A Win is a Win is a Win..

Yes, I'm happy Syracuse is back at five-hundred. Yes, I'm glad the offense got on track and managed to put together a drive or two. And yes, I'm happy Greg Robinson got his first "W" as a head coach. But, c'mon, who are we kidding here? It was Buffalo. The Bulls aren't even in the same league as Syracuse.

This is a team that hasn't scored a point yet this year. In fact, the only thing positive about them is Buffalo Bulls kind of sounds like Buffalo Bills, and at least they won this week. This is more of a shot at Syracuse's offensive line than it is at Damien Rhodes, but Damien's not running for four touchdowns and 236 yards against anybody decent.


All that being said, it was a good game for the Orange. This is exactly what the team needed: a punching bag. Somebody they could basically do whatever they wanted to on. Personally, I was waiting for them to pull out the "annexation of Puerto Rico" play from Little Giants.


Playing a lame duck may be good for the team, but for us fans it's really a no win situation. If your team plays well, it's no big deal because they were supposed to play well. If they don't play well, or God forbid, lose, then it's disastrous, and your entire image of the team goes to Hell.


Example: last year against Buffalo. When Syracuse was trailing the mighty Bulls 10-3 in the second quarter, didn't you know the season was all over? I did. And, even though Syracuse ended up winning the game, that moment was probably the Syracuse football low point in my life. As a general rule, you know your program is in shambles anytime your buddies who went to UB can talk trash to you.


But this year, Syracuse took care of business like they were supposed to, and I guess that's a credit to them. It's not like they can control what welcome-mat teams are on their schedule. As fans though, we're left not knowing where the team is at. This is where I can help. I may not be an expert, but because of my incredible media privileges I know more that most people. So here's where the Orange is at:


Quarterbacks: Actually, on second thought, I'll save the bad news for a little later. It's always good to start with something positive. So…


Running Backs: Damien's pretty good. He's fast and bigger than he used to be. If he gets to the open field he's really dangerous, but there is still something about him that kind of freaks me out. I think it's a couple of things really:

1)                          I feel like he's trying to break that big play every down, and because he does that a lot of times he dances in the hole instead of putting his head down and getting three or four yards to make second and third downs more manageable. A slight caveat to that: when he has a lead blocker he hits the hole real hard. I don't know why that is, but don't fight it. Run some two back sets.


2)                          I'm not sure if Damien's teammates really like him or not. The guy is the best offensive player on the team and is a senior. Why wasn't he voted captain? There has to be a reason behind that. Also, when you speak to players and coaches about him, there is a second where you can kind of see them cringing in pain before they give their usual coach and player-speak answers about how well he played and what he brings to the team. Something fishy. By the way, if I hear Coach Robinson or another player tell me one more time that it's just about working hard, or getting back to work, or any other variation of the word work…I'm convinced my head is going to explode. I'll keep you updated.


Kareem Jones is going to be an absolute stud, and maybe before the year is out. It's not just because he runs people over or has played well in his limited role, actually that has little to do with it. It's more about a moment that happened during post-game interviews of the Buffalo game. Some reporter was looking for a courtesy quote from Jones about how great Damien is. The reporter asked Jones how much he looks up to Damien, and Jones said something to the effect of "I don't really look up to him, because I think we're both on the same level." That came out of true freshman's mouth! You're telling me that isn't someone you want in your backfield? I'm excited for the Kareem Jones era.


Offensive Line: This is the group that scares the hell out of me, to be perfectly honest. The running backs' talents aren't going to matter if they don't have any holes to run through like they didn't against West Virginia. The unit is noticeably weaker than it was last year. Steve Franklin is still a stud, and a damn nice guy, but he can't do it by himself. Losing Adam Terry to the NFL killed the unit, and it got worse. Starting tackle Kurt Falke hurt his knee on a freak play. I know he's listed as questionable for this week, but he couldn't put any weight on it at all and he had the "uh-oh" look on his face on the sidelines. I'm giving him five to one odds against playing this week.


