pwgegick's Blog

Seven named All-Big East

The Syracuse University football team earned seven spots on the All-Big East First- and Second-Teams Thursday despite losing its last five.


For the Syracuse University football team (5-6, 1-6 Big East), it was season that ended in disappointment. The team fell in its final game to Pittsburgh, capping a five-game losing streak and missing bowl eligibility by one game. This came on the heels of a 2010 season, capped by a victory against Kansas State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Individually, though, the Orange had some success. Today, the team saw seven of its players achieve All-Big East status.

On the defensive side of the ball, Chandler Jones made the First-Team, despite missing five games this season. It was his second consecutive All-Big East honor. The defensive end finished with 38 tackles, four and a half sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. Middle linebacker Marquis Spruill made an appearance on the Second-Team, finishing with 62 tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries.


On the offensive side of the ball, Antwon Bailey garnered a First-Team selection through his 1,051 rushing yards, 200 receiving yards and seven total touchdowns. Two of the men blocking in front of him, left tackle Justin Pugh and right guard Andrew Tiller also received First-Team accolades.

Two of Ryan Nassib’s pass catchers also made an appearance on these teams. Tight end Nick Provo, a John Mackey Award semifinalist, made the First-Team with his 51 receptions, 537 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. On the Second-Team was Alec Lemon, as the wide receiver had 68 receptions for 834 yards and six touchdowns. Both also set the Syracuse record for single-season receptions for their respective positions.

Though these accolades come after a trying season, there’s good news for Orange fans. Of the recipients, only Tiller, Bailey and Provo will not return for the Orange next season, so 2012 remains bright for SU. 



A heartbreaking football season for SU comes to an end

The Syracuse University football team could not secure a bowl bid in its season finale, losing to the University of Pittsburgh, 33-20. The loss marks the fifth-straight for SU to end the season.


The final death of this team was not painless. Nor was it quick. Once again, turnovers, penalties and a lack of red zone execution were key factors.

There was a ray of hope, though, a moment where it seemed like Syracuse (5-6, 1-6 Big East) would come back into this game. Sure, there was 94 yards to cover, but 12 of them had already disappeared on one throw, a nice slant to widereceiver Alec Lemon. As Ryan Nassib broke the huddle, it seemed like the Orange might finally win one after a long, four-game skid.

Then, Pittsburgh (6-6, 4-3 Big East) defenders Brandon Lindsey and Antwuan Reed, in one moment, stole that hope. Lindsey, an outside linebacker, nailed Nassib from behind, making the ball lazily float in the hands of Reed, a cornerback, who sprinted down the sideline and gleefully celebrated in the end zone. 

In a half that had seen Pitt give away countless opportunities at victory, this fumble recovery was all the Panthers would need to secure a bowl berth. 

The play capped a demoralizing 33-20 defeat at the hands of the Panthers, one that mercifully ended a five-game losing streak that moved the Syracuse Orange from 5-2 to bowlless. The turnover was one of many for SU and, coupled with 95 yards sacrfiied through penalties, the Orange crumbled Saturday. For the second time in three seasons under head coach Doug Marrone, Syracuse will not participate in the postseason.

“It’s a lot of emotion because, at times, we had the game,” senior safety Olando Fisher said after playing in the final game of his Syracuse career. “But then, it just shifted.” 

It was a familiar refrain to those who watched the Orange this season. Once again, critical mistakes in all parts of the game crippled Syracuse from pulling out win number six on the season.   

The mistakes started early for the Orange, as Dorian Graham misplayed the first kickoff straight into the hands of the Panthers. The result was an easy touchdown for Pitt, who converted on their first offensive play, a quick throw from Tino Sunseri to Isaac Bennett out of the backfield, who rumbled 22 yards for the touchdown.

The defense, for their part, had some trouble with the Pitt offense on the day. Bennett, a true freshman who made his first start for the Panthers because of injuries to both Ray Graham and his backup Zach Brown, rushed for 51 yards on 13 carries, adding seven catches, 61 receiving yards and the above touchdown. Anthony Gonzalez, the Panthers’ main weapon in the Wildcat offense, ran for 36 yards on 6 carries, including a 17 yard score.

Sunseri, the beleaguered quarterback, had no problem throwing against the Syracuse defense. Sunseri threw for 259 yards and a touchdown against the Orange, his best total since a victory over the University of Connecticut.

SU, though, did see some success when it brought pressure, as it managed to force Sunseri into a variety of incompletions and four sacks. The group also forced a turnover from the quarterback, as Chandler Jones leaped up to intercept a swing pass before taking it into Pittsburgh territory.

