Syracuse didn’t start the season the way anyone- coaches, players, fans- wanted them to. Being embarrassed 30-10 against Northwestern put the Orange in a hole to start the year. Now they are faced with a must win game against Akron. Here is this week’s Four Downs for the hope opener:
1. Which Andrew Robinson will show up?
One of the biggest disappointments in the season opening loss was the play of Orange QB Andrew Robinson. Robinson came into this season after putting up good numbers last season. Missing his top two targets from last year was a known problem heading into the season, and last week it appeared that Robinson hasn’t meshed yet with the new receivers.
Robinson wasn’t the only reasons that the passing offense struggled, as Dave Rahme of syracuse.com points out. The lack of success on first downs is definitely a problem, one the Orange hope to address against the weak Zips run defense. The offensive line also has do do a better job in pass protection, something that it has struggled with for years.
Even with those other problems, Robinson was all over the map last week, sometimes overthrowing the ball, other times throwing it two yards short of his wideouts. His accuracy must improve in order for the offense to have success. This team will not be able to compete without solid play from the QB position (that might be the most obvious statement ever), and if Robinson looks as bad this week against Akron the coaches might have to think about bringing in Cam Dantley.
2. Which running back(s) will lead the way this week?
Greg Robinson still hasn’t announced a decision on who will start at tailback this week. All three running backs had their moments last week and will be needed this week. Akron struggles against the run, as evidence of the 404 yards Wisconsin ran for last week. Curtis Brinkley, Doug Houge and Delone Carter should all get plenty of chances to show what they can do on Saturday. If Robinson struggles passing again this week, Mitch Browning will lean heavily on his runners. It will be interesting to see how the coaches will split up the carries based on last weeks game as well as practices this week. The Orange will most likely be running the ball more this week, assuming they aren’t playing from behind all afternoon.
3. Can anyone on the Syracuse defense make a tackle?
Last week’s biggest defensive issue was the missed tackles, something I touched on earlier in the week. I counted 13 tackles that led to 97 yards of offense for Northwestern. And believe me when I say that I was generous in only crediting them with 13 misses. I excluded all the times someone was in position to make the tackle but wasn’t able to catch up to the ball carrier. The defense needs to improve quickly in this area or Akron will be getting free chunks of yards all over the place.
4. How many fans will be dressed as empty aluminum benches in the Dome?
The Carrier Dome used to be one of the best home field advantages in college football. While the Teflon bubble kept the cold and the snow of Central New York out, it kept the screaming, high-decibel noise of the raucous Orange faithful in. I can’t remember how many times in the 90’s I left the Dome with my voice hoarse and my ears ringing. It used to be you had no room in your seat because your section, even in the 300 level behind the goal posts, was so packed.
Fast forward to today and you now have enough room to lay down on those familiar silver benches when the on field results make you feel dizzy. You can also win free bread if you can be the closest guess to the announced attendance. Syracuse, like almost every other college athletic program or professional sports franchise, announces an attendance much greater than the actual number of fans. In fact I used to work for a minor league sports franchise, and one of the funniest (saddest?) things was seeing what we actually announce for attendance every game. Generally it would range from 500-3,000 more fans than what showed up. Obviously teams do this so that people think they’re doing better at the gate than they really are (plus in college you don’t want prospective recruits to think they’re going to be playing in front of the band, 200 students and 30 people with nothing better to do that day).
I won’t be in attendance as I no longer live in state, but I know there are plenty of locals won’t go to the Dome with the team’s recent run of ineptitude. This will be this season’s first statement of how low SU football has sunk in the minds of their fan base. Maybe with a strong performance some fans will start returning to the Dome.