The state of Syracuse football, and the status of the health care system in the United States, has run a similar path.
Hype and hope surrounded the hiring of Marrone (an alum and successful NFL coordinator), as well as the election of President Barack Obama (a community leader with pointed ideas and a lasting voice). Today, the products of both men move forward toward its goal after adversity, using solid footing and some timely motivation to invigorate the masses once more.
Marrone, ever the offensive playbook chemist, doctored a couple of drinks in the Syracuse running game to counter the hyper Rutgers defense, resulting in 213 yards on the ground. The Orange (4-7, 1-5 Big East) also benefited from two interceptions by junior safety Mike Holmes on the way to its first victory over the Scarlet Knights (7-3, 2-3) in five years.
The health care reform outlined by the Obama administration has gone through the first half of play, getting stripped of some of its initial pieces. The Orange football team has been cut even deeper, losing six starters (10 players total) to injury, including the heart (defensive tackle Arthur Jones) and soul (leading tackler Derrell Smith) of its defense. Also gone was star wide receiver Mike Williams, a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award before he quit the team in early November.
No one gave the Orange a chance to even keep the score close against Rutgers, who entered the game off a 31-0 shellacking of then-No. 23 South Florida two weeks ago.
“(The team) has really stood the course in what we’ve tried to do establishing the core of our football team,” said Marrone, after winning his first Big East game.
The United States Senate held a historic vote in Washington, D.C. Saturday night on whether to open a debate on the 2,074-page health care reform bill proposed by Senate majority leader Harry Reid from Nevada.
The key issues in the historic health care reform bill matched the Syracuse football team:
ABORTION – This partisan issue could be the lynchpin for the President Obama’s entire health care salvo, with the blocking attempts of the Republican Party sure to frustrate the Democrats. On Saturday afternoon, such effective blocking efforts were on display. The patchwork SU offensive line (on its fifth different unit of the season) opened up large holes for Orange running backs Delone Carter, Antown Bailey and Averin Collier, as the Orange put up nearly 100 rush yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the first quarter alone (all three backs would hit pay dirt, capped by a 60-yard scamper by Collier to seal the win). The Scarlet Knights did a little blocking of its own, snuffing a Rob Long punt out the back of the end zone at 12:46 for the safety (its first points of the day), blocking a fourth-quarter SU field goal attempt, before getting a hand on another Long punt late in the game.
EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTION – According to the 2009 SU football media guide, the sports medicine office commissioned eight members for its athletic training staff, including team physician Dr. Irving Raphael. The staff has been extremely busy overseeing season-ending injuries on the 10 wounded players, and on Saturday, had the task of evaluating the status of Carter after the running back took a helmet-to-helmet hit in the third quarter. Deemed OK to re-enter the game (“I had a bit of a stinger, but I hit so hard I can’t get knocked out”), Carter amassed 71 yards on 22 carries.
PUBLIC PLAN – Reid’s plan would establish a new government insurance plan that competes with plans from private insurers, yet allows for individual states to pass own legislation if they choose to opt out. SU Director of Athletics Dr. Daryl Gross has his own public plan, aggressively marketing Syracuse as the “New York’s college team,” making SU athletics available state- and nation-wide via the SNY channel on Time Warner Cable SNY and SU All-Access, a subscription multimedia experience available at the department’s Web site.
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS – SU quarterback Greg Paulus famously became the first men’s basketball student-athlete allowed by the NCAA to receive a waiver to transfer as a graduate student. After rough games versus the meat of the Big East schedule, many people in the media (this author included) and fans (with a little Bronx cheer) prompted Marrone to bench Paulus. Named a team captain at the end of training camp, Paulus has fought through the naysayers and the dual quarterback system, to become a statistical success – on pace to set the program record for completion rate. On Saturday, Paulus and his parents were honored as part of the senior class prior to the game, and then went 13-for-16 for 142 yards and a touchdown against Rutgers. Paulus did not have a turnover the entire day, and finally showed some arm strength, beating the Scarlet Knight defenders on curl routes to receivers for much of the day. Twice, Paulus lined up the Orange as Rutgers scrambled to get out a timeout huddle, deftly tossing the ball wide to Bailey for big pickups on screen plays.
PAYMENT PLAN – The Orange have paid into versatility, depth of roster and willingness to do anything when called upon. For “buying” into head coach Doug Marrone’s philosophy, players were put into positions to excel. Recruits were sure to notice the intensity with which the SU players play the game, how mental mistakes are corrected quickly (associate head coach Bob Casullo “lectured” special teams player Dan Vaughan about a dumb offsides penalty on a kickoff and Vaughan made a tackle on the next opportunity), and the manner in which the SU players carry themselves. Case in point: Carter stops Bailey just before he addresses the media, making sure Bailey’s tie is straight.
Once the shock of the Orange win wears off, much of the country will realize the leader (Marrone) is close to having the foundation put in place, with the return of SU to former glory on the gridiron closer than it appears.
“We go through a lot of change as coaches and we’re trying to instill an offense and a defense, and an attitude and a change of culture,” said Marrone after Saturday’s win. “We’re working our tails off to do that, and the players are working their tails off, trying to respond.”
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