“We just thought about bringing pressure to him and then backing off, bringing pressure and backing off,” Fisher said. “And sometimes it worked.”

Offensively, there were some bright moments and broken records. Nassib threw for a school record 2,685 yards, the most by an Orange quarterback in Syracuse history. Antwon Bailey finished with over 1,000 yards for the season, as he rushed for 1,051 yards on the year. Don’t forget tight end Nick Provo, who set the Syracuse career receptions by a tight end, as he finished with 92 catches in his career. Plus, Alec Lemon demolished the single-season receptions record, finishing with 68 on the year and obliterating the original mark set by Mike Williams and Kevin Johnson. 

Lemon had the best day of anyone wearing Orange in this game. The junior was Nassib’s favorite target, securing eight passes on the day for 99 yards. Lemon also attempted another wide receiver pass, but scrambled as the coverage downfield forced his hand.

Provo also continued his solid play. The tight end added to his legend in this game, moving past former All-American Chris Gedney on the all-time list for receptions by a tight end. He had 37 additional yards receiving and assisted in the ground game with his blocking.

Bailey had a tough time on the ground, though, rushing for 53 yards on 18 carries. But Bailey did some damage catching the ball, securing five receptions for 43 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown on a screen pattern for the Orange’s first points.

Don’t forget about the performance of Jerome Smith either. The sophomore running back rumbled to the tune of 56 yards on 10 carries, bringing a hugely physical presence to the game. The first drive of the second half was a microcosm of Smith’s performance, as he turned a short gain into a 10-yard one, simply by continuing to move his feet against a pile of blockers and defensive linemen. He then punctuated the drive with a 10-yard plunge, accentuating his performance.

“I was just running, man,” said Smith of his performance. “I just wanted to win.”

Nassib, the focal point of this offense, once again had an up-and-down game. Despite facing constant pressure, Nassib completed 71 percent of his passes for 225 yards and a touchdown. The senior also showed poise in the pocket, scrambling away from pressure and rushing when he thought it was necessary.

On the other side of the equation, though, were the turnovers. The first was a strike to Lindsey on what looked to be a communication error. The final turnover was a pass that bounced off of Van Chew’s hands and plopped straight into Andrew Taglianetti’s hands. Sandwiched in between was a fumble forced by Lindsey when he stripped Nassib. 

With the lackluster turnover margin, the lack of discipline and inefficient redzone play, the Orange slumped through its last regular season game, finishing a heartbreaking 2011 season. 

To Marrone, the culprit was obvious. 

“It’s kind of the same story of the season,” Marrone said. “Turnovers and not taking advantage of things in the red zone of the right time.”


Vaughan prepares for homecoming in season finale

Last season, senior linebacker Dan Vaughan contributed on special teams. But the Pittsburgh native left his impression on SU football this year, as the team’s season-defining game shifts to western Pennsylvania’s Heinz Field.

Growing up, Dan Vaughan didn’t live far away from the University of Pittsburgh’s current home field.

“I live about seven miles from the stadium,” Vaughan said.

This year, Vaughan will be playing inside the stadium, as the Syracuse Orange (5-6, 1-5 Big East) take on the Pittsburgh Panthers (5-6, 3-3 Big East) in a must-win game for both teams at 12 p.m. Saturday. Each sits one win away from bowl contention, meaning the loser will not have a postseason this year. It’s a huge game for the Orange, who are coming off an 8-5 season that saw the team win its first bowl game under head coach Doug Marrone.

Four years ago, though, Vaughan played on that Heinz Field turf. He was a senior on the Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School team that won a 35-34 overtime thriller over Gateway High School for the Western Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic League AAAA title. The victory would be a catalyst for Central Catholic, as they would go on to win the Pennsylvania State AAAA title that season.

For Vaughan, who played H-back and defensive end on the team his senior year at CCHS, it’s a game he’ll never forget.

“It was absolute craziness,” Vaughan said of the game.

During that season, Vaughan received multiple scholarships to play football at the FBS level. He received scholarships not only from Syracuse, but also from the University of Pittsburgh, which was mere blocks from CCHS. However, the Panthers would eventually rescind their scholarship and Vaughan would make the trip to Central New York.

It’s a trip that he’s never regretted.

“I love Syracuse,” Vaughan said.  “I really wouldn’t want to come anywhere else.”

That’s not to say that Vaughan immediately found success at the school. The linebacker spent the last two seasons playing on the special teams unit, registering just 10 total tackles. For the former high school star, it was an adjustment.

“I had a lot of learning opportunities,” Vaughan said of his time. “I had two great linebackers in front of me in Derrell Smith and Doug (Hogue) and I took advantage of learning from them.”

