Student Reporting Archive

SU’s Strong Start Pushes The Orange Past Fordham, 89-74

November 13, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — Unlike their first half performance in last Friday’s game against Cornell, the Syracuse men’s basketball team had an explosive start in the first half against Fordham Tuesday night. The Orange led 46-21 at the half and went on to win it 89-74. Just under five minutes into the game, the Orange […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  Unlike their first half performance in last Friday’s game against Cornell, the Syracuse men’s basketball team had an explosive start in the first half against Fordham Tuesday night. The Orange led 46-21 at the half and went on to win it 89-74.

Just under five minutes into the game, the Orange pulled out a 10 point lead against the Rams. Syracuse shot 53 percent in the first half and 70 percent from the free throw line. The Orange’s defense matched its strong offensive start in the first half with Syracuse holding Fordham to only six points in the paint and seven offensive rebounds.

“First half we were pretty good, ” head coach Jim Boeheim said. ” We did a pretty good job defensively. I think Fordham is a pretty good team offensively and we held them to 21 points and they made a couple of tough shots in that group.”

But the second half did not go as smoothly for the Orange. Entering the second half with a 25 point lead, Syracuse relaxed on defense letting Fordham cut the lead to 12 points. The Orange allowed Fordham’s guard Branden Frazier to score 19 of his 33 total points in the second half.

“I think we felt we had control of the game, ” said Boeheim. ” We lost our defensive edge and they took advantage of it. It’s something we obviously have to work on.”

A bit of the Orange’s defensive woes resulted from having to adjust to the new NCAA rule changes involving enforcement of hand-checking that went in affect this season. This translates to more foul shots and potential foul trouble for teams. In tonight’s game, Syracuse shot 42 free throws and Fordham shot 30 combining for a total of 55 fouls called in the game. Syracuse had three players, Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney, and Michael Gbinije with four fouls. Fordham’s Ryan Rhoomes, Bryan Smith, and Travion Leonard all fouled out of the game.

“They’re going to call fouls,” Boeheim said. “You’ve got to be able to play without fouling. When we got into foul trouble we stopped guarding and you can not do that. They are going to call fouls. It’s going to be that way. Every game I watched today and last night, they are calling these fouls so we have to adjust to it.”

“I can see why they changed it but I think it kind of takes away from the game, ” said forward C.J. Fair. “It is just now a free throw contest. It slowed the game down and kind of got us out of sync on offense. It’s something we got to adjust to though.”

Fair led the Orange with 26 points, including 7 of 7 from the line. Syracuse had three other players score double digit points. Guard Tyler Ennis and forward Jerami Grant both chipped in 16 points. Center DaJuan Coleman added 10.

Next Game

The Orange hosts Colgate University Saturday. Tip off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

Video

Watch Head Coach Jim Boeheim’s postgame news conference here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CRcu0WMz2I

Orange Digs Out of First Half Hole; Tops Big Red 82-60

November 9, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — Down big in the first half at the Carrier Dome Friday night, Syracuse ratcheted up its defense in the second half to pull away from Cornell for an 82-60 win. On the offensive end, Trevor Cooney had a breakout performance in SU’s first regular season game, putting up 27 points, going […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  Down big in the first half at the Carrier Dome Friday night, Syracuse ratcheted up its defense in the second half to pull away from Cornell for an 82-60 win. On the offensive end, Trevor Cooney had a breakout performance in SU’s first regular season game, putting up 27 points, going 7 for 8 from beyond the arc. C.J Fair added 19 and Rakeem Christmas had a dozen.

The Orange scored first in the game, with Fair putting in a layup on the opening possession. That lead was short lived, however, as Cornell went on a 12 point run, led by Nolan Cressler who had 20 points in the first half, scoring from all over the floor. Cornell eventually led by as many as 14. Two Cooney threes just before halftime cut the Big Red lead to 38-32 at the break.

In the locker room Boeheim called for improvement and the players got the message. Cooney said they knew that they had dug themselves into a hole and needed to find their way out.

Syracuse emerged after the break with a vengeance. The Orange applied full-court pressure in the second half and went on a 10-2 run that returned them the lead for the first time since being up by a point in the middle of the first half.

“We just made some adjustments defensively that just made a big difference,” Boeheim said. “We took away the high-post pass and we got to the shooters better. I just thought our movement was a little better. When you don’t move on defense, it doesn’t matter what defense you play.”

One thing the Orange did is find Cressler, who scored only three in the second half. What the Big Red could not do is stop Cooney. He sank five more three-pointers in the second half as Su outscored Cornell 50-22. He also had four steals in the game.

As the Orange got into the lead, the Dome crowd got into the game. The 24,788 in attendance started to chant Cooney’s name and get fired up by slams from Cooney, Fair and Christmas.

“A crowd for our first game was awesome,” Cooney said.”It felt good to have them behind you and the team,”

After the game, Boeheim talked about his expectations for the season.

“My realistic expectation is that we’re going to get better. We’re going to back and try to play better next week. And you know, go game by game and see if we can become what everyone’s predicting that we could become. We’re far from it.”

In a game where Cornell held the lead for almost the entirety of the first half, Boeheim had to give props to the Big Red.

“They made seven three’s against us in the first half,” he said “Not many teams do that.”

The Orange plays Fordham next, on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.

Video

Coach Boeheim news conference here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=646t5mcOWNk#t=74

C.J. Fair postgame here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mOHg6DVO9w

SU Volleyball Sweeps Notre Dame

November 7, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — Stadium seating is pulled taut when the Syracuse University women’s volleyball team hosts a match in the Carrier Dome.  It’s not hard to get a good seat. Game attendance for the season has thus far averaged 299.  Against ACC foe Notre Dame on Wednesday night, the count was 215. Not many people […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  Stadium seating is pulled taut when the Syracuse University women’s volleyball team hosts a match in the Carrier Dome.  It’s not hard to get a good seat. Game attendance for the season has thus far averaged 299.  Against ACC foe Notre Dame on Wednesday night, the count was 215.

Not many people have witnessed the team’s growth as it transitions into a new conference  A win in straight sets over Notre Dame is a testament to that growth, albeit against a team that is making the same transition from the Big East to the ACC.

When the Orange played the Fighting Irish, then a Big East foe in 2011, 585 people showed up. That remains the attendance record for women’s volleyball at SU.

The most raucous fans were the members of the Sour Sitrus Society, the energetic musical pep squad blasting out an assortment of fight songs and Top 40 hits.

Members of the men’s soccer team cheered on players by name. A few locals peppered the mostly empty seats, offering golf claps for digs while student fans hollered and hooted for kills. Loudest of all was the wind outside, pounding the Teflon-coated roof of the Carrier Dome.

This was the third time the Orange women swept an ACC opponent, and the sixth sweep overall this season. The Orange opened the 2013 season being swept by Louisville and Penn State in August.

Much blame for the slow start of the season can be directly applied to the team’s mental state, and the players’ tendency to lose focus as points carry on and emotions run high. As they struggled to establish an identity, the fundamentals of the game suffered—especially the serve receive and blocking. And despite vastly improved defensive awareness and blocking in the first set, those problems were still evident against the Irish.

The strong victory in the first set was followed by a lapse in mental awareness during the second, which saw the Orange have to clamber out of a 15-22 hole in a come-from-behind 25-23 victory. The Orange went on a 9-point streak before Notre Dame was able to answer.

“We bounced back,” head coach Leonid Yelin said. “It was all about our focus. Getting our focus back. It is a game of momentum, taking a little mental break. That’s what changed.”

Like any team in transition, women’s volleyball has struggled. The players have allowed too many mental errors, and have let emotions get in the way of smart play and instinct. The win over Notre Dame was similar to a 3-0 win over Maryland Oct 3. in College Park, which saw the Orange come from behind to claim a set.

“We’ve experienced that a lot,” said junior outside hitter Nicolette Serratore, who had 12 kills and a .346 attack percentage against the Fighting Irish. “Well—we’re staying confident out there.”

“They’ve started learning how to adjust, how to refuse to lose,” Yelin said. “They are more consistent. They are doing what we asked them to do, and preparing better. They are learning how to stay longer in the game.”

In 25 matches so far, Syracuse now sits at 12-13 overall and above .500 in conference play at 7-6. The Orange is enjoying a two-win streak after splitting its matches last week with a loss to nationally-ranked No. 18 Duke and a win in four sets over Wake Forest.

The volleyball team mirrors the football team in a way, bouncing back and forth between solid wins and serious losses, hanging in overall record purgatory while striving to maintain an even record in conference play. Injuries to players have caused some strife—Valeriya Shaipova, a redshirt freshman outside hitter who saw plenty of playing time early in the season, fell in practice and tore her ACL. And an inability to understand and adapt to their opponents mid-game has given the volleyball team more losses than their skill set should allow.

