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Preview: Washington versus Syracuse
Richard Linde, 12 June 2007

The Syracuse Orange football team is coached by Greg Robinson (5-18) who, like Washington coach Tyrone Willingham (7-16), is entering his third year at the helm. Last season, the Orange won 4 games, lost 8 and finished 1-6 in the BIG EAST Conference. Washington won 5 games and lost 7, finishing 3-6 in the Pac-10.

Syracuse hasn’t had a winning season since 2001; likewise, UW’s last winning season was in 2002, long, long ago. Both teams post feckless numbers in our Six-stat comparator, with UW leading Syracuse 78.8 to 98.5. Last season, Stanford posted a 100.2 on that scale, which means the Cardinal are like the Orange in three ways: both have lousy nicknames, both have silly mascots and both bespeak wretched numbers when asked to cough them up. As we all know, Stanford beat UW last season, which was as befuddling then as is the Stanley Cup residing in Anaheim now. This game should be closer than Big Foot’s last shave with a rotary lawnmower.

A win for Willingham would vicariously avenge his unforgivable loss to the Tree last season. A win for Robinson puts the Orange back on the victory tree after falling off in the last game of last season against Rutgers.

The Orange return 6 on offense, 4 on defense and 1 specialist. The Huskies return 6 on offense, 7 on defense and no specialists, losing punter Sean Douglas and kicker Michael Braunstein. Syracuse must replace all-BIG EAST punter Brendan Carney.

Syracuse has experience at running back, wide receiver, safety and tight end. Four members of the offensive line have game experience, three of them starters last season. Coach Robinson hoped to establish “stability” on the OL during spring practices. On defense, he and his staff need to replace three starting linebackers and two starting cornerbacks. Two members of the defensive line return and there is depth behind them.

UW has experience at wide receiver, tight end, on the defensive line and somewhat at linebacker. Depth issues that exist at cornerback, safety, running back and on the offensive line await resolution in the fall.

Syracuse finished 7th in the nation in turnover margin in 2006, a jolting statistic, indeed, when compared to Washington's number (104 out of 119 teams).

The two teams will "clash" at the Carrier Dome (Syracuse, N.Y.) on August 31.The game will be telecast by ESPN. The 27-year old Dome, located on the Syracuse campus, consists of a Teflon-coated, fiberglass, soft inflatable roof.

Concerning the Dome, recent comments from visiting firemen attest to the difficulties it presents:

"We got blown out": The roof tends to droop when all the exits and doors are open, producing a strong swoosh of wind called the Dome Effect.

"The noise was deafening": Listen for the Dome Stomp, an up-and-down echo caused by a person standing in one of the creases of the wall enclosing the stadium and stomping his/her foot. Field Turf was installed in 2005. The stadium holds approximately 50,000 people.

"Syracuse was all pumped up": The mechanical fans pump 1,000,000 cubic feet of air per minute when inflating the dome. There must be an emergency power supply. Watch out for a leak in the roof.

"Let us 'Otto' here": Syracuse’s mascot is named Otto, which, like the Tree, shouldn’t surprise anyone. If the game is boring, you can always drive to scenic Rome, sans peak season with variegated-colored trees in mind. 

The two teams have played twice before, UW winning in 1973 and Syracuse  beating Washington in 1977.

Here is how they match up.

Quarterback (edge to Washington)

Both teams have lost veteran, senior quarterbacks: Isaiah Stanback at UW and Parry Patterson (Orange).

For Syracuse, sophomore Andrew Robinson (6-3, 222) played in 5 games last season, completing 3 of 8 passes for 20 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He ran 9 times for 28 yards. Walking on in 2005 and expected to back up Robinson, Junior Cameron Dantley was given a scholarship for the 2007 season. He did not play in the 2005 and 2006 seasons.

Before spring practice, Willingham named Jake Locker (6’3”, 220) his starting quarterback. Locker, who is a redshirt freshman, has no experience at the position, but has tons of athleticism with a strong arm and exceptional speed. Locker will be backed up by fifth-year senior Carl Bonnell, whose career numbers follow.