This season, though, Vaughan has found his place on the linebacker unit.  He’s settled into a starting role with Marquis Spruill and Dyshawn Davis. The senior from Pittsburgh has also made some noticeable contributions for the Orange this season, as he is the current active leader in tackles, with 66, and is also tied for the team lead in forced fumbles, with two.

More impressive, though, has been Vaughan’s consistency. The senior has only had four games this season where he’s recorded less than five tackles. He’s also had a 15-tackle game this season against the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers.


For Vaughan, his game begins with his football instincts.

“I’d say my knowledge of the defense, first,” Vaughn said of his best attribute. “I just know where I’m supposed to be and know what I’m supposed to do.”

His teammates agree. Davis, the freshman who has been a revelation in his first season with his physical play, says that Vaughan has been a large help to hid game this season and a leader for the group.

“From the moment I first stepped in here, I knew Dan was a good leader,” Davis said. “He’s a guy that does everything right.”

Another impressed person is Vaughan’s position coach, Dan Conley, who says Vaughan has been a large part of the group’s success this season.

“He’s a really accountable kid with great effort and that’s why he’s been able to get on the field and play so much,” Conley said. “You can count on him being in the right spot at the right time, a high percentage of the time.”

Now, as the season comes to a close, the scene shifts to Pittsburgh, Vaughan and Conley’s hometown. Conley, a former linebacker for the Orange, would have had an opportunity to play in this game were it not for some outside circumstances.

“It’s something I never got a chance to do,” Conley said. “I never got a chance to go home and play at Pitt. I was always hurt. So I was disappointed with that, but being a coach and being able to go back to Pittsburgh is always great.”

Vaughan will be making that trek home Saturday. His chance at a postseason will depend on a game played in front of family and friends. He’ll also be facing off against former high school teammates Andrew Taglianetti, a special teams contributor at defensive back, and Tino Sunseri, the Panthers starting quarterback.  

This time, the group will be facing off against each other, rather than trying to defeat a common opponent. This time, only one of those players will be able to move on to another game.

Running out the clock: Week 13 edition

News and notes from Syracuse University's crushing loss to the University of Cincinnati, 30-13.

Here’s my recap of the game, a 30-13 defeat at the hands of the Cincinnati Bearcats (8-3, 4-2 Big East). “Obviously, I’m upset. I don’t even think I can explain how I feel," Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone said following the game. 

Despite the score, the Syracuse (5-6, 1-5 Big East) offense was still effective offensively in this game. SU amassed more yards and first downs on offense than Cincinnati, 373 to 368 and 22 to 18, respectively. 

Even in the loss, Antwon Bailey had one of the biggest games of his career. Bailey rushed for 135 yards in the game, a career-high.  He also crossed 2,000 rushing yards for his career, with 2,091. 

Wide receiver Alec Lemon is attacking the Syracuse record books this season. His three receptions in the game give him 60 for the season, tying the junior with Mike Williams and Kevin Johnson for the Syracuse single-season record.

Tight end Nick Provo likewise continued his standout play this season. He finished the game with three receptions for 47 yards and the Orange’s lone touchdown. He also caught a pass for the 24th consecutive game, good for fifth all-time in Syracuse history.

Another senior returned to prominence in this game as Van Chew, who hadn’t topped 50 yards receiving since the Rhode Island game, finished with 77 receiving yards on six catches.
Jonathan Fisher had one of his best days in a Syracuse uniform. The freshman averaged 42.8 yards on his six punts, including a high a 54 yards.
Your leader in tackles this week is Chandler Jones with eight, including seven solo stops. Jeremi Wilkes and Shamarko Thomas both tied for second place, as each finished with six tackles.
With his defensive performance, Jones tied a career-high in solo tackles, and moved to 11th place on Syracuse’s career tackles by a down lineman list. The man ahead of him is his brother, Arthur Jones, who had 145.
With all the talk of Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros and his injury, it was easy to forget that the Bearcats still had Isaiah Pead. Pead made his impact felt on Saturday, with 246 total yards, a 24-yard rushing touchdown and a 69-yard receiving touchdown.
Jordan Luallen also had a big day for the Bearcats. Luallen, who has recorded statistics in three games this season, ran for 77 yards against the Orange. He also nearly scored two touchdowns, but he was downed on the one-yard-line both times.

Cincinnati’s Maalik Bomar had an incredible game. The junior linebacker finished with five tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack. Bomar was also involved in a large collision with Syracuse running back Jerome Smith that left the former dazed on the field.