“When you play, you have to take every game for what it is,” said Melina Violas, the junior libero (defensive specialist). Coming off of an 18-dig performance against Duke, Violas maintained her momentum, staying sharp on defense.

“Early on we had struggles. But It feels good knowing that having high expectations for the rest of the season,” Violas said. “We’ve come together and found ourselves as a team—our defense, our blocking, our serving, serve-receive.” She smiled. “It took us awhile, but better late than never.”

The match against Notre Dame carried deeper implications. There’s a long mostly one-sided rivalry between the two teams, which first met in 1981. The Orange won that match. A 1990 rematch saw Notre Dame emerge victorious. The Fighting Irish then won 16 times against the Orange until Syracuse defeated Notre Dame in five sets in 2011. Notre Dame swept the Orange in South Bend last year.

This year’s SU sweep was the final match for the team’s four-game “Home to the Dome” series. Most home games are played in the Women’s Building.

“To win our last appearance in the Dome for the season is great,” Serratore said. “[Playing against Notre Dame]—the first couple of times the mindset affected us. But we were moved that they gave us this opportunity to play in the Dome. This feels like our second home. It’s great to be part of history.”

“I’ve been a Syracuse fan my entire life,” added Violas, who is from Sherman Oaks, California. “Every time I’m here it’s great—I remember coming to the games with my grandpa (who lived in Central New York) when I was a little kid—it’s just so memorable.”

Not many people are sharing the memories this team is making in the Dome.

Perhaps a pep talk from Yelin could sway the community (including the student body) to turn out in better numbers for the volleyball matches. His talks seem to work on the players, given the momentum swing in the second set, when the Orange went from 15-22 to win the set 25-23. But when asked exactly what he said to take back the set, Yelin shrugged, raised an eyebrow, and smiled.

“Do you really want to know?”

Next Game

Next the Orange women travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass. to face Boston College Sunday, Nov. 10, renewing a longtime rivalry on hiatus since 2005. The team will attempt to go 8-6 in conference play and reach .500 overall.

Boeheim Says Team is “Ready to Go” after Win Over Ryerson

November 6, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — C.J. Fair scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half, DaJuan Coleman recorded a  double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds and the Syracuse men’s basketball team dispatched Ryerson University 81-46 in an exhibition win on Tuesday in front of an announced crowd of 6,674 at the Carrier Dome. The Rams scored the […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  C.J. Fair scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half, DaJuan Coleman recorded a  double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds and the Syracuse men’s basketball team dispatched Ryerson University 81-46 in an exhibition win on Tuesday in front of an announced crowd of 6,674 at the Carrier Dome.

The Rams scored the first basket to start the second half cutting the Orange lead to 14 points and prompting Orange head coach Jim Boeheim to a call a timeout. But that would be the closest Ryerson would get. A three from Trevor Cooney and a layup by freshman guard Tyler Ennis helped spark a 16-0 run for the Orange to secure the victory.

The Orange defense was also in full effect Tuesday, forcing 24 turnovers, blocking eight shots, and outrebounding the Rams 49 to 37.

“I thought they made us work on defense,” Boeheim said. “They did a lot of screening, things we’re going to see. I thought it was a good exercise for us.”

Despite the margin of victory, the Orange shot only 23 pecent on three-pointers.

“That’s going to happen,” said Boeheim, who is entering his 38th season as head coach of the Orange. “You’re going to have games where that happens where you get 22 good looks and you make five. Some games you’re going to make nine or 10 but we still have to get better on the boards.”

While the Orange struggled from beyond the arc, Boeheim was pleased with his starting frontcourt’s performance from Coleman and Rakeem Christmas, who chipped in 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

“I think DaJuan and him are doing things better in spurts,” Boeheim said. “I thought DaJaun was much better rebounding the ball tonight. I thought he was much more physical going up to get it. I think that part of it was really good.”

“When they get a lot of touches, just like anybody, you get into a rhythm and you get more

confidence,” echoed senior forward C.J. Fair. “DaJuan is finishing well and if he misses he’s going to get the offensive rebound. And Rakeem, he’s always had the ability it’s just confidence and coach has confidence in him.”

Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis added seven points, five assists, and a game-high four steals. The Brampton, Ontario native has played five of his first six games for SU against Canadian colleges.

“He’s important for our team,” Boeheim said. “I told him at halftime that he’s got to be a little bit more aggressive offensively and when you tell him something he does it.”

Aaron Best and Adika Peter-McNeilly both paced Ryerson with 11 points each.

During his post-game news conference, Boeheim discussed criticism circulating around the graduation rates of his basketball program.

“I think if you have 12 players over a four year period and they play for four years and only five graduate, I think that’s an institutional problem,” Boeheim said. “You haven’t done a good job with those guys. However, in our case it’s not what happened.

“We had six guys stay out of the 12; five graduated. The other six, a couple for the NBA, a couple weren’t playing enough and transferred. One guy was hurt and just didn’t play anymore.”

“So if somebody could explain to me how if six guys choose to leave for whatever reason and I think some of them were good reasons in that 12 person group. So if somebody can tell me how we’re supposed to graduate a guy who leaves I would love for them to come and tell me that. Explain how we can do that.”

The Orange will open the 2013-14 season against Cornell on Friday in the Carrier Dome.

“There’s a lot of things at this stage…a lot of positives and you know we’re going into Friday night and you know I think everybody’s anxious to start the season,” Boeheim said. “We’ve had pretty good preparation to this point and I think we’ll be ready to go.”

Video

Postgame wrap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xcFS5IsxWI&feature=youtu.be

Boeheim press conference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bC40MHa3_LE

 

Orange Gets Fourth Win in Shutout of Wake

November 3, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — Remember back in August when most preseason power rankings had the Syracuse Orange placed in the cellar of the ACC? Well, those pundits may soon be eating their own words. Terrel Hunt scored on a 6-yard run to break up a scoreless tie in the third quarter, freshman defensive end Isaiah Johnson set […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  Remember back in August when most preseason power rankings had the Syracuse Orange placed in the cellar of the ACC? Well, those pundits may soon be eating their own words.

Terrel Hunt scored on a 6-yard run to break up a scoreless tie in the third quarter, freshman defensive end Isaiah Johnson set up up another score intercepting a pass moments later, and the Orange (4-4, 2-2) defeated the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-5, 2-5), 13-0 on Saturday, in front of and announced crowd of 38,550 at the Carrier Dome.

Coming off of a bye week, Head Coach Scott Shafer said he was impressed with his team’s resilency after being steamrolled 56-0 on the road against Georgia Tech in its last game.

“I was really proud of that fact that our kids stuck their chests out and went to work after that difficult loss,” Shafer said. There’s been no separation with these kids. They’ve become tighter when we’ve had tough situations and I love them for it.”

Syracuse’s inability to score persisted against Wake Forest as both teams combined for 14 punts in the lackluster first half. The Orange found themselves in a tough situation offensively producing only 121 yards of total offense.

However, the Orange registered 176 total yards in the third quarter, beginning with a 75-yard drive that was capped off by a 6-yard Terrel Hunt keeper for a touchdown.

“We were just more hungry,” Hunt said. “We knew what we had to do. It was a tough one in that first half but we got everything corrected and finished out good in the second half.”

Less than three minutes later, a tipped interception by Johnson gave Syracuse prime field position at the 25-yard line.

On the next play, offensive coordinator George McDonald decided to incorporate some trickery into the gameplan. Wide receiver Jarrod West delivered a 25-yard pass to Brisly Estime to give the Orange a 13-0 lead.

“Well it’s actually pretty funny because all week long we tried three different kids on that play and its was interception, interception, duck…I mean it was horrible,” Shafer said. “I told George (McDonald) it was out.

“By the way he looked they were going to keep working on it and they got it right by game time. That’s what counts. “It was a heck of a call by George.”

West couldn’t believe how easy the play unfolded.

“He was wide open,” said West, the sophomore wide receiver from Bethlehem, Pa. “I could have kicked it too him.”

The Orange have been trying to get Estime more involved in the offense lately, particularly with screen plays. Saturday afternoon he led the team with nine receptions for 62 yards.

“They put me on screen plays because they know I can make the first person miss,” he said. “I fit in the offense.”

While it took more than thirty minutes for the Orange offense to get into a groove, the defense stymied the Demon Deacons from start to finish.

“When you have a lack of execution on the offensive side of the ball you probably have a pretty darn good execution on the other side,” Shafer said.

“We’re a team that’s continuing to try to grow on that offensive side of the ball and when you grow, your brothers on the other side got to do a good job of picking up the slack,” Shafer said. “I thought our defense did that today.”

Shafer also praised his coaching staff, especially defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough.

“I’m extremely proud of Chuck Bullough and the defensive staff for the job they did coming off a difficult loss a couple weeks ago when we were all embarrassed, starting with me.”

