Monday, September 14, 2009

Syracuse continues slow growth in 28-7 loss to Penn State

For the second consecutive week, the Syracuse Orange football team begrudgingly walked into the locker room as losers. But, for the second consecutive week, there were flashes and hints of possible things to build on, speaking from an optimistic view.

Duke-point-guard-turned-Syracuse-quarterback Greg Paulus played relatively well in just his second career start, finishing the game 14-for-20 for 105 yards while throwing a garbage-time touchdown pass to Donte Davis. The Nittany Lions also intercepted Paulus twice off of tipped passes, one of them a drop by freshman receiver Alec Lemon.

Head coach Doug Marrone also made good use of the "Stallion" (Wildcat) formation for the second week in a row, using backup quarterback Ryan Nassib to throw from the usually run-heavy set. Nassib finished the game 4-for-5 for 30 yards, but Marrone insisted after the game that there was no sniff of a dreaded quarterback controversy.

"I think we'll need both quarterbacks to help us win this year," Marrone said in the post-game press conference.

While Penn State ended up with 28 points on the game, the Orange defense played relatively well for a second straight week. After an opening-drive 49-yard touchdown pass from Penn State quarterback Darryl Clark to do-it-all running back Evan Royster, it looked like a repeat of 2008's 55-13 blowout in the Carrier Dome.

The Orange defense, however, made a 4th-and-goal stand from the one-yard-line on the Nittany Lions' next possession, seemingly shifting the momentum back to Syracuse. But the Syracuse offense, as they did most of the game, struggled to move the ball and went three-and-out, giving Penn State the ball back at midfield.

This was the story of the game for the Orange. There were plays made on the defensive side of the ball, but the offense couldn't sustain any drives long enough to put points on the board. Eventually, with all the Nittany Lion fire power, it was clear that Penn State was going to put the ball in the endzone.

After a Kevyn Scott interception late in the second quarter, it looked like the Orange had a chance to cut Penn State's lead from 14 to seven and go into the locker room with just a one-touchdown deficit. After some short throws down the field and five minutes gone off the clock, Syracuse was forced to attempt a 51-yard field goal which fell well short and kept the halftime score 14-0.

Penn State's Clark finished the game with 240 yards and three touchdowns, showing no signs of slowing after losing his top three receivers from last season. The Orange defensive line kept the Nittany Lions' running game fairly silent though, holding them to just 78 yards on the ground, 41 of them from Royster.

Syracuse, who was 1-for-13 on third down in last week's loss to Minnesota, was just 5-for-13 in Happy Valley on Saturday. The playcalling continued to be conservative, especially through the air. So far it seems Marrone and his staff are afraid to put too much in Paulus' hands early in the season.

Syracuse fell to 0-2 for the fourth consecutive season as seventh-ranked Penn State moved to 2-0.

Syracuse gets its third Big Ten matchup in a row next week as Northwestern comes to the Carrier Dome. Penn State will look to remain undefeated at home against the lightweight Temple Owls.

No comments:

Post a Comment