Munchie Legaux had an impressive week, throwing for 169 yards and two touchdowns in the Cincinnati victory. Then again, 69 of those yards came on one play, a touchdown toss to Pead.

Next week sees the Orange travel to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, P.A. to face the Pittsburgh Panthers (5-6, 3-3 Big East) at 12 p.m. The Panthers, despite still having their original starting quarterback in Tino Sunseri, could be facing the loss of Zach Brown, a transfer from Wisconsin, at running back after losing original starter Ray Graham due to injury. The game will be broadcast on ESPN 2.


Football team continues Big East skid, falling to Cincy

After a win against West Virginia, it seemed like Syracuse could make the BCS. With their fourth straight loss, though, the Orange are now one loss away from missing the postseason.

It seems that so much time has passed since Syracuse (5-6, 1-5 Big East) dominated West Virginia in the Carrier Dome. During that 47-20 beat down, the Orange controlled all three phases of the game so completely that it didn’t seem far-fetched to have the team as the BCS representative from the Big East. Just over a month ago, the Orange completed a dream drubbing of the Mountaineers to move the team to 5-2 on the season. 

That dream, though, has turned into a nightmare. Syracuse has lost its last four games, the most recent one to Cincinnati (8-3, 4-2 Big East) on Senior Day, 30-13. This one, though, might have been the most disconcerting, especially since Cincinnati was without star quarterback Zach Collaros and the Orange were coming off of a bye week. In fact, until today, Doug Marrone was undefeated when coming off of a bye week.

“Losing four straight games is unacceptable,” head coach Doug Marrone said following the game. “We got beat in all three phases.”

Offensively, it seemed as though Syracuse just couldn’t find a rhythm. The team worked its way through certain parts of the field, but just couldn’t finish drives with touchdowns. Often, the team seemed to amass chunks of yardage before the Bearcats shut the offense down just as it began to gain momentum. The Orange had five drives end inside Cincinnati's 30 yard-line, but only converted one of them into a touchdown, settling for two field goals and turning the ball over on downs twice instead.

Even with 203 yards through the air, quarterback Ryan Nassib had some difficulties with the football. Certain passes seemed to float on the quarterback, and he made some questionable decisions under pressure. It is also important to note, though, that multiple receivers dropped impressive throws from Nassib, including two critical mistakes from Alec Lemon, one of which could have given the Orange a much-needed touchdown late in the game.

In addition, Nassib had trouble throwing against the Bearcats defense, who brought relentless pressure and sacked Nassib four times. Such defensive pressure offers another disconcerting stat of the team's four-game slide, as it seems that every team now brings more pressure against Nassib than the beginning of the year. He’s been sacked 14 times over the last four, compared to 12 times in the seven games prior.

“Teams know that we struggle against the pressure, and we get a lot of blitzes,” Nassib noted. “So it’s something we’re going to work on and I’ve just got to do a better job of getting the ball out quick.” 

One of the bright spots for the Orange today was at the running back position. Antwon Bailey, the senior who celebrated with multiple members of his family before the game, had one of the best games of his SU career. He finished with 27 carries for 135  yards, pinballing his way through defenders on carries up the middle. The back crossed the 2000 rushing yard barrier for his career, and is just two yards shy of 1000 rushing yards this season.

Nick Provo also had some flashes of brilliance. The tight end, who missed out on the finals for the John Mackey Award, continued his assault on the Syracuse record books. Provo added three catches for 47 yards to his season totals and scored a 15-yard touchdown on a catch and run from Nassib.

Don’t forget about the plays from Jonathan Fisher, either. After some rough weeks, Fisher had one of his best weeks as a punter against the Bearcats. The freshman averaged 42.8 yards per punt, and booted one 54 yards.

But these bright spots would be few and far between. Even with Fisher’s great punts, Cincinnati still managed to start drives with good field position, starting six of their 13 drives beyond their own 30-yard line. The Bearcats’ Ralph David Abernathy IV nearly returned a kickoff for a touchdown, with only a diving Ross Krautman saving the Orange from a certain touchdown.

The Syracuse defense also had trouble with the Bearcats offense. Despite the Bearcats primarily sticking to swing passes and option runs, the Syracuse defense nearly gave up three more touchdowns than they actually allowed. The defensive corp was aided, though, by multiple Cincinnati false start penalties near the goal line, including one sequence that saw the Bearcats move from 1st and goal on the one-yard line to second-and-goal from the 11-yard line.

Most of that success came from Isaiah Pead, the Bearcats highly touted running back who ran for 80 yards and caught 9 passes for 112 amount of yards, while adding both a rushing and receiving touchdown. Pead even accumulated 54 yards of punt returns, finishing the day with 246 all-purpose yards.