Durell Eskridge, Jay Bromley, Cameron Lynch, Marquis Spruill, and Robert Welsh led a defensive effort that limited the Demon Deacons offense to 213 total yards.

Quarterback Tanner Price, who entered the game third in the ACC in passing yards behind Tajh Boyd and Jameis Winston completed just 22 passes on 54 attempts.

Price appeared heavily affected by the loss of dependable wide receiver Michael Campanaro. The dynamic senior wideout left the first half of the game with a collarbone injury. He is expected to miss the next 4-6 weeks.

The last time the Orange shut out multiple opponents in one season was in 1997 when the team defeated Wisconsin and East Carolina.

Shafer says he’s going to enjoy the win for the night, but has already looked ahead to next week.

“We just have to keep finding ways to win,” he said. “I don’t care how pretty or ugly they are as long as we find a way to get it done.”

“We’re back to .500, but we have a tall task as we go over there to play a talented Maryland ball club.”

Links to post game news conference:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iefaEfC1TNs&feature=youtu.be (Scott Shafer)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lrOe1tuYEw&feature=youtu.be (Terrel Hunt & Jarrod West)

Orange Crush Tigers in Exhibition Game, 79-41

November 2, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — The Syracuse men’s basketball team came out strong against Holy Family in the first half and never looked back.  The Orange scored a 79-41 victory in the first of two exhibition games to open the 2013-2014 season. Less than three minutes into the game, the Orange had grabbed a 10-0 lead.  […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  The Syracuse men’s basketball team came out strong against Holy Family in the first half and never looked back.  The Orange scored a 79-41 victory in the first of two exhibition games to open the 2013-2014 season.

Less than three minutes into the game, the Orange had grabbed a 10-0 lead.  Holy Family, a Division II team out of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference, could not recover from the initial blow.  The Tigers shot 20 percent in the first half with nearly more turnovers (10) than points (13).

Coach Jim Boeheim noticed his team’s defensive effort, which caused Holy Family to settle for difficult outside shots the entire game.

“Our defense was pretty good for a while tonight,” Boeheim said.  “I thought we did a pretty good job with our movement defensively. It was a good outing. A lot of things that we can improve on as we go forward.”

Senior C.J. Fair showed why he was chosen as the Atlantic Coast Conference Preseason Player of the Year by tallying 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists.  Two Fair assists on consecutive possessions in the first half led to a Rakeem Christmas dunk and a Tyler Ennis three pointer.  These two plays brought the Carrier Dome crowd to its feet and captured all the momentum the Orange would need.

Boeheim credited Fair’s play to the effort he has made in the offseason.

“I think he’s gotten better,” Boeheim said “I thought he showed that he’s improved his playmaking,” .

Fair said the team can still improve on playing a complete game moving forward.

“We got going a little bit in the first half, a little bit in the second half,” Fair said. “We need to learn how to keep our rhythm throughout the game.”

A concern coming into the season was how the Orange would replace star point guard Michael Carter-Williams.  Freshman Tyler Ennis filled the void well tonight with 12 points and a few pinpoint passes that led to scores.  When asked about Ennis, Boeheim showed complete confidence in his floor general.

“Yeah, he was fine,” Boeheim said. “I don’t even think about him.”

Ennis said the team has a few things to improve on before the official games begin next Tuesday.

“Get the kinks out, get everybody comfortable, myself included,” Ennis said.  “Coach has a lot of things.  He says we have a long way to go, so we’ll continue to work.”

The Orange did what was expected and dominated its first exhibition game from start to finish.  Boeheim says the team will look to improve going into next week’s games against Ryerson and the season opener against Cornell.

“We learned some things.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to work on them for a couple days and come back Tuesday and see what we can do.”

Syracuse plays Ryerson on Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.

McNabb Ready for his Jersey to be Retired

November 1, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — Donovan McNabb takes a stroll down memory lane as he returns to Syracuse University, the place where his football career took off. The Orange will honor McNabb by retiring his #5 jersey during its ACC game against Wake Forest Saturday. “Being here in this facility, it brings back a lot of […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  Donovan McNabb takes a stroll down memory lane as he returns to Syracuse University, the place where his football career took off. The Orange will honor McNabb by retiring his #5 jersey during its ACC game against Wake Forest Saturday.

“Being here in this facility, it brings back a lot of memories,” McNabb said at a news conference at Manley Fieldhouse Friday.

In the five years that McNabb was in Syracuse, he brought Syracuse football back onto the national landscape, going 35-14 in his four years as a starter, and leading the Orange to the Fiesta Bowl and the Orange Bowl in his final two seasons. McNabb was named Big East Rookie of the Year in 1995, before being named Big East Offensive Player of the Year his final three seasons, 1996-1998.

From McNabb’s 96-yard TD pass to future NFL Hall-Of-Famer Marvin Harrison in 1995, which remains the longest play in Syracuse football history, to his senior day game against Miami in 1998, when the Orange cruised to a 66-13 win, including a 51-yard TD run by McNabb, one thing is for certain; he will never forget the memories.

When asked what it will be like to walk back out there on that field on Saturday, McNabb lit up with excitement.

“I’m going to try to treat it just like we’re playing Miami… We approached it just like it was our Super Bowl, and coming out of that tunnel on Saturday, that’s how I’m going to approach it.” McNabb said. “It was a wonderful time, one I will always remember.”

McNabb said he was going to sit down and speak with current SU QB Terrel Hunt Friday afternoon. McNabb said he has enjoyed watching the start of Hunt’s career this season, and believes he can bring people across the country to start talking Syracuse Football once again.

“I’ve always felt like for a college and NFL team, you need a quarterback,” McNabb said. “You’ve seen a glimpse of a young man in T-Hunt, to be the QB for years to come.”.

Hunt has the arm strength, the brains, and all the intangibles you want in a starting quarterback, according to McNabb.

“He can make plays. Maybe seeing the type of career that Tajh Boyd (of Clemson) is having this season, may be T-Hunt in about two years.”

Looking back on his career at Syracuse, McNabb said he enjoyed every second of it, from being over on Skytop, to roaming around Marshall Street. Many of the stories from his college days he was unwilling to share.

“Those are things that stay hidden,” McNabb said “Let’s just say we had a great time.”

Shafer: Blowout Loss is Behind Us

November 1, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — After being shut out for the first time since 2007, Syracuse football head coach Scott Shafer says the SU Orange (3-4, 1-2) have turned the page after being dismantled 56-0 by Georgia Tech in Atlanta. “We’ve gotten by that loss,” Shafer said on the ACC’s coaches’ teleconference Wednesday. . “We’ve had […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  After being shut out for the first time since 2007, Syracuse football head coach Scott Shafer says the SU Orange (3-4, 1-2) have turned the page after being dismantled 56-0 by Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

“We’ve gotten by that loss,” Shafer said on the ACC’s coaches’ teleconference Wednesday. . “We’ve had tunnel vision forward after that Sunday.”

The Orange is coming off its second bye week of the season. Shafer said the extra time has been advantageous for the team as is hosts Atlantic Division rival Wake Forest on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.

“We had a good bye week,” Shafer said. “We got to get the kids healthy and now we’re 100-percent focused on the next game against a well-coached Wake Forest team.”

Speaking of health, the Orange defense will receive a much-needed boost against the Demon Deacons as linebacker Dyshawn Davis is expected to return after suffering a high ankle sprain in the first half against North Carolina State back on October 12.

“He’s doing well,” Shafer said. “We’re ramping him up each day and looking forward to getting him out on the field.”

Shafer pointed out the importance of limiting mistakes particularly by the SU secondary against a Demon Deacons offense that throws for 230 passing yards a game.

He praised Wake’s senior wideout Michael Campanaro, who ranks second in the ACC in receiving yards and needs just six receptions to move into second place on the ACC’s career list.

“He reminds me of (Wes) Welker,” Shafer said. “He accounts for 32 percent of their offense and 44 percent of their passes have been thrown at him.

You really can’t keep him from catching a pass but you have to do a good job tackling when he does and change some things up and cause confusion.”

Syracuse fans may remember Wake’s quarterback from a couple of years ago. Senior Tanner Price played at the Carrier Dome back in 2011 where he tossed for 289 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Price has been on a torrid stretch for the Demon Deacons. He has thrown eight touchdowns in the last three games.

The Demon Deacons, however, are coming off a devastating 24-21 loss to seventh-ranked Miami in the final minute in South Florida. Head Coach Jim Grobe, who is one win away from breaking the school record for wins, can relate to Shafer’s game plan mentality this week.

“We’re disappointed that we came out of Miami with a loss, but now we got to try to regroup a play a talented Syracuse team that’s very well-coached,” Grobe said. “We have a big job ahead of us.”

Grobe said he’s been impressed with the air attack of the Orange, despite its ineffectiveness of late.