G PA PC Yards Tds Int PE
15 218 92 1144 7 15 83.12

Bonnell (6-3, 210) has a career total of 166 rushing yards, averaging 9.8 yards per game. He has started 7 games.

Should Locker falter, Bonnell’s experience gives the Dawgs the edge at QB.

Offensive line (slight edge to Washington)

Syracuse returns Ryan Durand (OG Jr. 6-5, 310), Carroll Madison (OG Sr. 6-2 310), Corey Chavers (T, Jr., 6-5,295) and Marvin McCall (OT Sr. 6-2 292) on the offensive line. Last season, Durand and Madison each started 12 games for the Orange, Chavers started 8, and McCall started 4. Three other players have game experience.

Starting guards Clay Walker and Stanley Daniels have been lost to graduation. They along with three returning players on the OL played on almost every snap for the Huskies in 2006. LT Erik Berglund played the first quarter against USC, subbing for Ben Ossai (Jr., 6-6, 300) and Casey Bulyca (Sr., 6-6, 320) took the place of Walker after he went down in the Oregon game. At the pivot, Juan Garcia (Sr., 6-3, 315) played on every offensive down, along with RT Chad Macklin (Sr., 6-8, 300). Morgan Rosborough (Jr., 6-6, 375) and Bulyca are expected to start at left and right guard, respectively.

Other than Ossai, Macklin and Garcia, none of the other linemen listed on the Huskies' roster have any appreciable experience in the form of varsity letters. The lack of depth on the OL was noted during the spring scrimmage, with a marked disparity between the first and second units. At times, Daniels who signed a free agent contract with the Rams rode shotgun for Ossai at the important left tackle position last season.

Still, the edge goes to the Huskies because their total offense number (321.8) last season trumps the Orange’s (264.0). Also, their size poses some weighty defensive problems for the Orange.

Tailback (slight edge Syracuse)

The Orange have lost Delone Carter (So., 5-10, 214) to injury for the season, having dislocated a hip in spring practice. Carter ran for 713 yards on 139 carries last season. Curtis Brinkley (Jr. 5-9 203) started every game at TB last season, accumulating 571 yards on 139 carries. In addition, Paul Chiara (Jr. 5-11,210) rushed 17 times for 59 yards. All three tailbacks played in all 12 games. Before spring practice. Coach Robinson considered the tailback position to be a strength of the team.

The Huskies listed just two scholarship tailbacks on their spring roster, J.R. Hasty (Jr., 5-11, 210) and Louis Rankin (Sr., 6-1, 205); however, five running backs were signed as part of the 2007 recruiting class. Rankin played in all 12 games last season averaging 55.5 yards per game, while Hasty sat out the season with academic issues. Expect to see big TE Johnie Kirton do an imitation of USC’s incomparable, popular Sonny Byrd should Tyrone, as he is called, not find another tailback.

Incoming freshman Curtis Shaw (5-11, 190) might be the guy Willingham is seeking. Curtis recently ran a 10.56 in the 100 meters.

Two veteran tailbacks give the Orange a slight edge. Brinkley had knee surgery during the spring and is expected to be back by fall.

Fullback (a push)

For the Orange, Breyone Evans (Sr., 6-0, 242) and Tony Fiammetta (Jr., 6-1, 235) will battle for the starting fullback position this fall. At UW, Luke Kravitz and Paul Homer will get some work at fullback, as Mark Palaita has finished his career.

Wide Receiver (edge Washington)

“The wide receiving corps has speed, size and big play potential,” Robinson was quoted as saying going into spring practice. Syracuse has experienced players in Taj Smith (Sr., 6-1, 188), Rice Moss (Sr., 6-2, 207, Mike Williams (So., 6-2, 204), Lavar Lobdell (So., 6-3, 200), Donte Davis (So., 6-0, 169), and to an extent, Jeremy Horne (So., 6-2, 190).

