Sunday, September 27, 2009

Syracuse football taking baby steps along road to respectability

Some thoughts on the 'Cuse, Tebow's injury and the Bills as I prepare to travel west down I-90 to the Ralph this afternoon:

The glass-is-half-full view of Syracuse's 41-24 victory against pesky Maine Saturday night is this: Unlike last year's half-hearted effort in a 14-point loss to Akron in the Dome, the 'Cuse woke up in the second half and played the way it should have from the start against a game, but inferior opponent.

The glass-half-empty view of the victory is this: SU's special teams were totally out-played and out-coached, and its defense is about as resistant as butter vs. the proverbial hot knife without NFL-bound tackle Arthur Jones in the lineup. Jones left early Saturday night with an upper leg injury. He was walking on it along the sidelines, which leads me to believe it wasn't serious and that Doug Marrone was being extra cautious because he knows if the Orange are to have any chance of beating South Florida in the Big East opener this Saturday, he's going to need a healthy Jones on the field.


I think the progress Greg Paulus has made in his rookie season of college football after not playing the game for four years is nothing short of remarkable. The former Duke point guard had another solid outing vs. Maine, completing 21-of-28 passes (he would have had 23 completions were it not for two drops) for 270 yards and two scores. He has great vision and great poise. It makes you wonder just how good he would be if he had chosen football over basketball.


Just when it appeared as if SU and the rest of the Big East might have caught a break when South Florida's senior quarterback Matt Grothe was lost for the season to injury, a freshman QB has shown that reports of the Bulls' demise were premature. B.J. Daniels looked marvelous in South Florida's 17-7 upset of No. 18 Florida State Saturday. The Bulls remain loaded with talent, and have surpassed both Florida State and Miami and now trail only Florida as the best college football team in the football-mad Sunshine State.


The hit that sent Florida quarterback Tim Tebow to the hospital with a concussion obviously could happen on any play during a football game. But the fact it occurred late in the third quarter with the Gators cruising by 24 points against overmatched Kentucky and the fact it happened while Tebow was battling some sort of stomach virus raises questions about why the heck he was still in the game. Methinks Florida coach Urban Meyer was getting a little greedy, trying to impress the voters with as lopsided a score as possible. Shame on him.


I feel badly for my friend, John DiTullio, and all my other buddies who root for Penn State. I don't know what the heck it is about Iowa, but the Hawkeyes have owned the Nittany Lions in recent years.


Looking forward to getting a look at the New Orleans Saints and their blazing hot quarterback Drew Brees today at the Ralph. The Bills will need another work-horse performance by the versatile Fred Jackson - the only NFL running back with more than 200 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving this season. Buffalo can't get involved in a shootout vs. the high-powered Saints. But they also can't become too conservative vs. a Saints defense that can be exploited. New offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt has to find a way to get T.O. and Lee Evans more involved than they've been in the first two games for the Bills to have a chance. Call it Saints 31, Bills 23 in an entertaining game.

I'll be in Orchard Park to cover the game, so please check out my post-game column here this evening.

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