“One of the keys to being a good football team is to be balanced,” Grobe said. “Syracuse does a nice job of that. I think they had 16 or 18 kids catch passes for them. They’ve got a very talented quarterback.”

Shafer says he has no concern regarding quarterback Terrel Hunt, who will attempt to rebound from three straight performances in which he did not throw for a touchdown and recorded less than 75 yards passing each game.

“He’s a fighter…a hardworking kid,” he said. “He can brush it off and go to the next game. You prepare like a man for the next game and Terrel’s done a nice job of that.”

This game has major implications for bowl eligibility for both teams. With a loss, Wake would need to win two of its final three games which are against FSU, Duke, and Vanderbilt. Syracuse on the other hand, would need to win three of its last four against Maryland, FSU, Pitt, and BC.

Another story line coming into this contest deals with the Orange kicking game. Starting placekicker Ryan Norton was suspended last Friday for the team’s game this weekend. Norton was charged with resisting arrest and underage possession of alcohol. Norton had replaced Ross Krautman who is out for the season with an injury.

“Riley Dixon and Jonathan Fisher will split kicking duties versus Wake for suspended Ryan Norton,” said Shafer. “It will depend on the situation.”

The game will be televised regionally on MSG.

UFC 166 Raises the Bar

October 25, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — Last Saturday’s UFC 166 in Houston’s sold out Toyota Center was a bloody victory for fan, fighter, and promotion. UFC president Dana White hailed the event as the best card in UFC history, with hard knockouts and sustained battles between heavy hitters. Color commentator Joe Rogan agreed, citing the brawl between welterweights […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  Last Saturday’s UFC 166 in Houston’s sold out Toyota Center was a bloody victory for fan, fighter, and promotion.

UFC president Dana White hailed the event as the best card in UFC history, with hard knockouts and sustained battles between heavy hitters. Color commentator Joe Rogan agreed, citing the brawl between welterweights Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez as the best fight he’d ever seen. Twitter exploded with praise from sports writers.

“Unbelievable,” ESPN’s Brett Okamoto Tweeted after the Melendez-Sanchez fight . “I’d applaud if it wasn’t drilled into my whole journalistic career that I can’t. I may have clapped once.” Okamoto’s fellow ESPN writer Josh Gross Tweeted, “That fight surpassed every expectation I had, and I talked it up like crazy. Kudos warriors.”

Both fighters won $60,000 bonuses for the Fight of the Night, and the heavyweight division saw a definitive victory for reigning champion Cain Velasquez over Junior dos Santos in their third title fight.

“Without a doubt the greatest night of fights we have ever had,” White told Rogan in a post-event media recap. “From the first fight of the night, right up to the Heavyweight Championship, it’s the best fight card we have ever had.”

Melendez-Sanchez

The match between Melendez and Sanchez started with a bang and gained intensity for the full three rounds. An elbow from Melendez split a gash into Sanchez’s left eyebrow in the first round. Sanchez shrugged the cut off even as his face turned into a bloody mask and the two cage side doctors stopped the fight repeatedly to examine him. Sanchez took the worse end of a standup beating for the first two rounds and came alive in the third looking for a knockout victory to avoid a loss by decision.

In the end of the third round, each fighter threw wild, powerful punch combinations at the other, abandoning defense and trading blows that landed hard and flush. Sanchez’s eyebrow sagged open three inches, but taunted Melendez to hit him harder. Throughout the fight, Melendez dominated and won a unanimous decision, but Sanchez’s grit nearly outshined his defeat. The accurate striking plus whatever gravel in Sanchez’s gut made the fight a candidate for Best Fight of the Year.

“It was a battle and exactly what I expected from him as an opponent,” Melendez said in the post fight interview with Joe Rogan. “He didn’t go down at all.”

In the main event, a rubber match between heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and former champion Junior dos Santos ended with a TKO in the fifth and final round. Velasquez pressed the attack throughout the fight. Rather than trade blows with dos Santos, whose boxing prowess knocked Velasquez out two fights past, the champ bulled dos Santos into the cage and held him in a clinch, landing blows at will. Dos Santos endured four rounds of the same brutality before a sharp elbow to the left side of his face shattered his remaining resolve. He sank to his knees, covered his head against the onslaught, and referee Dean Herb stopped the fight.

“He beat me up,” said dos Santos. “What can I say?”

UFC president Dana White said the next logical title defense for Velasquez will be against Fabricio Werdum, the number three ranked UFC heavyweight.

Cormier-Nelson

A slugfest between top ten ranked heavyweights Daniel Cormier and Roy Nelson ended with a victory for Cormier. Cormier controlled the fight all three rounds, outwrestling Nelson and landing crisp punches and leg kicks. He was unable to hurt the famously punishment immune Nelson, but won a unanimous decision.

Gonzaga-Dodson

Gabriel Gonzaga and John Dodson won knockouts over their opponents, with a Knockout of the Night bonus to Dodson. Heavyweight Gonzaga crashed into Shawn Jordan’s chin with a short right hand and ended the fight at 1:33 seconds in the first round, tying seventh ranked Frank Mir for the most opponents finished before the final bell in the heavyweight division at 11. Dodson’s hand speed won the match against Darrell Montague, knocking him out with a straight left to the chin.

The storylines of the main and co-main heavyweight fights bring exciting implications for the UFC’s least competitive division. Daniel Cormier, ranked number two, has promised to move down to the light heavyweight division and challenge champion Jon Jones, a matchup that could possibly challenge the dominant Jones more than the current light heavyweight crop. Cormier trains with Cain Velasquez and says he has no interest in fighting him, but the bankability of a teammate fight might tempt the UFC to keep him in contention in his current weight.

Meanwhile, Junior do Santos, though decisively beaten twice by Velasquez, says he wants another match. The UFC has never had two fighters face each other more than three times. A historic four-fight series between two fighters who stand far above the competition would draw immense fan attention.

The Buffalo Bills Experience

October 25, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — Let’s go Buffalo! This simple yet effective catch phrase roars through Ralph Wilson Stadium as 74,000 fans cheer for their hometown Bills. While the Giants and Jets fill up the back pages of sports sections, they technically play in New Jersey. Thus, I find myself in New York’s lone professional football […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — Let’s go Buffalo! This simple yet effective catch phrase roars through Ralph Wilson Stadium as 74,000 fans cheer for their hometown Bills. While the Giants and Jets fill up the back pages of sports sections, they technically play in New Jersey. Thus, I find myself in New York’s lone professional football Mecca and it felt like I landed on a different planet.

How did I get here to begin with? It started with a conversation among friends during Newhouse summer boot camp. We looked at the schedule and circled October 13th, 2013 versus the Cincinnati Bengals. A two-hour drive west on I-90 took us from Syracuse to Buffalo on Saturday night. Luckily, a fellow classmate lives here and was gracious enough to be our guide and host for the weekend.

What is the first thing you think of when hearing Buffalo? Wings naturally.

“You have to get authentic Buffalo wings as soon as we get there,” our friend proclaimed.

Everyone says to check out Duff’s, and by many accounts Anchor Bar is where Buffalo Wings were invented, but if you want an old school, country western vibe, locals say Sportsmen’s Tavern is the place to be. Located in Black Rock, this two-story pub and music venue is a staple of the community, where twenty-something-year-old hipsters and war veterans share bar stools and stories till 4 a.m.

I ordered a basket of ten spicy wings that were cooked to perfection, falling off the bone, and we drank Rusty Chain, an amber brewed by local favorites Flying Bison. The house band played Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, and Elvis Costello covers, with the addition of a great slide guitar player. Everyone welcomed us in like family. The bartender told me a story about rebuilding a 1967 Fastback Mustang Mach 1 over the summer, and a sauced up football fan chewed my ear off about this rookie quarterback starting the next day. Our group stayed up late playing pool and mingling with the locals, knowing we had a long day ahead of ourselves.

Sunday is a day of rest, but also a time for great football. Waking up early and heading to the stadium for a 1 p.m. kickoff sent chills down this sports junkie’s spine. This would be my first time seeing a live professional football game. Growing up in Southern California, the ‘hometown’ team is the San Diego Chargers. A modest 90-minute drive down the 5 South could take me there, but I’m not a Bolts fan and never made the trek.

The first thing you notice driving towards the stadium parking lot are nearby residents selling spaces on their driveways and front lawns for $10 to $20. An extra five dollars will get you a parking spot inside Tailgate USA, in Orchard Park, the Buffalo suburb where Ralph Wilson Stadium is located. The lot is a 360 degree concrete jungle surrounding the stadium, which has been home to the Bills and their fans since 1973.

