Struggling Syracuse looking for answers
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Four games into his fourth season at Syracuse, coach Doug Marrone is staring at the prospect of another losing campaign, and he's not shy about placing the blame on the head guy.
"Realistically, I've been here for four years now," Marrone said Monday on the weekly Big East teleconference. "I have to do a better job. The outcome of what's going on in the program is not satisfactory for the standards that I have."
The Orange (1-3) is exactly where it didn't want to be - coping with a loss heading into a bye week.
On paper, things don't seem so bad. Syracuse has outgained its four opponents by 520 yards, run 63 more plays, and holds nearly a 2-1 margin in passing yards (1,367 to 725). The Orange also has a 48.5 percent conversion rate on third down while holding opponents to 36.4 percent.
All those positives disappeared on Saturday night in a lackluster 17-10 loss at Minnesota (4-0). The team that had slugged it out in competitive losses to Northwestern and then-No. 2 Southern California and rallied past FCS power Stony Brook never appeared, committing four turnovers and 10 penalties - four of them false starts. That erased any chance of gaining an important victory.
The Orange also managed just 350 yards of offense as quarterback Ryan Nassib never was able to get into any sort of rhythm with the no-huddle offense that had worked so well the first three games. Nassib was 21 of 31 for 228 yards, was sacked three times, and the lone touchdown he threw didn't come until the final minute of the game.
Nassib also committed a most costly turnover, throwing an interception at the goal line in the fourth quarter with the game well within reach at 14-3. Against Stony Brook, Syracuse failed twice on fourth-down tries inside the Seawolves 5. Syracuse has scored 11 touchdowns in 18 drives inside the opponent 20-yard line while allowing nine in 12 tries.
"I know that I have to do a better job ... from a red-zone standpoint. Two weeks in a row that we've struggled there," Marrone said. "I have to do a better job of preparing my team when we come out on the field in the second half. Defensively, we gave up an 87-yard drive with the score 7-3. We have a lot of penalties that have gone against us, which is my responsibility, and turnovers."
Asked if it might be a focus issue, Marrone continued the personal attack.
"I think everyone in this profession ... knows that that's a reflection of the structure and the discipline in the program," he said. "I've done a very poor job over four years of making our team continue to get better in those two fields. I don't think that we have. There's been pockets where it's been good and there's been pockets where it's been very costly for our football team where we haven't been able to overcome.
"At the end of the day - and I'm not being a martyr - it's truly on me."
Syracuse opens Big East play a week from Friday at home against suddenly resurgent Pittsburgh (2-2). The Orange will welcome back star left offensive tackle Justin Pugh, who missed the first four games while recovering from shoulder surgery in the offseason. Marrone said Sean Hickey, who played well in place of Pugh, will slide over to the right side going forward.
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