“He’s probably one of the best backs in the Big East,” linebacker Dan Vaughan said of Pead. “They just wanted to get him the ball, and they gave it to him in screens out in space and he was running up the middle, too. He was splitting us pretty good.”

It wasn’t just Pead, though. Jordan Luallen, the backup quarterback for the Bearcats, had some success against the defense. He rushed for 77 yards on eight carries against the Orange defense. Two of those carriers nearly resulted in touchdowns, as he was downed on the one-yard line twice.

Munchie Legaux also hurt the Orange defense, completing 13 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Even in limited reps, he helped to lead the Bearcat offense to success.

In fact, the only fault of Cincinnati was their ability to not seize the moment early in the game. Tony Miliano, who made three other field goals on the day, missed a chip shot from 33 yards. Both of Luallen’s runs that could have resulted in touchdowns ended up as Bearcat field goals. Also, five false start penalties either ended drives or moved the Bearcats into field goal attempts. 

In the end, though, the Bearcats proved too much for the Orange to overcome. Now, with a visit to Pittsburgh, P.A. to play the Pittsburgh Panthers (5-6, 3-3 Big East) looming, the team is in a fight for its bowl eligibility. At 5-6, another loss means the Orange will miss the postseason for the second time under Doug Marrone’s tenure.

If that happens, that West Virginia stunner will seem but a mirage in a nightmarish season. 

Running out the clock: Week 11 edition

News and notes from Syracuse University's third consecutive loss, this time at the hands of the University of South Florida, 37-17.

Here’s my recap of the game, a 37-17 defeat of the Syracuse Orange (5-5, 1-4) at the hands of the South Florida Bulls (5-4, 1-4). “Obviously we have lost our third straight. We were beat on all three phases,” Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone said after the game.

Despite the Orange’s skid, Alec Lemon has had a couple of successful weeks. He’s accumulated 336 yards over the last two games, the first time an Orange receiver accomplished that feat since 2007. This week, he finished with 10 receptions for 179 yards and two touchdowns, the team's only TDs in the game.

Here’s another Lemon statistic, in honor of his most recent performances. He’s now third all-time in single-season receptions, with 57.

Speaking of pass-catchers, Nick Provo continues his rise to national prominence. Not only did Provo’s 43 receiving yards move him into second place all-time for receiving yards by a tight end in a single season, he was named as one of the eight semifinalists for the John Mackey Award this week.

From throwing the ball to running it, Syracuse definitely tried to get the running game started this week. The Orange started the game with seven-straight rushing plays. 

Ryan Nassib’s known for his arm, but he did some damage with his legs this week. The senior quarterback finished with 30 yards on the ground, 13 more than his next highest total this season.

Nassib had an interesting day through the air. On one hand, his 50 percent completion percentage is the second lowest of the season. On the other hand, he threw for his second highest amount of yardage on the season, throwing for 297 yards against the South Florida secondary.

Your leader in tackles this week is Phillip Thomas, who finished with 14. In second place is Dan Vaughan, who finished with seven.

On the defensive side of the ball, Keon Lyn forced a fumble when he knocked the ball away from Victor Marc near the goal line, leading to a touchback. That turnover means Syracuse has forced a turnover in every game it has played this season.

On the other hand, Syracuse could not find an answer for USF quarterback B.J. Daniels. The junior showed how dangerous he is on the football field, as he threw for 254 yards, while rushing for 117 yards and a TD on the day.


Those 254 yards through the air were the result of a team effort by the Bulls. Eleven separate players recorded at least one reception against the Syracuse secondary.

Daniels also had some help from his backfield in this one. Running back Demetris Murray was extremely successful against the Orange, as he finished with 17 carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

It was a great day for South Florida on defense as well. Led by Mike Lanaris’ seven tackles, the team held the Orange to 108 yards on the ground and sacked Nassib three times.

Syracuse has some time before their next game, when they take on the Bearcats of the University of Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1 Big East) on November 26 in the Carrier Dome. Cincinnati is the current leader of the Big East and was led by quarterback Zach Collaros, who threw for 1854 yards and 14 touchdowns so far this season. Collaros, though, will not play due to a ankle injury suffered in last week’s loss to West Virginia. The game will be broadcast on ESPN 2 or the Big East Network.




Running out the clock: Week 10 edition

News and notes from Syracuse University's stunning loss on the road against the University of Connecticut, 28-21.


