Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Syracuse Seek Respect

New staff hope to bring school back to football glory.

Before Donovan McNabb was throwing long bombs to T.O. in the End Zone, he donned the orange and blue of Syracuse. He won Big East Conference player of the year three times, and the impressive title of Big East player of the DECADE. His senior year Syracuse would go to the Orange Bowl and face the Florida Gators. Syracuse was the "Beast of the Big East" they're not.

The Syracuse Orange finished the 2004 campaign with a 6-6 record including a 51-14 loss to Georgia Tech in the Citrus Bowl. Despite the bowl game appearance, in a conference stripped of perennial powerhouses Miami and Virginia Tech, Syracuse should have been one of the favorites to win. Now they come into this weekend, looking to regain national attention as the 20th ranked Cavaliers come into town. The Orange will try to avenge last year's 31-10 loss in Charlottesville. New coach Greg Robinson realizes just how hard that accomplishment will be.

"I think Virginia is strong in all areas", Robinson said. "They have an outstanding defense and offensively, I think their quarterback is one of the great competitors in the country.”

At least Robinson now has a win under his belt after defeating Buffalo 31-0. His 1-1 Orange know the implications of beating a nationally ranked team. He also knows that for Syracuse it will mean facing the difficult task of shutting down versatile Marques Hagans.

You’ve seen him maneuver and run around from what he did last year." Robinson said. "He does it all the time. He threatens you in a lot of ways, and he also threatens you in the way he competes. That’s the thing that we have to emphasize to our team is that don’t think at any moment that this guy is done."

Syracuse's own quarterback, junior Perry Patterson, had a tough go in the opening season 15-7 loss to West Virginia. His two interceptions, three sacks and a meager 85 passing yards shows just how far Patterson has to go.

Look for Syracuse to run the ball early and often Saturday. Senior running back Damien Rhodes has proven to be the workhouse on the Orange offense for a couple of years now. Last time these two teams met, Rhodes carried the ball ten times for 34 yards and scored the Orange's only touchdown. Now with Walter Reyes graduated, Rhodes looks to be the primary back and the man Virginia must scheme against.

Perhaps Syracuse's biggest hurdle could potentially be on the sidelines. All-American junior linebacker Ahmad Brooks sat out the opening game of the season against the Broncos of Western Michigan. His presence on the field could make or break Syracuse's running game.

"When he hits you, it’s a load...(He is) that type of a guy who can create havoc because of his explosiveness and his massiveness.” Robinson said.

Virginia just hopes he's that type of guy who can play on Saturday.


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