Sunday, September 6, 2009


The last time Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone set foot in the Carrier Dome, Microsoft just released its first version of Windows, Huey Lewis and the News were at the top of the Billboard charts and Marty McFly just took his first ride in Doc Brown's DeLorean. The year was 1985 and Marrone was an offensive limeman on a Syracuse team that lost to West Virginia 13-10.

Yesterday Marrone looked to take his team back in time, to a place where bowl berths were virtually assured and Big East championships always a possibility. Not even the most die hard of Orange fans expect Marrone to lead the team to a bowl game this year, but they would like to see some tangible evidence that the team is at least headed in the right direction. Under former head coach (and current Michigan defensive coordinator) Greg Robinson, the team suffered four straight losing seasons, never amassing more than four wins or finishing higher than seventh in the Big East.

The last time Greg Paulus set foot in the Carrier Dome he led his high school team (Christian Brothers Academy, located in a Syracuse suburb) to a 41-35 victory over a New Rochelle team that featured Ray Rice and Glenn Lee (both of whom went on to star at Rutgers) to win the state championship. Paulus was the Gatorade Player of the Year in 2004 but decided to give up football to play basketball at Duke. He was Mike Krzyzewski's starting point guard for three years before losing the starting job in his senior season. He took advantage of a little known NCAA rule that allows a fifth year of eligibility for two sport players at two different schools. He enrolled at Syracuse and earned the starting job.

Marrone wasted little time in naming Paulus his starter after just one week of practice this summer (Paulus did not paricipate in spring practice). He made a strong statement with this decision. Paulus is not the future of the program, as this is his one and only year of eligibility. Marrone should have started sophomore Ryan Nassib if he was interested in having something to build on for next year. He also could have started senior Cam Dantley if he was interested in building off of last year's Notre Dame game in which Dantley managed two fourth quarter 68 yard touchdown drives in Syracuse's come from behind victory in South Bend. Instead, Marrone decided to go with a publicity stunt. He feels that the "Local Boy Makes Good" headlines are more important that building a program of which the university and city can both be proud.

Truth be told, although Paulus did not put up great numbers (19-31-167-1-1), he did not do a bad job of managing the offense. He kept his team in the game and gave them a chance to win - for the first 59 minutes. After Minnesota's field goad knotted the score at 20 with 57 seconds left to play in regulation, Paulus had one last shot to lead the Orange down field and win this game. The first play from scrimmage was a 7 yard completion to Mike Williams (in bounds) that was whistled dead with 45 seconds left on the clock. The next snap did not come until the clock was at 25 seconds. Paulus could not get his team to the line fast enough and inexplicably burned 20 seconds. His biggest sin came in overtime when he threw an interception on a 3rd and 5 play. Minnesota did a good job of covering the receivers and Paulus was being chased around the backfield. He had plenty of time to get rid of the ball. Charlie Weiss could have run a 40 yard dash in the same amount of time. Most quarterbacks would have thrown the ball 10 rows into the stands and settled for a field goal. A quarterback that is playing in his first college football game is expected to make that mistake.

The problem is that Paulus is not an 18 year old kid. He's a fifth year senior who will not be coming back next year. Syracuse cannot afford to watch Paulus make mistakes this year and then start over with a new quarterback next year. Orange fans have rallied behind Marrone and are genuinely happy with yesterday's performance. Unfortunately, it did nothing to help build for the future. It's been a long time since a meaningful football game was played in Syracuse and people are counting on Marrone to turn this program around. Too bad he is focused on marketing gimmicks rather than doing the job that he was hired to do.


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