The Syracuse Orange (5-4, 1-2 Big East) could not pull out the win in East Hartford, as they fell to the University of Connecticut Huskies (4-5, 1-2 Big East), 28-21. “We knew what we had to do and we had a good game plan, but just too many turnovers," Nick Provo said, courtesy of Connecticut Athletics

Speaking of those turnovers, there were eight in this contest. The Huskies threw two interceptions, while coughing up three fumbles. Syracuse threw two interceptions and also fumbled the ball away once. 

The five Syracuse takeaways are the highest amount since the five snatched against West Virginia in the 2005 season opener.

Ryan Nassib had an interesting afternoon.  On one hand, he had 24 completions for 275 yards and two touchdowns. On the other hand, he also threw two interceptions.

Antwon Bailey had one of his worst games of the year. The tailback finished with just 50 yards on 16 carries, while also adding a fumble.

Alec Lemon, by contrast, had one of the best games of his Syracuse career. The junior receiver finished with nine catches for 157 yards and a touchdown.  His 157 yards receiving are a single-season high for the team.

Provo had another solid game, as he finished with seven catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. He’s also captured the single-season receptions by a tight end mark previously held by Chris Gedney. The record was originally 34 receptions, but Provo already has 39 receptions this season.

Phillip Thomas is your leader in tackles this week, with 10. In second place is Shamarko Thomas, who finished with seven.Phillip Thomas also added two interceptions to his totals this season against the Huskies, giving him six on the year. That number leads the Big East.  It also marks his second game this season with two interceptions.

Chandler Jones was a force on the defensive line yet again. This time, he finished with six tackles, a tackle for a loss, a sack and two forced fumbles.

It was a rough day at the office for the special teams unit. Ross Krautman missed his only field goal attempt and had a kickoff go out of bounds.  Plus, Jonathan Fisher only averaged 33.2 yards per punt return, despite having a long of 52 yards.

On the other hand, Connecticut’s Nick Williams had a great day on special teams. He averaged 41 yards per kick return, including a near-touchdown on a 61-yard return.

What a day for Lyle McCombs. The freshman running back is the first 100-yard rusher against the Orange since Andre Williams from Boston College. He finished with 152 yards on 24 carries, including a 63-yard scamper.

Each of Connecticut’s quarterbacks brought something to the table on Saturday, though they both had their issues. Johnny McEntee threw for 113 yards and a touchdown, though he did toss two interceptions. Scott McCummings finished with 59 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, but did not throw a single pass.

Isiah Moore had a big day against the Orange. He led all Huskies receivers with four catches for 72 yards. The 72 yards are his second highest total on the year, as he finished with eight catches for 143 yards against Iowa State.

Yawin Smallwood had a big day for the Huskies.  He finished with 12 tackles, half a tackle for a loss, half a sack, and a pass break up.

Here’s a statistic that’s sure to make Syracuse fans cringe. The team led in first downs, 22-18, total offensive yardage 365-311, time of possession, 31:05-28:55 and third down conversion percentage 50-38.

Great work by the Connecticut ground game on Saturday. The Huskies outgained the Orange 198-90 on the day.

Third down conversions were not either team’s strong suit in this one. The team’s combined to go 10 for 22, for a percentage of less than 50 percent.

This week sees Syracuse take on the Bulls from the University of South Florida (4-4, 0-4, Big East) Friday in the Carrier Dome at 8 p.m. The Bulls are coming off a close loss to Rutgers on the road, as they fell 20-17 in overtime. The Bulls are led by junior quarterback B.J. Daniels, who’s thrown for 2027 yards and 12 touchdowns, while running for 440 yards and four touchdowns. The Bulls started 4-0, but haven't won since conference play started. The game will be broadcast on ESPN 2.


Andrew Tiller, by the numbers

As the Syracuse University football team gears up for its matchup against the Connecticut Huskies, offensive lineman Andrew Tiller reflects on his weight loss and grades.

Four hundred and eight pounds.  

That’s what Syracuse guard Andrew Tiller weighed when he first stepped on campus. After rehabbing from an ankle surgery before attending the university, Tiller saw his weight grow past 400 pounds before his first season of Division-I Football Bowl Subdivision football. 

Since that time, though, Tiller has worked hard to lose the weight. He started watching both his weight and his diet after he arrived, and the work appears to have paid off. Two years later, he’s happy to announce where he stands in the weight category.

“Well right now, I’m about 324,” the guard said with a smile. “So I’ve lost about 84 pounds.”

There’s been a lot to smile about for Tiller and the rest of the offensive line this season. They blocked for five 100-yard games for running back Antwon Bailey and helped quarterback Ryan Nassib throw for more than 1,500 yards by keeping the pressure away.

