turnovers? Or should I be happy that the
Orange is still in the game? I'll
leave it up to you.
: I was right. Patterson is flustered.
He hasn't thrown a descent pass since before the interception. Every throw is
too hard and too low. He's trying to avoid another pick. To make it worse he
just fumbled. Damien Rhodes recovers. Yet another punt. Are you seeing a pattern
: Uh oh. West
Virginia completes a 39 yard pass into
SyracuseTerritory. Less than two minutes left
in the half.
West Virginia on third down. It's
fourth and three on the Syracuse 30
yard line. West Virginia takes a
timeout to make the decision. I'd go for it. Most of the time when a team is
between the 30 and 40 yard line with less than four yards to go for a first
down, I think they should go for it. I think it's the Madden video game
mentality I have. That's just me though, and it's also probably the reason I'm a
journalist instead of a coach.
: WVU thinks like I do. They go for it…
First down, eight yards on a QB keeper.
: Third and
ten…Syracuse Blitzes again. Stuffs
the drive. I love the blitz on third down. Make the quarterback rush his
progression. Bravo Greg, bravo. Now we have a 47 yard field goal attempt by a
freshman kicker in a hostile environment. I give him about eight to one
:No Good! Wide right.
Syracuse escapes the half with a 7-7
tie. The Orange is extremely lucky
to be tied right now, this could have been an ugly first half.
Halftime: Press boxes are
great places during halftime. Everyone kind of mingles and networks with each
other. Me, I call my dad. This guy has been watching Syracuse Football since the
Archbold Stadium days. He knows what he's talking about.
My father's breakdown: "Why don't we keep playing power football like we
did on the touchdown drive? Patterson looks like crap. Let Damien Rhodes, your
senior, carry you."
I have to agree with the old guy,
Syracuse should start pounding the
ball. The offense has to try something different. It can play much worse than
the 48 yards of total offense it put up in the first half.
Boeheim Watch: He actually cracked
a smile, I'm shocked. But then again it was during a moment honoring him for
getting into the basketball hall of fame. So, if there was ever a
: First possession for
Syracuse defensive back Tanard
Jackson intercepts a pass. He and Safety Anthony Smith are playing out of their
minds. These guys are almost single handedly keeping
Syracuse in the
Syracuse calls two straight
power running plays that result in a first down. My father is a football genius.
: Timeout. I just got a soda next to
Jim Boeheim. His look has returned to its normal expression. Thank god, I was
worried for a minute there.
Syracuse punts again! This has
happened so many times I've copied and pasted that sentence on my computer to
save time. That says it all.
Virginia is rolling down the field, but the Cuse defense
comes up big in the red zone. WVU settles for a 33 yard field goal. 10-7
West Virginia. The defense can't
keep this going too much longer. You can only bail your offense out for so
: After one completed pass, Patterson
sputters again and Syracuse Punts. Can anyone else hear the "put in Joe Fields"
: One minute left in the third
quarter.Anthony Smith gets called
for roughing the kicker on fourth and seven; definitely an acting job by the
West Virginia punter. The crowd is
furious. I feel like I'm at an Italian soccer game. But, seriously, has a home
crowd ever thought a roughing the kicker call wasn't a bad one? The Refs bail
out Syracuse, it was only running
into the kicker. West Virginia
: Third quarter over.
West Virginia is up 10-7. I don't
think Syracuse can win the game
without a turnover in West
Virginia territory. The
Orange hasn't put together a drive
all day and I can't see them doing it now.
: Patterson just pitched the ball ten
yards behind him to nobody. He recovers his own fumble for a ten yard loss. As
bad as Patterson is playing, it seems like Robinson is going to stick with him
for the game. I like the move. If Robinson puts in Fields two things happen: 1)
you now have a two-headed monster at quarterback.
Syracuse fans should know that's no
good. And, 2) Whoever does get the starting spot will be looking over his
shoulder for the whole year knowing he is one bad game away from being benched.
Neither of those is any good.
: After a short punt and a few good
plays West Virginia is looking at
first and goal. This is the part where the nail hits the coffin.
: FUUMMMMMBBLEEE! I can't get over it,
WVU is giving Syracuse every chance
in the world to win this game. That's five turnovers and the
Orange are still down by three points. I still can't see
Syracuse winning this game. The team
can't move the ball. They haven't sustained a drive the entire game.
: A predictable interception by
Patterson. If he were a race horse, he would have been put down by now.
: Fourth down pooch punt by
Syracuse is pinned back at their own
ten. I think I underestimated the pooch punt. I don't know why teams don't use
it more. It doesn't allow a return, and if the coverage looks favorable, you can
check out of it and throw the ball.
Boeheim Watch: He's laughing
hysterically and telling inappropriate jokes to half the press box. Just
kidding. Making sure you were paying attention. He's still sitting there with
the look, although he has put his hand to the side of his face for
: Patterson sacked in the end zone for
a safety. 12-7 West Virginia. This
is one of the worst performances I have ever seen by a quarterback in division
one football. There is no other way to describe it. With the exception of
throwing more interceptions he couldn't be playing worse.
Virginia settles for a field goal with to go in the game. 15-7 WVU. It's been
over for a while.
Because the game has gotten predictable and almost boring, I find myself
looking around the stadium for something interesting. What I come across is the
Tully's Dance Team in front of the corner of the end zone. These girls are the
closest to risky that the university can get without breaking the politically
correct line. The cheerleaders themselves aren't what entertains me most though.
It's the people in the stands in front of them.. All the guys are pretending to
watch the game while secretly sneaking in a glance of the girls. And the wives
and girlfriends are all staring down their significant others to make sure their
eyes are on the right thing. It's such an awkward situation for everyone, even
the cheerleaders, because they can see all what's happening. Yet another perk of
actually being at the game.
: There's a little over two minutes
left and Syracuse faces fourth and
13. They're punting. First time all day I've disagreed with a coaching decision
by Greg Robinson. I understand that the offense has completely stunk, buy you
gotta go for it here. Even if you get the ball back you have less than 50
seconds left to score with an offense that can't move the ball.
Greg's plan works.
West Virginia punts and
Syracuse has 57 seconds to drive 75
yards with no timeouts and a QB whose only touchdown was to the wrong team. But
hey, I'm still a fan. I'm going to stay until I know for sure the game is over.
Secretly I'm hoping I'm wrong about all this. I really am.
: Unfortunately I'm not wrong. Game
over. West Virginia takes it 15-7.
The crowd is booing. That's just ridiculous if you ask me. How can you boo your
team after a hard fought loss?
problem wasn't that the team didn't play hard, which is why I can't understand
the crowd booing. The Orange's
problem was it couldn't execute on offense. Now I know it's a little unfair to
put it all on one player, and usually I don't, but Perry Patterson couldn't have
looked worse today.
good news: The offense isn't as bad as it played. It's difficult to win when
you shoot yourselves in the foot with constant penalties and a few bad
bad news: The defense isn't as good as it looked. West
Virginia played very poorly on offense. If they don't
have those turnovers, this game is probably a 28-7 blowout.
Perry Patterson should recover against
Buffalo next week. And if
not…well…we always have Jim Boeheim's facial expressions to look forward to.