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USF Bull-rush throttles Orange, 37-17;
B.J. Daniels runs for 117 and passes for 254
Syracuse, NY- Constant pressure by the South Florida front defensive seven kept Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib scrambling early and often on most passing attempts , and B.J. Daniels kept the Bull offense moving with 371 yards of total offense to lead the Bulls out of The Big East basement to even the Syracuse Orange conference record at 1-4 in a 37-17 victory. Not only was Nassib battling against constant pressure from his opponents, but his receiving corps dropped many passes resulting in a third straight Big East loss for the Orange after an impressive 49-23 upset over West Virginia. For Collegefootballfan.com., it was our first trip back to the Carrier Dome since 1999, and surprisingly our first Orange game since 2004. We saw 19 Syracuse games prior to that from 1980-1999, and only two since the new millennium. It is an easy 3.5 hour drive for us despite snow squalls and a traffic delay in Syracuse north on I-81. If the Orange become more competitive when they join the ACC, hopefully we'll get up there more often. Maybe for basketball though.
The game got off to an auspicious start as the referee incorrectly announced that the Bulls won the toss and elected to receive after they won the toss. They had "deferred". The Bulls' captains looked confused as they shook hands with their counterparts before returning to the sideline, and the officials conferred to correct the head official. The early correction announced indicated the quality of some of the referee calls made on this Friday evening on 11/11, Veterans' Day. Another bad sign I witnessed for the Orange is when I saw the "Otto-Mobile" carrying the Orange mascot Otto start quickly from a portal on to the field and poor Otto fell out on his/her back. Ouch! From my position in a corner section directly opposite from Otto's entrance, I saw it happen before the cart entered the field. I saw the fall of the Orange coming before most others in the Carrier Dome this evening. Otto's was almost as hard, but he rebounded. I don't know if I can say the same for the Orange football team I saw on the turf this evening.
A shanked punt by Syracuse after its firs possession put the Bulls on the SU 40, and USF took advantage as PK Maikon Bonani put up a three-pointer for USF for an early 3-0 lead. Neither team could mount scoring drives for the balance of the period, and it ended with that singular scoring play. Victims of the Lockerbie Scotland bombing aboard a Pan Am Flight 23 years ago were remembered as 37 Syracuse students returning for a holiday break were remembered with a moment of silence. I remembered the grief felt by a business colleague at that time, Peter Lowenstein, whose son lost his life on that flight home.
The Bulls' drive transitioning into the second period were aided by an interference call and a late hit penalty. Marcus Shaw's 3-yard run extended the USF lead to 10-0. The teams exchanged punts, but on each possession, Nissab scrambled under pressure despite completing 23 of 46 for 296 yards and no TDs. His numbers are respectable based on the ineptitude of his teams' blocking and catching capabilities. His persistence paid off as the Orange completed a 52-yard scoring drive as he connected on a quick pass over the middle to WR Alec Lemon for a 10-yard score. Ross Krautman converted to pull within three, 10-7. The ensuing kickoff went out of bounds and a personal foul added 15 yards to put USF at the SU 45. Daniels connected with WR Andre Davis for a 43-yard gain. Daniels took it in from two for a 17-7 lead for the Bulls. The Orange started their next drive from the 44 and with the aid of two personal fouls against the Bulls, they got into position for Krautman to add three more points for a 28-yard FG to close the gap again, 17-10. USF fair caught the football on the ensuing kickoff to start from their own 19. With 1:21 left in the first half, Daniels led his team down field to allow Bonani to add another field goal from 46 yards out as time expired, and the Bulls went to the locker room with a 20-10 lead.
I owe a shout of gratitude to Bob and his wife who gave me a ticket to join them at tonight's game. They're proud, die-hard but suffering SU football fans who have season tickets at the Dome for both football and for basketball. They are looking forward to the upcoming Orange basketball season and ACC b-ball games to be played there in the future. Before the game and during, Syracuse honored military veterans in various ways. Even the cover of the GameTime program pictures "The "Cuse Connection" honoring members of the 10th Mountain Division headquartered at nearby Fort Drum in upstate New York. Syracuse also honored an alumnus and former Syracuse football player, the late Al Davis of Oakland Raider fame. His family came out at halftime to receive an honor for him.
The second half started with USF receiving the kickoff based on their deferral, and the Bulls drove from their own ten to kick a 35-yard FG by Bonani for a 23-10 lead. After SU's next punt, USF was on the move again. Daniels connected with WR Victor Marc for a 32 yard catch and run that resulted in Marc diving for the left pylon right in front of us, but the ball got knocked loose and rolled through the back of the end zone for a touch back. It gave the Orange new hope, but it didn't last long as the offensive line did little to give Nassib time to pass. USF came up with only three sacks the entire game, but constant pressure due to poor pass-blocking forced quick passes on scrambles.
The fourth period started with Syracuse sitting on the South Florida eight with a first and goal. They were held to no points as TE David Stevens dropped scoring opportunity in the end zone. They turned the ball over on downs at the three. The Bulls made little progress and punted. A non-call for interference of a fair catch by the officials could have given SU better field position, but it was not made. Starting from the 47, the O-line seemed to give Nassib better protection, but that went for naught as Lemon dropped another pass in the end zone for no points and turned the ball back over to South Florida on their own 17. The Bills drove the length of the field for a two-yard scoring run with 5:19 left with Demetris Murray scoring from the two for a 30-10 USF lead. Most SU fans had seen enough. The Orange had blown chances to score despite poor blocking and when they finally did block, their receivers could not catch. The Dome emptied. 41,582 was announced as the attendance, but that included no-shows. There were not that many. A few thousand remained. My hosts had left. I thought about sticking it out to the end, but I had to go back to the Motel 6 to get up early to be back in time for Eric's playoff game and a "tailgate" that we would host afterward s at home. I had seen enough. Syracuse was bad. Neither of these teams impressed, but after I left with less than five minutes remaining, both teams scored. Nassib connected with Lemon for a 58 yard TD for SU, and the ensuing onsides kick put USF on the SU 46. With a minute left to play, Murray scored from the eight to make the final score in favor of the Bulls, 37-17.
Both teams are now tied at the bottom of the Big East a 1-4 each. Syracuse hosts Cincinnati on the 26th before visiting Pitt to close out their season. Most SU fans should be immersed in basketball by then. South Florida hosts improving Miami (F) before hosting Louisville and West Virginia. No Big East team is even ranked. I hope things remain that way so I don't have to see any of them back their way into the Orange Bowl when I attend in January. Maybe it is a good thing that this conference breaks up.