FB : Wanting more: Bowl victory leaves Syracuse fans eager for start of 2011 season

first_img Published on August 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm It didn’t seem like a bad decision at the time, but Colin Crowley and a group of friends decided to go pumpkin picking on the day of Syracuse’s road matchup against West Virginia last season. After watching the score on their cellphones climb to 14-10 in West Virginia’s favor, it seemed that Syracuse was going to fall to its rival yet again.But Syracuse took the lead in the second quarter and never looked back.Crowley, a sophomore at Syracuse University in the College of Arts and Sciences, and his friends chose to stay in the parking lot and listen to the game’s final quarter wind to a close on the car’s radio. The group listened as Shamarko Thomas sacked West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith two times in the final four plays, putting a stamp on one of the most unexpected victories in SU head coach Doug Marrone’s second season.Syracuse went on to win the game 19-14 in what proved to be one of the biggest victories in a monumental season for the Orange. The Ben Schwartzwalder Trophy, given to the winner of the matchup between SU and the Mountaineers, returned to Syracuse for the first time in eight years.‘It was a really exciting moment,’ Crowley said. ‘That was probably the highlight of the season. We ended up sitting in the parking lot for 15 or 20 minutes because we didn’t want to miss any of the last part of the game because it was so close.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAfter finishing 7-5 in the regular season and fourth in the Big East conference, SU went on to win the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl against Kansas State 36-34.And as Syracuse looks to put together its second consecutive winning season, fan support and belief is growing more than it has in years.‘Everyone is excited to get in the Dome and hang out and go to see games,’ junior public relations major Kyle Suba said. ‘I’m excited to see how they do this year, and I’m planning on attending a couple more games than I did last year.’***Mike Goodfriend likes what he’s seen from Marrone in just two seasons at the helm. The junior biomedical engineering major said he thinks the team is clearly headed in a different direction under Marrone.‘It was really exciting to win our first big bowl game like that,’ Goodfriend said. ‘First, Pinstripe Bowl champions is always a big thing and more than anything, it gave me more hope for this year. It’s not that big of a postseason bowl, but I hope that it gives us a lot of motivation to do well this year.’Marrone returned to his alma mater after former head coach Greg Robinson’s disappointing four-year reign. Robinson was fired with two games remaining in the 2008 season and finished his time at SU with a 10-37 record.Marrone’s task was to rejuvenate a program that had not recorded a winning season since 2001.He knew that the most important task was to return Syracuse to its winning ways.‘I don’t have any options,’ Marrone said during his introductory press conference. ‘I cannot fail. I cannot fail. My option is only to win. That’s what I’m here to do.’Fans loved the attitude adjustment. But despite the optimism, the Orange dropped four of its last five games and stumbled to a 4-8 record in his first year.The results left many fans pessimistic to the prospects of a winning season in 2010. But SU reached a bowl game for the first time since 2004. The Orange, which relied heavily on its No. 7 ranked defense during the season, relied on its offense during its victory against the Wildcats in a bowl game shootout.The skeptics included sophomore broadcast and digital journalism major Ben Glidden, who followed the team before arriving to Syracuse.‘Syracuse hadn’t had the best reputation in previous years since 2001 or so,’ Glidden said. ‘I didn’t have high expectations coming in, and the fact that they clinched a bowl and to win the bowl definitely exceeded my expectations.’***Andrew Kaufman simply wants SU to remain competitive in its toughest test of 2011, when the Orange travels to Los Angeles to play No. 25 Southern California on Sept. 17.The sophomore engineering and computer science major feels that although the Orange defeated some marquee opponents within the Big East last year, the Pac-12 Conference still has a better reputation.‘It would be nice to win, but I don’t really think that’s that realistic,’ Kaufman said. ‘All they have to do is if they play hard and keep it a close game and establish a running game and a passing game. I don’t think we’re going to win, but I would definitely be satisfied with that.’Syracuse defeated Cincinnati, South Florida and West Virginia all on the road last year. But this year, the team’s biggest foe on the road comes in the form of USC and the Trojans’ star quarterback, Matt Barkley.The Orange has not won a game on the West Coast since 1967, and it won’t be an easy task to break that streak this season.Jared Stenz, who graduated from SU in May, plans to attend the game in Los Angeles. He said that although SU will face a supreme test in attempting to stop a potent USC offense, the timing of the game might just be right.Syracuse’s matchup against USC falls a week before the Trojans face Arizona State on the road.‘I think that being competitive is definitely important,’ Stenz said. ‘I would be very disappointed if we were not because I plan on flying out for that game. But I think winning it is definitely within a possibility, especially with everything that has gone on at USC. I think it could be a bit of a trap game.’***Syracuse will need to buck a disappointing trend if it hopes to achieve Marrone’s goal of winning the Big East title this season. SU lost all three of its conference games inside the Carrier Dome last season.The Orange won twice at the Carrier Dome last season, but each victory came against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.And the team can’t make any excuses. The support was there. The Orange saw its average attendance climb to 40,064, the highest since 2005. The support should continue to rise following the bowl victory, but John Jardin, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said consistency will be the biggest thing for the fans’ pride to continue to shine through.Syracuse’s first matchup at home against Wake Forest on Thursday will be a vital building block for the upcoming season.‘There’s probably more support around the whole city of Syracuse, not just on campus,’ Jardin said. ‘If they come out against Wake Forest and get blown out or something like that, I have a feeling that these new fans are going to crawl back into their dens where they’ve been hiding.’The pessimism hasn’t completely diminished yet. After five straight losing seasons prior to 2010, it’s hard to convince everyone that the team is completely back to contending for the Big East title.But a quiet and subtle confidence is slowly creeping back into the minds of Syracuse fans.‘I think winning the Big East is a bit of a stretch,’ Stenz said. ‘But given how wide open the Big East is, I think anything is possible.’[email protected] Facebook Twitter Google+center_img Commentslast_img

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