Saturday Sadness

""You know it's going bad when the students give up on you." - My father. I couldn't agree more. During the third quarter of Syracuse's 31-9 drubbing at the hands of Rutgers I left the awkward silence and awe in the press box to join the old man in the stands. At least there I could join in on the collective complaining from the fans, and get a sense of the people.

We sat on the second level in the corner of the end-zone, right above the student section. It was as sad a sight as I've seen from Syracuse football. There were at the most a hundred die hard students still in the section. A hundred! Even with Syracuse stinking over the past four years, the student section has always been at least 1,000-1,500 strong. All I saw Saturday was the dim glimmer of the iron rows.

The end-zone part of the student section never filled up. I really can't even blame the kids for leaving. I was thinking about it, and if I didn't have media responsibilities after the game, I may have left myself. I can't know for sure, but it would have been a possibility.

Last week I wrote a column telling us to embrace the rebuilding year, but I grossly underestimated how tough a year like this is to endure for everyone: coaches, fans, and reporters alike.

It's not like the Orange hasn't stunk it up for the last four years as well, but with those teams there was at least some sign of hope. Maybe a shot at a bowl game. This year there is none. I can't ever remember it being this bad.

As a sports nut and Syracuse native, ‘Cuse football games have been the undisputed highlight of my week for as long I can remember. Whether that makes me sad or loyal, I'll leave up to you, but it doesn't change the facts.

I'm usually the guy who during the fourth quarter of a game, when Syracuse is down by three touchdowns with three minutes left says, "All right, all we have to do is punch this one in, get the onside, score quick, kick another onside, and we can with this thing. C'mon boys, let's go."

Now, I doubt whether or not I would have even gone to the game last week. This is uncharted territory for me.

What's next? If things start going sour against Pitt this week, am I going to switch the channel for a Lifetime movie? Clean up the house? Or even spend some (gulp) quality time with the family? I'm not ruling anything out.

So if I'm this distraught, I can't imagine what the rest of you pour souls are going through. Most have probably given up on Syracuse, for which I can't blame you. It's gotten to the point where the Orange offense is difficult to watch.

My father and I were discussing this during the third quarter. In the past, we've always been able to point out the weakness of a unit. For example, the last couple years we knew Syracuse's pass coverage was holding it back from being a bowl team. The few seasons before, it was the inconsistency at quarterback that was limiting the Orange.

This year, I can't put a finger on what it is with this offense. It's just all around bad. Patterson can't run, and can't seem to find open receivers. Fields can run, but that's all he can do. The only receivers with talent to get open are young and lack experience. The one passing weapon Syracuse has, tight-end Joe Kowalewski, is fighting injuries. Half of the offensive line is a joke. Steve Franklin and Quinn Ojinnaka are the only good players in that unit. Even the running backs, at very best, have been mediocre this season.

And to top it all off, the unit has suddenly developed butter fingers (9 fumbles against Rutgers). That's like telling an already poor poker player he has to fold every time he has an ace.

Quoting my broadcast friend Brent Axe during halftime of the Rutgers game, "No matter what sarcastic remark you can come up with for how bad this offense is, it still won't be enough."

He's right. There's nothing else to say about the offense except it stinks. The defense is pretty good, but as I've said a painful amount of times, it can't do much when the offense keeps sabotaging it.

With all that being said, and my extreme frustration with the situation right now, I still believe in Greg Robinson. I think you will see him bring this program back. I like his attitude throughout this whole thing. He admits how frustrating it is. The guy isn't trying to hide behind anything, and I can respect that.

You can tell he is just wading through the tough times right now, taking it all in, so when he does bring Syracuse back he can really enjoy it.

I hope the fans around here will show some of the same patience I am attempting too, but I don't know if they will.

During the game last week, offensive coordinator Brian Pariani and his assistants were coming down from their post at the very top of the stands in the dome, when some liquored up fans started booing them.

I didn't see it happen, but I can only imagine. From what I can tell, it seems like Pariani has a short fuse anyway. So I'm surprised this didn't turn into the Syracuse version of the Pistons/Pacers melee with some guy from Solvay winning $2 million from Syracuse University for the emotional and physical distress it caused him.

With regards to Pariani, I think we have to give the guy some slack. He has nothing to work with. The guy has a west-coast offense with players suited for an option running attack. Pariani didn't recruit these guys. You can't blame that on him. Give the guy a decent offense with players geared to his system, and then we'll see what he can do.

So, I'm asking all the Syracuse fans reading this to take a leap of faith with me, and be patient. It will come around. Tomorrow? No. This year? Probably not. But, it will get better.

I know what you're saying: All right, it's going to get worse before it get better. We get that Dom. You can shut up already. But, what are we supposed to do for the moment while we are waiting around?

Well … umm ... basketball season starts pretty soon.


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