Buffalo fans are notorious for their pre-game activities and our rowdy bunch was ready to join the party. Charcoal and propane grills lined the asphalt, with the smell of hot dogs, hamburgers and bratwursts sizzling behind every car, pickup truck and minivan. Coolers stocked with Bud Light, Coors Light and Natty Ice were popular choices along with camping chairs propped up by 9 a.m.  Families were playing backyard games such as corn hole and tossing around the pigskin. Tailgating is serious business around these parts.

Then you become aware of Zubas, everywhere. A fashion trend consisting of red, white, and blue oversized stripped pants, matching their team’s colors. A craze started in the 1980’s that quickly escaped most of America, except here. Men, women, and children of all ages wear these obscenely bright pants with pride, along with throwback Jim Kelly jerseys and sing the team fight song.

As for the game itself, the rookie quarterback, Thad Lewis, started for the Bills and gave them a brief lead early on. Not long after, a couple thousand Bengals fans, in the right end zone were noticeably vocal. Wearing matching striped tiger prints, they took over as their team stormed back to what seemed like a comfortable lead.

Suddenly some football magic happened. An offensive explosion broke out on this overcast afternoon. A deep pass with under a minute to play tied the game up and forced overtime to the delight of many. A few minutes later, however, the road team won on an anticlimactic field goal.

This was my first NFL experience and it took part in the least likely of places. Time slows down on Sunday afternoons, where friends and family come together and all that really matters is Bills football. Buffalo, New York, I salute you.

Orange Lacrosse Aims for a Championship

October 23, 2013

Only four weeks into practice, each player on the Syracuse University Men’s Lacrosse team, has his mind fixated on winning the 2014 championship. “We don’t really care who’s starting as long as we get that championship,” Junior goalie Dominic Lamolinara said. That was the sentiment from most players and Coach Desko on Media Day. How […]

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Only four weeks into practice, each player on the Syracuse University Men’s Lacrosse team, has his mind fixated on winning the 2014 championship.

“We don’t really care who’s starting as long as we get that championship,” Junior goalie Dominic Lamolinara said.

That was the sentiment from most players and Coach Desko on Media Day.

How is this year going to be different?

“I think the glaring one [issue last year] was face-offs,” Desko said, echoing what most anyone who watched the team in the 2013 NCAA title match. “I thought everything else went well, in all aspects of the game. I thought we were efficient. We came out on top are most of our [games]. We had ten one-goal games last year.”

Desko said the strategy this year is simple – work on face-offs. “[We’ve] done more face-offs this year already, then we’ve probably did all of last year.”

Old players out/ new ones in

With players including Brian Megill, JoJo Marasco, and Luke Cometti gone, the team has big gaps to fill. Lamolinara said Megill was like another coach on the field, and with Megill gone he will have to step up, “and pick up the slack.”
Coach Desko said he is tackling the challenge of bringing in a bunch of younger players.

“Younger players don’t know the system yet,” he said and most of fall practice will be an opportunity for them to get familiar with it, possibly solidifying a spot for them in the spring.

SU Runner Nick Ryan: How High is Your Up?

October 21, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — That was the mantra. That was the question his high school coach always posed to Nick Ryan. Some might call it cliché, or coachspeak, because it’s one of those questions to which you never really know the answer. But the Syracuse University freshman cross country/track runner plans on doing his best […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  That was the mantra. That was the question his high school coach always posed to Nick Ryan. Some might call it cliché, or coachspeak, because it’s one of those questions to which you never really know the answer. But the Syracuse University freshman cross country/track runner plans on doing his best to discover. One of the most highly touted high school runners in the nation last year, Ryan’s combination of talent, athleticism and heart might make finding out the answer his longest, toughest hill to climb yet.
Ryan is a hometown kid, graduating from local running powerhouse Fayetteville-Manlius last year. His elite status on the national running scene made him a hot commodity in recruiting circles. He considered offers from Michigan, Virginia and Wisconsin. In the end he chose Syracuse.

“I looked at Syracuse because I knew they were really good, but at first I wanted to get out of state,” he said. “After going on all my other visits and meeting the different coaches, I realized this really was the best team that I could be a part of.”

He was not a running prodigy right out of the gate though.

“My sixth grade teacher suggested I should do it, basically because I had a lot of energy in class and I was kind of obnoxious,” Ryan said, laughing. He remembers showing up on the varsity team as a freshman and chasing after standout senior, Alex Hatz at the time. “He was kind of the older kid that was really, really good at running that I wanted to be as fast as someday.”

The prestigious running program at F-M is headed by legendary coach Bill Aris, perhaps best known for his success with the girls’ team in recent years, where he has led them to seven consecutive national championships. Up until his sophomore season, Ryan was a good, but not yet great runner. They were preparing for the Nike Cross Nationals meet in Portland, Ore. when his coach pulled him aside.

“I suggested to him this,” Aris said. “You’ll have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by just going out, and running like hell, and taking a shot at it, and dealing with the pain and finding out just how good you can be.”

The result of that race was F-M placing runner up in the nation when no one expected them to make it close to the podium that year. Ryan placed 28th overall in what is high school cross country’s equivalent of a national championship, and third on his team behind two seniors.

“After that, that created really a breakthrough for him where he saw the world in a whole different perspective,” Aris said. Ryan hasn’t looked back.

He was named Gatorade State Cross Country Runner of the Year for New York by the time he was a junior, an honor he would repeat his senior year. He ran a Section III record-breaking 4:05 1600 meter (mile) race his junior year to capture the state crown, along with a laundry list of other championships and record setting performances.

Even with so much success, Ryan finds it uncomfortable to talk about himself. Asked if his name deserves to be mentioned in the pantheon of F-M distance greats, he fidgets nervously.

“I mean, I think. I don’t…” Ryan starts to trail off. “Yeah I think so. I hold school records, I like to think I’m up there.”

He lets out a slightly nervous laugh.

Jack Reed, a retired teacher who coaches at nearby Skaneateles High School has coached for more than 30 years and won several championships. He holds a 15-year unbeaten dual meet streak (93 straight) and coached many athletes who have gone on to great success, such as Olympian Jonathon Riley (Athens).

“He’s a blue-chip for sure. Every time I’ve seen him compete he looks totally in control,” Reed said. “His mechanics are fluid he looks relaxed. I have to believe he can still go a lot deeper in the well.”

Standing slightly more than six feet and weighing a lean 165 pounds, Ryan’s body type is not that of the stereotypical, thin and wispy distance runner.

“He’s kind of a throwback to me,” Reed said. “His body is similar to the old milers like a Peter Snell; bigger, dense, thunderous thighs. He’s a kid that stands out on the [starting] line.”

Ryan got started early by enrolling in Syracuse’s Summer Start program. It gave him a chance to move into the dorms, take a couple of classes and grow somewhat acclimated to college life before the fall semester started. It also let him get a jump-start training with some teammates.

“I’m just trying to put in all the work I can possibly do to be as good as I can,” he said. “If I can make the top 10 or top 7 that would be really cool, but with all the really good guys on this team it’s tough to gauge.”

Coaches Aris and Reed both agree the sky is limit for Ryan if he stays healthy and dedicated to running. Winning national championships, getting sponsored after school and even the Olympics could all be possible for a runner of Ryan’s magnitude.

As a blue-chip prospect, there is a certain level of pressure on Syracuse head coach Chris Fox.

“Blue-chippers are a big responsibility to the coaching staff,” Reed said. “You got him in house, now how do you improve him. Word gets out. If you got a blue-chipper and he doesn’t, that might keep you from landing the next.”

Both coaches agree he is in good hands at Syracuse and expect to see big things out of Ryan in his junior and senior years and possibly beyond.
No one will predict just how high Nick Ryan’s up is. The consensus is the ceiling is too high to see right now, and that’s kind of the way Ryan likes it.

“Running is one of the most straightforward sports you can have,” he said. “You either do the work or don’t do the work and there’s not really a whole lot of messing around.”

Syracuse Basketball Media Day

October 19, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — The 2013-14 Orange Men’s and Women’s basketball teams took part in media day on Friday at the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center. Men’s head coach Jim Boeheim addressed the media for 15 minutes and discussed his new roster; a balanced class that includes four seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and five […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  The 2013-14 Orange Men’s and Women’s basketball teams took part in media day on Friday at the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center.

Men’s head coach Jim Boeheim addressed the media for 15 minutes and discussed his new roster; a balanced class that includes four seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen.

Talk of the new ACC schedule was prevalent and Boeheim seemed well prepared.

“We’re going from a very tough conference to another very tough conference, so there’s no difference for us as far as league play is concerned,” Boeheim said.
When asked about the departure of Michael Carter-Williams to the NBA and new starting point guard Tyler Ennis, the Orange head coach was confident with his young ball handler.

“Tyler is a very steady player, he knows what he is doing all the time. He plays a lot like a veteran point guard, which is very impressive coming in as a freshman. He has an excellent skill set. He has the ability to be explosive and make plays, but he also can run the team efficiently and make good decisions in the half court. I think he’s as well prepared as any freshman point guard we’ve had here.”

