Graham: Syracuse reverted to old ways. How to stop it from happening again isn’t clear.

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It’s been a long time since Syracuse played like it did on Saturday.One needs to track back to 2017 to find the last time the Orange surrendered 60-plus points and another year further to 2016 when Lamar Jackson racked up 610 yards and five touchdowns to find a similarly prolific offensive display to what Maryland put up on Saturday.“There’s no way that that’s exactly what our football team is,” Babers said following the blowout.The Orange reverted to its old ways Saturday, getting run over on defense and hoping for its offense to keep pace just to give them a chance. It cost the soon-to-be-unranked No. 21 Syracuse (1-1) as the Terrapins outclassed the Orange in every phase of play en route to a 43-point victory, handing Syracuse the third-worst margin of loss in the Dino Babers era.With the Orange hosting No. 1 Clemson this Saturday, it isn’t obvious how Syracuse can make sure of its coach’s decree — that the lopsided loss to Maryland was an aberration — and show 2018 wasn’t a blip on the timeline of Syracuse football.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Now we have to decide what the 2019 team’s gonna be,” Babers said. “You don’t have the memories of the 2018 season anymore after something like this. So now, what kind of team is the 2019 football team gonna be?”In every phase of the game, Syracuse failed. For the second-straight week, the offense struggled from the outset and this time, it was too late once it got going. The defense was missing in action. Even Andre Szmyt, who a year ago won the Lou Groza Award, given to the nation’s best kicker, missed an extra point for the first time in his career.Babers lauded his defense as the strength of his team throughout training camp and after the Orange’s season-opening shutout. That was surprising, given SU’s frequent struggles to field a capable defense early in Babers’ tenure. Last season was a building block and it looked like SU continued to build in Week one. But on Saturday, the SU defense that gave up 200-plus rushing yards to Clemson last year and got bulldozed regularly for 40-plus points in 2016 and 2017 is what showed up. The pass rush was feeble, the linebackers misplayed runs and SU continually took bad angles, getting burned for long scores of 20, 52 and 60 yards.While the Orange’s passing attack finally found success (330 yards and three scores), it failed to consistently run the ball and abandoned it nearly completely once Maryland pulled ahead.Though normally the strength of a Babers-coached team, the offense wasn’t expected to carry the load early this year. But 20 points — and a 22-point per game average through two contests — is never going to be enough, especially if the defense doesn’t turn it around.“Obviously we’re not as good as the first game,” Babers said. “I would like to think we’re not as bad as the second game.”The past two weeks, SU has gone into its games relatively blind to what its opponent might do. Both teams have new head coaches installing vastly different systems. The Orange had no film on Liberty and one unrepresentative sample of what Maryland might look like. There is no shortage of pertinent game tape on Clemson.So, Syracuse’s issues must be resolved by looking inward.“We’ll work on us,” Babers said on Saturday. “And hopefully the season will recover and we’ll be happy with what happens at the end of this.”For that to be the case, Syracuse has myriad questions to answer.Eva Suppa | Digital Design EditorCan the pass rush be effective? Can the linebackers and safeties play better against the run? Can the passing game be more consistent? Can DeVito be better and limit turnovers?Can Syracuse, in the face of the best college football has to offer, show that it’s not defensively disorganized, offensively one-dimensional and a shadow of the team that jolted the program back to life in 2018?There’s no overarching fix or broad stroke to remedy Syracuse’s problems, but Babers offered two clues as to how the Orange will start to approach righting what went wrong. First, he said SU will focus on its “base” — the things it does well and the coaching staff can make adjustments to. Second, he thinks the humbling loss will help his players absorb what the coaching staff is saying.“I think that when we tell them that it’s blue, they’re gonna believe it’s blue and it’s not yellow,” Babers said, delivering a cryptic analogy. “If we tell them we want four, they’re gonna give us four and not three or five and tell us good enough. And I think the biggest thing is, when you win and you tell them, ‘Hey guys, this is not exactly the way you want it,’ sometimes they don’t believe you.”“I really hope that they believe me now.”Saturday was supposed to help SU answer questions, not pose more. A loss to Clemson is not a death warrant on the Orange’s season — so much is still on the table and few expect SU to have a chance at pulling a second-straight monumental upset at home over the Tigers. But now Syracuse needs to prove it hasn’t taken a step back, that it can still hang with the Clemson’s of the world.Playing Clemson was and is always a chance for Syracuse to make a statement. But instead of getting to show how good it is, the Orange are playing just to show how bad they aren’t — and moreover, that 2018 wasn’t a fluke.Andrew Graham is a senior staff writer for The Daily Orange where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @A_E_Graham Comments Published on September 9, 2019 at 12:13 amlast_img