Now you will probably hear me say this 111,492 times this year, but the offensive line will make or break Syracuse. The Orange is a run based offense, mostly because the quarterback is weak and the receivers are young. If the O-line can't open up holes for Syracuse's running backs, that puts all the pressure on Perry Patterson. Look what he did when that happened during the West Virginia game. Worried yet?


Wide Receivers: I'm probably more encouraged about this group than I should be. I think they have some sufficient young talent: Bedle, Williams, Lobdell, and Chestnut are all going to be fine. Rice Moss could be good, and Tim Lane: well…I'm sorry; I don't really understand that one.


I think the problem for this unit is best summed up by a conversation I had with my talk show buddy Brent Axe. We were talking about the receivers and it occurred to me how rough it must be for Bruce Williams and Lavar Lobdell to make the move from high school to college and have a much worse quarterback throwing to them (they played with Gatorade Player of the Year and quarterback Greg Paulus at Christian Brothers Academy). In other words, and this doesn't totally absolve the receivers of blame, but you don't really know anything about the receivers until Patterson gets his act together.


            Tight Ends: Ferron and Kowalewski look pretty descent, and I'm putting together a campaign to move the 6'8", 255 pound Alex Shor over to the basketball team. I can't trust Matt Gorman, I'm sorry. Look for the petition to hit your neighborhood soon. Again, same problem with this unit as the receivers: we don't know anything about them yet.


            Kicker: This is obviously an issue, since now Greg Robinson is talking about using a walk on for field goals. Rick "the Kick" Krautman had better watch his back. I'm pulling for him though, how funny is it to have a guy on the team with the nickname Rick the Kick? Think of all the inappropriate names people will come up with that rhyme with Rick if he misses a game winning field goal. At the very least, it would be entertaining. In all seriousness though, at least one game every year comes down to a field goal, and at this point I wouldn't put my money on Syracuse.


            Quarterbacks: AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! I think that pretty much defines my thoughts about Syracuse's quarterback situation, but in case you didn't catch the subtle details in that scream, I'll break it down for you. Perry played one of the worst games I've seen a QB play against West Virginia, and then he skipped out on post-game interviews. Now, granted there is some biased because I'm a journalist and he kind of left me downwind of a latrine when he did that, but let's look at this objectively. The quarterback by nature is forced to be a leader on any team. If he was trying to get his teammates behind him and to respect him, wouldn't he come out and take responsibility.


What would have been better for his teammates and even the media to hear than him to come out and say "I played horrible this game, and take responsibility for that, but next week is going to be better, I can promise you that." If you were Patterson's teammate, wouldn't you think to yourself alright, let's go to work Perry. I personally think he was a mess after the game, and that's why he didn't show up. Either way, it doesn't bode well for his leadership skills.


            The other scary thing was this week against Buffalo. Patterson only passed for 139 yards and completed only half of his passes. I guess you can use the defense that he didn't need to pass to win this game, but c'mon, 139 yards against Buffalo. That scares me.


            Alright, there are some positives here, four ways Perry could prove me wrong:

1)      He could be struggling to learn the system because he definitely wasn't this bad last year. Once he gets more comfortable within the system, he will improve

2)      He could be better than he was last year, and have the worst case of starting jitters ever that will eventually fade away.

3)      Perry could become a system quarterback, a Trent Dilfer, Kyle Boller kind of guy that tries not to screw up and let's the defense and running game carry the team.

4)      Donovan McNabb gets fed up with Terrell Owens and decides he's going to go back to his glory days at Syracuse. He locks Perry in his apartment and steals Patterson's jersey. Inexplicably for the rest of the season Patterson throws for 400 yards a game and leads Syracuse to a BCS bowl, while refusing to ever do an interview or be seen without his helmet on. Yes, I have actually spent time thinking about this. 


I see number three as the most realistic, although the offensive line needs to improve for that to happen. I'm still hoping for #4 though, and after last night's game against the Falcons, who knows?


Ok, don't get too depressed, the defense and coaching report cards are coming tomorrow. They're much better, I promise. See you then…                            


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