Once the presser concluded the team broke out for individual interviews and the official team photograph.
Earlier in the day, the Orange women’s basketball team held its media session. Head coach Quentin Hillsman spoke to reporters and touched on the new season and challenges that lie ahead in the ACC.

“One thing about our roster is that we are very deep,” Hillsman said. “The last couple years, that has been out strong point, that we have been able to play nine, 10 players double figure minutes. This year, I think we’ll need 11 or 12 to really step up and play big for us.”

The men’s team begins exhibition play Friday, November 1, at 7 p.m. versus Holy Family at the Carrier Dome. The women’s first home game tips off Thursday, November 14, at 7 p.m. versus Dartmouth.

A Rough Patch of Ice for Orange’s Hockey Team

October 17, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — The Orange women’s hockey team is heading to Providence, RI this weekend, looking to end a three game losing streak and get back to a winning formula in the College Hockey America (CHA) conference. Last weekend Syracuse played a home-and-home series versus upstate New York rival Clarkson to begin conference play. […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  The Orange women’s hockey team is heading to Providence, RI this weekend, looking to end a three game losing streak and get back to a winning formula in the College Hockey America (CHA) conference.

Last weekend Syracuse played a home-and-home series versus upstate New York rival Clarkson to begin conference play. On the road at Cheel Arena, the women’s team were shut out 4-0. Being out shot 36 to 26, and gave up two back-breaking goals in the final period. The Golden Knights are now 5-0-0 and the Orange are 1-3-0.

One night earlier and 145 miles south on I-81, the teams faced off at Tennity Ice Pavilion for the Orange’s home opener. Led by senior goaltender Kallie Billadeau, the women’s squad played an inspiring, fast-paced game. The Golden Knights came in ranked as the No. 3 team in the country, and provided an overwhelming offensive attack from the opening face off.

A slap shot by Carly Mercer got Clarkson on the board early, with 1:40 remaining in the first period. Mercer would add another goal in the second period to give the Golden Knights a 2-0 lead with 20 minutes to play.

The score remained the same until midway through the third period. Having a 5-on-3-man advantage, Nicole Renault, a sophomore from Plymouth, Mass., scored a wrist shot for the Orange and cut the deficit to one.

Penalty killing played a big part into the Orange defense, holding the opposition’s power play to 0-for-5, while going 1-for-5 themselves.

Billadeau, the Minnetonka, Minn. native did her best between the pipes, saving 39 shots for the Orange. It was not enough, however, as Clarkson would hold on to win 2-1.

Total shots taken was the real story, as the Golden Knights fired off 41 to the Orange’s 18.

Clarkson improved to 4-0-0, while Syracuse fell to 1-2-0 on the early season.

The Orange now travel to play Providence College for back-to-back games this weekend. Friday the puck drops at 7 PM and Saturday at 3 PM.

They return home and face Boston College and Union College, respectively, the following weekend of October 25th and 26th. Home games are free to the public.

Hunt Needs to Bring Back Faith to Orange Nation

October 17, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — Coming into the season, Syracuse was expected to run the football and do it well. The Orange would ride its horses into the ACC to establish the program’s credibility. The team struggled at first, breaking the 200-yard rushing mark only once (against Wagner) in its first four games. Other than that, […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  Coming into the season, Syracuse was expected to run the football and do it well. The Orange would ride its horses into the ACC to establish the program’s credibility.

The team struggled at first, breaking the 200-yard rushing mark only once (against Wagner) in its first four games. Other than that, the rushing attack seemed stunted.

Now, after two games against Clemson and N.C. State, we see the attack forming. In both instances, Syracuse took advantage of two average run defenses—N.C. State is ranked 52nd in the nation in run defense and Clemson is 64th.

This week’s opponent, Georgia Tech, serves as a very interesting one; one that is similar to Syracuse.

Both teams rely heavily on running attacks that rank in the top 25 of the nation (Georgia Tech is No. 6; Syracuse is No. 22), and both teams boast a rush defense that ranks in the top 30 (Syracuse is 22nd; Georgia Tech is 30th).

This game is likely to be run-heavy and something’s got to give.

Jerome Smith, Prince-Tyson Gulley and Terrel Hunt rank fourth, 11th and 18th in the ACC in rushing yards and Smith leads the league with eight rushing touchdowns.

But for the run to remain effective, Hunt must step up his passing performance.

QB Comparison

Look at a comparison between two quarterbacks in a two-game span:

Player A: 54.6 Completion percentage, 468 throwing yards, 1 TD, and 4 INT’s

Player B: 41.6 Completion percentage, 126 throwing yards, 0 TD, and 5 INT’s

Player A is Drew Allen during the first two games of the season, against Penn. St. and Northwestern. Player B is Terrel Hunt in the last two games, against Clemson and N.C. State.

Though it’s a small sample size, Hunt played poorly in his last two starts and you could argue Allen’s first starts came against two tougher defenses.

Allen was easy to criticize, being the new guy who stole the starting spot. His reputation grew off speculation and talent. His downfalls were lack of mobility behind shaky pass protection and his own inexperience.

Hunt earned the right to start and in his first two games, looked like he might be the answer at quarterback. Wins are always encouraging, but against the likes of Wagner and Tulane, they should be taken with a grain of salt. Hunt is dealing with the same inexperience bug that Allen caught, but he has a longer leash to work with because head coach Scott Shafer took a chance, endorsing him with the quarterback change. But that shouldn’t be taken for granted by Hunt or the fans.

This game is the game, and the rest of the schedule won’t be any easier: playing away against previously-ranked Maryland and No. 5 Florida State and at home against a Boston College team that led No. 3 Clemson last Saturday. Playing well against a respectable Georgia Tech pass-defense unit (ranked sixth in the ACC) would be a great accomplishment for Hunt.

He doesn’t need to throw five touchdowns. He doesn’t need to pass for 400 yards.  All the team needs for him to do is play in the system. Throw for 150 to 200 yards. Toss a touchdown or two. Try not to throw an interception and don’t take unnecessary risks. Ride your horses to this victory and just help hold the reins.

Terrel Hunt is a sophomore. He doesn’t need to be a star, much less a Heisman Trophy candidate. All he needs to do right now is show the capability to play effectively against better teams and grow in the system he plays in. Coach Shafer had the faith to put the ball in his hands. Now, Hunt needs to transfer that faith to the fans. He must prove that giving him the starting position wasn’t a mistake. And all that starts with this week’s game.

Twenty Years in One Night

October 9, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — “You probably don’t even remember Sid Bream, do you?” “I was a one year old when that happened… but I remember it clearly.” This was part of a conversation I had with a worker at a middle of nowhere New York state gas station at about 1 AM on Oct. […]

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PITTSBURGH, PA (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  “You probably don’t even remember Sid Bream, do you?”

“I was a one year old when that happened… but I remember it clearly.”

This was part of a conversation I had with a worker at a middle of nowhere New York state gas station at about 1 AM on Oct. 7. It seems like when I am wearing Pittsburgh Pirates gear the first thought that jumps to most peoples’ minds is 1992. Atlanta Braves. Sid Bream. Game winning run. Last winning season.

That is usually the point where I have to leave the situation so I don’t throw up out of pure anger on the other person. But why, this time, did I just smile and pay for my Twix bar?

I got on the road from Syracuse, New York at 9:30 AM on Oct. 6. I knew I had a five hour drive ahead of me to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and another five hours back to Syracuse to be ready for class the next day. But what’s ten hours compared to a life of baseball disappointment?

My brother had called me to say he had a ticket for the Pirates game, and it was mine if I could make it down. It was his birthday. I think he wasn’t clear on the whole he gets the gifts idea. The Pirates were in a Game 3 of the National League Division Series game in October at home. The whole idea sounded weird to me, but I didn’t hesitate. “I’ll be there.”

The drive from Syracuse felt more like my drive from home.  PNC Park was hundreds of miles away, but it might as well have been a short cab ride.  I was pumped full of adrenaline, which wasn’t terribly safe looking back.  I probably drove for much of the trip like Vin Diesel.

I pulled into the parking lot across from the Clark Building around 3:30 PM.  The building used to be a place where Clark candy bars were made when my dad worked there years ago.  The third floor of the building now houses the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, where I had worked the past few summers.  I mostly did box scores for, among other things, the Pirates minor league affiliates.

I remember typing out Gerrit Cole’s stats when he was coming up through the minors, hoping he didn’t go the way of former first overall draft picks, like Bryan Bullington in 2002 and Kris Benson in 1996.  That’s not even mentioning one of my personal favorites, John Van Benschoten.  He was drafted eighth overall in 2001 after he led the NCAA in home runs.  But the Pirates converted him to pitcher.  Stranger than fiction.