This week, though, the Syracuse offensive line will face a team with a formidable defensive front, as the Orange (5-3, 1-2 Big East) takes on the Connecticut Huskies (3-5, 1-1 Big East) Saturday at 12 p.m. in East Hartford, CT. It’s going to take all 324 pounds of Tiller to ensure the Syracuse offense moves efficiently against UCONN's Kendall Reyes, a First-Team All-Big East selection last season at defensive tackle. 

Back at Central Islip High School, Tiller had no problem helping the offense move efficiently. As an offensive tackle, Tiller helped pave the way for an offense that averaged 313 rushing yards per game during his senior season. Also on the defensive side of the ball, led all Long Island players that season in sacks, with 12, while winning the Zellner Award, annually given to the best lineman in Suffolk County, NY.

With statistics and awards such as these, it’s hard to believe that Tiller decided to attend a junior college. An off-the-field issue, though, made Tiller unappealing to FBS schools.

“Coming out of high school, my grades weren’t where they were supposed to be,” Tiller said. “So a lot of the schools that were interested, they backed off because they knew that I wasn’t going to be cleared to play D-I football.”

Tiller proceeded to Nassau Community College in Garden City, NY, where he would receive a handful of FBS scholarship offers for his play. Syracuse, though, was not the only program interested in Tiller’s services, as he also received a scholarship offer from the University of Miami (FL) Hurricanes. In the end, though, Tiller decided to not take his talents to Coral Gables, FL and instead signed with head coach Doug Marrone’s first recruiting class.  

For Tiller, it helped that a familiar face would be joining him in Syracuse. John Anselmo, Tiller’s head coach at Nassau, had joined Marrone’s coaching staff. 

“He was my head coach back at Nassau,” Tiller said. “He had always looked out for me there, so I knew that I would feel more comfortable if I went up to Syracuse with him.”

Unfortunately for Tiller, his first season was filled with adversity. He only appeared in 10 games on the year, garnering just three starts. He also had some trouble off the field, as he was suspended by coach Marrone for his role in an early-morning car accident between an SUV and a tractor-trailer. Though Tiller was not at fault in the accident, he still was suspended a game for violating team rules.

Last season, though, Tiller didn’t miss any action. Now at offensive guard, he started all 13 games of the season, as the Orange went on to their first bowl game since 2004. He was also part of a unit that helped then-running back Delone Carter rush for over 1,000 yards. 

This season, Tiller returned with three of his fellow starters: left tackle Justin Pugh, left guard Zach Chibane and right tackle Michael Hay. In fact, the only new starter of the group was the man in the middle, center Macky MacPherson. The true sophomore spoke highly of the man who plays to his direct right.

“He’s a real stud at the right guard position,” MacPherson said. “He does what he does well and he’s a very smart football player."

Tiller’s intelligence has also been displayed off the field. Far removed from his academic troubles in high school, Tiller is on pace to receive his degree from the school, a feat that his mother, Sharon, holds in high regard.

“I would do anything for my mother” he said. “Getting this degree, that’s something that she really wants me to do. So I’m making that my main priority right now, to get that degree for me and her.”

That day, when Tiller receives his diploma, he’ll be judged on three different numbers than when he first arrived at Syracuse: his college grade-point average.

Running out the clock: Week 9 edition

News and notes from Syracuse's loss against Louisville, 27-10.

