GRIN AND BEAR IT: After rocky first quarter, Syracuse rallies to blowout win

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Ryan Nassib missed the opening. It was there, if he had just tucked the ball and ran a second or so earlier. But by the time he had scampered for three yards, the Maine defense closed on him. Fourth and goal at the four. Nassib stared at the possibility — another halftime deficit to Maine. And he hoped Doug Marrone would give him one more shot to cap a momentous series that would alter Syracuse’s fortunes against lowly Maine. Nassib’s worries were soon put aside. For Marrone, down by four, it was touchdown or bust. And for Nassib, it was touchdown. ‘I was a little surprised,’ Nassib said of his coach’s decision. ‘I was hoping he was going to go for it. I’m just happy he gave me the ball.’ With his touchdown strike to Jose Cruz that ensued on fourth down, Nassib and the SU offense erased one poor half of play and shifted momentum in favor of the Orange going into the locker room. Syracuse (2-1) rode the momentum the rest of the way, never looking back in an eventual 38-14 blowout of the Black Bears (1-2) in front of 37,758 inside the Carrier Dome on Saturday. The win was SU’s first in a home opener since 2004.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text Nassib had five touchdown passes, setting an SU record. He finished 19-for-28 for 260 yards on the day. Only 1-for-4 in the first quarter, Nassib perhaps best exemplified the shift in the Orange’s play in the second quarter, culminating in the touchdown pass to Cruz with 27 seconds left in the half. ‘There was no doubt that we were going to score,’ Cruz said. ‘There wasn’t even a word in the huddle saying, ‘Oh, we have to get this.’ We came out confident, and we were ready to score the touchdown.’ The touchdown marked the turning point. Because in the first half, Maine looked like the dominant, confident team team. The FBS team. And the Big East team. The Black Bears started off the game with a trick play of sorts — a reverse handoff on the kickoff return that Desmon Randall promptly returned to the Syracuse 31-yard line. After that, though, Maine kept it simple. Simple and methodical. There was the 14-play, 84-yard drive that took almost eight minutes off the clock in the first quarter, culminating in a Warren Smith quarterback keeper that he took 10 yards to the end zone. And there was the five-play, 56-yard drive in which Warren found a wide-open Justin Perillo in the left corner of the end zone. ‘I am definitely not the ‘Here we go again’ type,’ Marrone said. ‘I look at things differently. I thought it was a great opportunity to see what we were made of. … There are probably some people out there saying, ‘Here we go again.’ I know I wasn’t one of them, and I don’t think our players were.’ The Orange started to show Marrone, and tide started to change, when Doug Hogue forced a fumble in wrapping up Warren Smith. Fellow linebacker Derrell Smith pounced on the ball, giving SU the ball on Maine’s 24-yard line. The forced fumble came directly after Maine running back Derek Session dropped a sure touchdown pass near midfield. Session found himself past SU cornerback Mike Holmes and the SU defense, but he proceeded to turn his head and look ahead, losing sight of the ball as it bounced off his chest. ‘We picked up the next play and didn’t allow that play to get us down,’ Smith said. ‘It was just a mishap. I’m not sure what happened, the next play we came out and we played our defense.’ Down 14-10, Nassib and the offense embarked on the game-changing drive. After moving to Maine’s eight-yard line, SU sputtered the first three tries at goal. But on fourth and goal, Nassib improvised and scrambled right, eventually flinging a perfect strike to a falling-down Cruz for the momentous touchdown. Syracuse kept its pedal to the floor all the way through the third quarter. Nassib launched 20-plus-yard touchdown passes to wide-open Alec Lemon, Nick Provo and Van Chew. Two plays into the fourth quarter, SU had a 24-point lead and the game in hand. And it spring-boarded from Marrone’s decision, Nassib’s throw and Cruz’s catch that Doug Hogue said had the Orange energized at halftime. The opening was there, and this time, Nassib seized it. And going into the locker room, SU had shown Marrone enough to give them an energized proclamation at halftime. Said Marrone: ‘I told them, ‘We’re winning a football game.” [email protected] Published on September 17, 2010 at 12:00 pmcenter_img Commentslast_img

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