Things have changed.  Neil Walker drafted in 2004, Andrew McCutchen in 2005, Pedro Alvarez in 2008 and Cole in 2011.  All huge contributors on this year’s playoff roster, with McCutchen possibly earning the National League MVP.  That would be the first Pirates MVP since some guy named Barry Bonds in 1992, the guy who couldn’t throw out Sid Freaking Bream.  It all comes back to that.

I walked past the front entrance of PNC Park and went around the outside toward the Clemente Bridge to meet my brother.  I saw my cousin at Dominic’s bar.  I saw an old friend on the street.  There was a sea of black shirts and more people walking around Federal Street off the Bridge than I have seen my entire life.

It was October.  The Buccos were in a playoff game.  Did I mention that?  It was a sellout.  It was 80 degrees.  Cats and dogs were living together.  I couldn’t stop thinking, “Is this really happening?”

The Buccos and the St. Louis Cardinals were all tied up one game apiece before this pivotal Game 3 in a best-of-five series.  Franciso Liriano, a legitimately good offseason pickup (which has been rare the past two decades), took the mound for the Pirates against Joe Kelly for the Cards.  “KEEEELLLLLYYYY” chants would rain down upon the pitcher throughout the game.

The energy in PNC Park was unbelievable.  The excitement was palpable.  You would have thought Liriano’s first strike won the game.  How could this be the same place I had gone to so many times before?  Winning changes things a bit.

I would compare the crowd to someone who had been bullied.  You take your shots, the insults, the shame.  You lift weights and take boxing classes for 20 years waiting for your payback.  Then, you finally come out in full force and insanity.  Except now there are nearly 50-thousand people with you who had the same experience.

The Pirates started it off with a bang.  McCutchen and Justin Morneau scored on a Marlon Byrd single in the bottom of the first.  They weren’t just happy to be here.  They were “fighting to win a World Series” as McCutchen would say after the game.

St. Louis responded with two runs of their own in the fifth.  A sacrifice fly by Russell Martin gave Pittsburgh a 3-2 edge, until Carlos Beltran came up clutch with a 409 foot solo shot in the eighth inning.

This is where all the sub .500 seasons had trained fans to get ready for it to fall apart.  But the crowd was different.  This team was different.  This season was different.  It wasn’t “oh, here we go again.”  It was “alright, let’s get another one.”

In fact, they got two more.  Alvarez and Martin both came up with big singles to give the Pirates a 5-3 lead.  If PNC Park had a roof, it would have been blown off.  There had to be some sort of world record broken for high fives.  Pittsburgh Pirates Pandemonium.

Here is what was going on after the Alvarez single (Yes, that’s my high pitched yell.  Let’s Go Bucs was said so many times I started to lose my voice).

And here is the blurry reaction from my brother’s phone to Martin’s single.

Grilled Cheese Time.  Pittsburgh closer and Baldwinsville, New York native Jason Grilli ran on to the field with Pearl Jam blasting behind him.  He gave up a leadoff single but quickly got the ball back and went to work.  Lineout, flyout, groundout, game over.

I had witnessed the Pittsburgh Pirates win a playoff game.  Raise the Jolly Roger.

There was a sense of pure joy, euphoria, even relief.  I honestly had thought many times that I would never see a winning baseball team in my life.  If nothing else, I can always say I was there.

I’m attempting to go into a profession where you do your best to stay unbiased.  That’s important, but I think it’s unrealistic to completely drop being a fan.  I recognize I have invested a lot of time, money, energy and frustration into the Pirates, along with many others.

The Steelers and Penguins have been through their ups and downs, but both teams have won championships and put together great seasons during my lifetime.  There was never a ton of risk involved in me, or anyone else, rooting for them.

The Pirates were never close to that.  People hate the Steelers and Penguins.  They pity the Pirates.  I continued cheering for them through epic failures and “Operation Shutdown” and the recent collapses the previous two seasons.  How many losses and “rebuilding years” can a fanbase take?

I thought of this season as the blackjack hand where the Buccos faithful went all in and finally won.  The dealer busted this time.  As Mike McDermott said in Rounders, “You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle… but you can’t win much either.”  This was the big payoff, the playoffs.

On the drive home, I stopped at that middle of nowhere New York state gas station.  I walked inside the store to grab a drink and some candy to keep me going late at night.  I went to pay.

The woman at the register was wearing a Braves hat.  On this night, in this random location, I ran into a Braves fan.  Again, it all comes back.  She saw me in my Pirates hat, and we started a conversation until we got to the question I mentioned.

“You probably don’t even remember Sid Bream, do you?”

“I was a one year old when that happened… but I remember it clearly.”

She began laughing, which would normally have made me want to shove that Twix bar in my eye.  But I laughed with her.  It was alright.

The Pirates would lose Game 4 the next day and now face a win-or-go-home Game 5 tonight.  The Braves fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers in their series 3-1.  I guess we won’t see that Bream replay seven thousand times.

As I was heading back to my car, the cashier came outside to help another customer.  We made eye contact.  Right before I was about to shut the door, I heard her say, “Well, if we don’t win it, I sure hope you guys do.”

After all these years, all of the emotion, all of the losing, tonight’s victory, I could only think of three words: “Yeah, me too.”

No. 3 Clemson proves to be too much for the Orange to handle

October 5, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — Syracuse coach Scott Shafer asked Orange Nation to fill the Carrier Dome when the third-ranked Clemson Tigers came to town on Saturday. Syracuse fans delivered, packing over 48,000 people in to the place. The team, however, failed to take advantage of crowd, falling to Clemson, 49-14. Clemson quarterback and Heisman-hopeful Tajh […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  Syracuse coach Scott Shafer asked Orange Nation to fill the Carrier Dome when the third-ranked Clemson Tigers came to town on Saturday.

Syracuse fans delivered, packing over 48,000 people in to the place. The team, however, failed to take advantage of crowd, falling to Clemson, 49-14.

Clemson quarterback and Heisman-hopeful Tajh Boyd threw for 455 yards and five touchdowns, one of which was a 91-yard pass to wide receiver Sammy Watkins with 40 seconds left in the third quarter. That was Boyd’s last play of the game, taking all the wind out of Syracuse’s sails. Shafer said he was happy to see the fan’s enthusiasm throughout the game. But, he was upset his team could not reciprocate.

“To be honest with you: I think the fans did a better job out there than we did today,” Shafer said after the game. “And we owe them more, and we are going to give them more.

“And I just want to make sure that everyone understands that I am so happy and proud of this community.”

For a fan base that thought the Orange had a shot to win, the outcome seemed clear from the start. On the third play of the game, Boyd threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to Adam Humphries. Humphries had two touchdowns and 118 yards in the game on only three receptions.

Syracuse cornerback Julian Whigham said the quick scores confirmed what he knew about Clemson: it could score quickly.

“When they score fast—like, whoa—they are as good as we thought they were,” Whigham said. “We just kept trying to play our game.

“That is on us. Come Sunday, [we will] improve when the film comes around.”

Syracuse’s defense forced Boyd to throw two interceptions, his first and second of the season. But, neither seemed to phase the Tiger quarterback as he continued his aerial assault.

“We got beat by a dog-gone good football team today,” Shafer said. “There is a reason they are top-three in the country, maybe higher.

“We just got to refocus and move forward to this North Carolina State game.”

Syracuse quarterback Terrel Hunt threw for only 52 yards and no touchdowns. Hunt had thrown for three and four touchdowns, respectively, in his first two starts of the season.

“We just got to execute a lot better,” Hunt said. “I didn’t do my part today, I messed up, and it showed on the field today.

“Just as a whole, as a team, we weren’t together.”

Syracuse halfback Jerome Smith rushed for 125 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He led a rushing attack that ran for a total of 323 yards and accounted for both Syracuse scores.

The fans at least witnessed the unveiling of former Syracuse quarterback Don McPherson’s jersey in the rafters of the Carrier Dome. McPherson, who won both the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien awards during his time at Syracuse, said this honor was not something he achieved alone.

Don McPherson (center, in tan sweater) poses for photos with
former teammates, coaches and his mother.

 

“How many Syracuse University players does it take to get a jersey that high?” McPherson asked while surrounded on the field by his former teammates. “All of them. These are the guys; this is the reason.”

Syracuse’s next game will be against N.C. State in Raleigh, N.C. The Orange doesn’t play in The Dome again until Nov. 2 against Wake Forest.

Tigers Give Syracuse Plenty to Worry About

October 3, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer is in his 23rd year of coaching. So when he said Clemson’s receiving corps are the best combination of wideouts he has seen in a long time, it carries some weight. Speaking in the weekly installment of the ACC’s coaches’ teleconference, Shafer praised the group on […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer is in his 23rd year of coaching. So when he said Clemson’s receiving corps are the best combination of wideouts he has seen in a long time, it carries some weight.