Syracuse Orange (5-3, 1-2 Big East) lost Saturday, in Louisville, KY against the Louisville Cardinals (4-4, 2-1 Big East), 27-10. “Obviously we’re disappointed. We lost the football game," head coach Doug Marrone said after the stunning defeat, courtesy of
The loss was shocking for a team that’s played well away from home. It’s Syracuse’s first road loss in the Big East since 2009.
It was not a good day on third down for either offense, as the two teams went a combined 7-25, or 28 percent, on third down conversions.
Syracuse had one of its worst days in the penalty department. The team received 12 penalties—a season high— for 99 yards, with five personal foul calls. 
Quarterback Ryan Nassib had a tough game against Louisville this week. His 162 yards through the air are a season-low, and he was sacked four times. He did, however, manage to throw a touchdown in the game.
Antwon Bailey’s streak of 100-yard games ends at four. He finished with just 70 yards this week on 15 carries.
Nick Provo, Van Chew and Alec Lemon all finished with four receptions against the Cardinals. Lemon is one catch away from 100 receptions for his career. He’s currently ninth in program history, in career receptions.
Saturday was a big day for Jarrod West. The sophomore caught the first touchdown of his career against the Cardinals, a 20-yard reception in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. 
Jonathan Fisher had one of his busiest days this year. Fisher finished with eight punts and a 40.1-yard average. He also managed to place a punt inside the 20.
Marquis Spruill leads with nine tackles this week. The linebacker had a whale of a game, which included a tackle for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble. Linebacker Shamarko Thomas finished the game with eight tackles.
Chandler Jones continues to be a force on the defensive line. He had five tackles this week, including a tackle for a loss and a sack.
The defense keeps its 100-yard streak intact. Louisville did not have a single player rush for 100 yards, though they came awfully close with Victor Anderson’s 93 yards on the ground. Sixty-one of Anderson's yards came on one play, a touchdown that marked Louisville’s last trip to the end zone. The 93 yards are the most that Syracuse has allowed to one player this season. Anderson accomplished all of this on only 11 carries.
At first glance, Teddy Bridgewater’s 17-24 performance for 198 yards and two touchdowns seems average.  But the freshman tied his career high in touchdown tosses, and had his second highest total of yardage.
Another Louisville freshman, Michaelee Harris had a huge game against the Orange. Harris finished with four catches for 96 yards, setting a new career high in the latter. He almost had a 21-yard touchdown reception, but the play was called back due to a penalty.
Preston Brown had an incredible game for Louisville. The sophomore linebacker finished with seven tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks.
There wasn’t a large discrepancy in first downs, as Louisville managed 15 to Syracuse’s 14. However, Syracuse was outgained in offensive yardage, 343-246.
Next week will be another road test for the Orange, as the team travels to Storrs, CT to take on the Huskies from the University of Connecticut (3-5, 1-2 Big East) at 12 p.m. The Huskies are coming off a 25-10 loss to Pittsburgh. The top player on the team is Lyle McCombs, a redshirt freshman who has rushed for 829 yards and four touchdowns on the season.  The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.



Running out the clock: Week 8 Edition

News and notes from Syracuse's upset win against West Virginia, 49-23.

 My recap of Syracuse's shocking victory at home against then-No. 11 West Virginia, 49-23. “We had a good victory tonight. It really means a lot," head coach Doug Marrone said after the win.

The announced attendance for the game was 45,265. That’s the largest crowd at an SU home football game since the first game of Marrone’s tenure.

Speaking of Marrone, he apparently knows how to use the extra time off. The program is now 3-0 under the coach after a bye week.

Dorian Graham topped his performance last week on one play, returning a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. It was the first Orange return for a touchdown since Mike Holmes ran one back against Pittsburgh in 2008.

You can put the punting competition to bed. Jonathan Fisher finished the game with an average of 44 yards on four punts, including a 57-yarder. 

Antwon Bailey had his fourth consecutive 100-yard game, finishing with 125 yards on the ground. That ties the second longest streak of 100-yard games in Syracuse history.

Ryan Nassib had a day to remember. His 24 completions moved him past Troy Nunes and Don McPherson for fourth all-time at Syracuse. Nassib also finished with 229 yards through the air and five total touchdowns, including one on the ground.

It was a great day for two of the pass catchers. David Stevens, a senior tight end, received the first touchdown of his career against the Mountaineers and Alec Lemon, the junior wide receiver, moved into 10th on the all-time career catches list, with 95.

Nick Provo had a day fitting of a Mackey Award candidate.  He led the team in catches with six, had 61 yards receiving, and caught three touchdowns. Those three touchdowns are the most receiving touchdowns for any player in the Big East in a single game.

Your co-leaders in tackles are Siriki Diabate and Phillip Thomas, who tied with seven. Following those two was Chandler Jones, with six. 

Jones had an emphatic return to the Syracuse lineup. Jones finished with six unassisted tackles, two tackles for a loss, and two sacks.

Phillip Thomas intercepted his fourth pass of the season, tying for the lead in the Big East Conference in that category.

WVU quarterback Geno Smith finished the game with 338 yards through the air and two touchdowns. His totals seem a bit deceptive, though, when one considers he threw two interceptions and was sacked on four plays.

Another game, another big receiving day against the Orange. Stedman Bailey finished the game with seven receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown. Though, to be fair, 64 came on one play.

Dustin Garrison finished with 58 yards on 11 carries. This matters because it marks the eighth consecutive game Syracuse has not allowed a 100-yard rusher.

Next week sees Syracuse take on the Louisville Cardinals in Louisville, KY at 12 p.m. The Cardinals are led by senior linebacker Dexter Heyman, who has 51 tackles, seven and a half TFL’s, two sacks and two interceptions on the season. The game will be broadcast on the Big East Network.