Speaking in the weekly installment of the ACC’s coaches’ teleconference, Shafer praised the group on Wednesday while talking about the upcoming game against the third-ranked Clemson Tigers.

Shafer said dealing with potential Heisman-winning quarterback Tajh Boyd is tough enough. But when you throw guys such as Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Germone Hopper, you have a potent offensive attack.

“He’s one of the best quarterbacks I’ve seen in a long time in college football,” Shafer said. “He can make all the throws, got a quick release, and they have a great offensive coordinator who understands their offense and taught kid really well how to play.”

Sammy Watkins is still the number-one option, with 355 yards on the season. But Bryant, Hopper and Watkins are tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions, with two apiece, for a Clemson team leading the nation in red-zone efficiency.

That is a lot of responsibility for a Syracuse secondary that most fans consider less than formidable.

Shafer is looking for senior cornerbacks Ri’Shard Anderson and Keon Lyn to lead the defensive effort.

“Keon’s been there, and Ri’Shard’s been there,” Shafer said. “They’ve gone against some of the best at times throughout their careers.

“Great challenge [for them]. We’ve just got to have a good
game plan to help them out a little bit here and there.”

The Syracuse defense currently ranks 48th in the nation in total defense, 15 spots above Clemson. That said, the Orange’s defensive stats have been padded by blowout victories against Wagner and Tulane.

Shafer was quick to point out that on the defensive side of the ball, Clemson is underrated. Shafer says Syracuse’s run-oriented style will have to prove its worth against them.

“You never know until you go in there and fight with people,” Shaffer said. “I like our running backs, and the offensive line continues to get better.

“I still believe, if we run the ball, we can play with
everybody.”

Jerome Smith, who six rushing touchdowns lead the ACC, will carry the bulk of the rushing offense for Syracuse.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson’s head coach, says Smith could create some problems for his defense.

“That running back, number 45(Smith), he’s a load,” Swinney said. “He is a big, strong, physical back that you’re just going to tackle for four quarters because he just keeps coming.”

Swinney is also impressed with the way quarterback Terrel Hunt has played in the pocket and stays cool under pressure.

“They’ve given up only four sacks,” Swinney said. “Part of that is a function of what they do in their passing game.”

“That ball is out quick. A lot of quick gain. A lot of throws in rhythm. They’re not a big drop back, stand there, sit-in-the-pocket type of deal.”

So far this season, Hunt has thrown for seven touchdowns and rushed for two more. Eight of those touchdowns have come during the last two games.

Shafer said his sophomore quarterback needs to remember to approach this game like he would any other.

“He needs to continue to throw the ball to the guys who are open,” Shaffer said. He cites the fact that Hunt threw to 11 different receivers in the Tulane game, and hopes he will continue to see the field.

“We don’t want him to press, and we don’t want him to turn into anything more than a quarterback trying to be productive in this offensive
system,” Shafer said. “As long as he does that, we’ll have a shot.”

The kickoff time for the game is 3:30 p.m. This is the homecoming game for Syracuse this season. In last year’s homecoming, the team beat then ninth-ranked Louisville Cardinals, its last Big East regular-season home game.

The game will be televised regionally on ABC and nationally on ESPN2. Newhouse alum Sean McDonough will be calling the game.

A Less Than Ordinary Post-Game

September 24, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — Following a dominant Syracuse 52-17 home victory over Tulane, there was a press conference, just like after any old football game.  However, this particular press conference was anything but normal. On the surface, there were plenty of reasons to praise the team.  The Orange excelled on the football field in all […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  Following a dominant Syracuse 52-17 home victory over Tulane, there was a press conference, just like after any old football game.  However, this particular press conference was anything but normal.

On the surface, there were plenty of reasons to praise the team.  The Orange excelled on the football field in all three facets of the game.  The team scored touchdowns on its first three offensive possessions, jumping out to a commanding 21-3 lead.  The defense disrupted Tulane quarterback Nick Montana early and often, sacking him three times and intercepting him once.  On special teams, the Orange blocked two punts and a field goal.  It’s safe to say that the game was a confidence builder all around.

Another high point to mention was that Syracuse earned its 700th program win, a milestone that only about twenty other universities across the nation have achieved.  When asked about the accolade, Head Coach Scott Shafer joked that, “We’ve got a lot to do to catch Coach Boeheim.”  The atmosphere of the room was very laid back, very at ease.  We all laughed together.

But then, a question arose that changed the emotions of the entire press conference.

Someone asked about the Edson family.  Sue Edson is the assistant athletics director of communications at Syracuse, a job which she has held since 1997.  A week before Saturday’s game, Sue’s husband Rob died of an apparent heart attack at the age of 45.  Rob Edson was serving as the athletic director at Onondaga Community College.  Before that, he’d been employed at Syracuse as the athletic department’s chief financial officer and senior associate director of athletics.  They have two children, Thomas and Tracey.

Unfortunately, I have not had the privilege of knowing Sue or her family intimately, and for that reason I do not feel qualified to speak on their lives.  What I do know is the feeling of somber respect that went through the room as Coach Shafer spoke about the family.  “We said we’re getting number two for Sue,” said Shafer.  For a group of young men to go out and perform the way they did, to play with such purpose and inspiration, proves that sports can have so much more meaning than competition or entertainment.  For a brief moment, it was about more than just football.

To listen to the full post-game interviews, click on the links below:

Coach Shafer
Terrel Hunt
Chris Clark
Prince-Tyson Gulley
Eric Crume

A Night of Fun, Games, and Intense Races with SU Rowers

September 22, 2013

SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center) — The rain was pouring. The boats were gliding. Laughter filled the air. Syracuse Rowers of the past and present came to the SU Boathouse on September 21st to celebrate the sport they all love so dearly. Alums in attendance at “An Evening at TenEyck” ranged from graduates of 2013 to as […]

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SYRACUSE (Newhouse Sports Media Center)  The rain was pouring. The boats were gliding. Laughter filled the air.

Syracuse Rowers of the past and present came to the SU Boathouse on September 21st to celebrate the sport they all love so dearly. Alums in attendance at “An Evening at TenEyck” ranged from graduates of 2013 to as far back as 1950.

Everyone there was determined to not let the rain dampen the mood on an eventful night that included food, alumni races, and Syracuse Rowing Hall of Fame inductions.

The alumni races kicked off the event. A draw was created with one half being made of teams of 8 alumni rowers and a coxswain and the other half being made of teams of current rowers and their class (freshman, sophomore, etc.) who had faced off in preliminaries that morning. The winner of the alumni half of the draw would face the winner of the class half of the draw to determine the night’s winner.

Beth Marks, class of ’83 and the only woman on her alumni team, said she was just there to have a good time.

“It’s fun!” she said. “I haven’t been in a sweep (a boat in which each rower handles a single oar) though in a long time. Probably 25 years!”

Mike Gennaro, class of 2011, is a USA National Team member who won a Bronze medal at the World Championships this summer. He brought his game face to the event.

“It’s super competitive,” he said. “I’m not losing to any of these guys.”

As it turned out, Gennaro’s eight was edged by another alumni crew under the lights on the Onondaga Lake Inlet that night. The current senior class boat was the night’s overall winner.

Nobody seemed particularly bothered by the rain. In fact, most said they enjoyed rowing in the rain as it makes the water very flat.

“Rain without wind is okay,” Marks said. “It wasn’t pouring. It just makes the oars a little slippery to hold onto, but other than that it really doesn’t affect very much.”

While there was much excitement around the alumni races, the biggest part of the night was the Syracuse Rowing Hall of Fame inductions. The new inductees are the SU 1904 Team (SU’s first IRA National Champions), legendary coach James A. TenEyck, for whom the Syracuse boathouse (and thus the event) is named, Tom Darling (class of ’81), and Bill Purdy (class of ’79).

Drew Harrison, class of ’68, came from his home in British Columbia to be at the event and said the 1904 team was groundbreaking and set certain standards for everyone attending.

“Anyone who has been a champion in any era has to do extraordinary things,” he said.

Harrison coached three consecutive Syracuse freshman crews to national championships at the IRA in the 1970s.

For Darling and Purdy, there was the obvious feeling of honor for being chosen to be inducted, but also a definite amount of nerves.

“Syracuse (rowing) has got a long tradition behind it and I am incredibly honored to just be considered and then inducted,” said Purdy, a member of SU’s last IRA national championship eight in 1978.

“It feels good!” Darling, a 3-time Olympian (pictured right), said. “I feel very… grateful for being nominated! It’s a good chance to thank the coaches and to thank the guys that I worked with.”

It’s a sport that doesn’t have a true international celebrity. It’s a sport that doesn’t get a lot of media coverage. It’s a sport that only people who actually participate can understand.

The unified love of rowing is what brought these people back to the SU Boathouse where so many of their memories lie.