Name (2006 stats) PC Yards Tds Long
Moss 23 272 1 23
Smith 12 227 3 65
Williams 24 461 4 47
Lobdell 5 68 0 25
Davis 9 84 0 26

Moss started 9 games last season.

For Udub, Anthony Russo (Sr., 5-11, 185) has been a regular for several years, starting all 12 games last year and finishing with 32 receptions, second on the team. Classmates Cody Ellis (Sr. 6-0, 185) four starts in 2006), Corey Williams (Sr. 6-2, 196, four starts), Marcel Reece (Sr., 6-3, 240, one start) and Quintin Daniels (Sr., 6-0, 195, one start) also played significant roles in the past season.

Name (2006) PC Yards TD Long
Russo 32 552 2 56
Daniels 12 145 2 55
Ellis 9 230 1 64
Williams 10 83 0 15
Reece 9 219 1 69

Reece should be a playmaker in every game he plays, providing he loses weight, coming in at the 240 we list him at. Hence, a slight edge goes to Washington, with the help of a banana diet.

Tight End (edge to Syracuse)

Tom Ferron (Jr., 6-3 244, 2 starts) returns at tight end for ‘Cuse. Last season, Ferron posted 30 receptions for 351 yards and 2 touchdowns, with a long of 30 yards. He’ll be backed up by Jawad Nesheiwat (Sr., 6-4, 251, four starts), who had 11 receptions for 56 yards and 2 touchdowns, with a long 14 yards, last season. Coach Robinson expects Arthur Kapalanga (Sr., 6-1, 258) to contribute as well.

At UW, seniors Michael Gotlieb (6-5, 245) and Johnie Kirton (6-3, 270) each started six games a year ago. Tim Williams (Jr., 6-6, 255), Robert Lewis (Sr. 6-5, 250) and Tim Harris (Sr., 6-5, 250) are expected to contribute. Last season, Gotlieb caught 4 passes for 78 yards and no touchdowns, with a long of 27 yards. Kirton caught 12 passes for 93 yards, 3 touchdowns, with a long of 21 yards; Lewis caught 6 passes for 62 yards, with a long of 23 yards.

Ferron is ready to step up to the plate for the Orange, while UW is still looking for a TE who will take over the position; hence, the edge goes to Syracuse.

Defensive Line (slight edge to Syracuse)

For Syracuse, both Tony Jenkins (DT Sr. 6-3 286) and Jameel McClain (DE, Sr. 6-1 256) return. There is experience with Brandon Gilbeaux (DE, So., 6-3, 271) and Mike Owen (DE, So., 6-4, 255). Coach Robinson, who is defensive minded, says the defensive line will be the strength of the defense. Between them Jenkins and McClain had 23 starts last season. McLain had 32 tackles and 37 assists, with 9.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for a loss, while Jenkins posted 19 tackles and 22 assists, with 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss. Gilbeaux had 11 tackles and 10 assists last season.

Washington welcomes back 4 starters on the defensive line, as well a number of defensive linemen with game experience. It is the most experienced position on the team. Wilson Afoa (Sr., 6-3, 290, started 10 games) and Jordan Reffett (Sr., 6-6, 295, started 5) return to the defensive tackle positions. Afoa posted 23 total tackles and had 6 tackles for a loss. Reffett registered 23 total tackles in 2006. Last season, Greyson Gunheim (DE, Sr., 6-5, 265, started 10 games) logged 44 total tackles, with 14 tackles for a loss. Danny Te’o-Nesheim (DE, Jr., 6-4, 245, started 12 games) accumulated 35 total tackles, with 6 tackles for a loss.

McLain is a horse on the DL; he’ll set his sights early on Locker, who likely will run for his life at times. Syracuse registered 2.83 sacks per game last season, while UW registered 2.25 sacks per game; hence, a slight edge goes to the Orangemen…I mean the Orange (like the Cardinal at Stanford, a desultory nickname, indeed).

Linebackers (edge Washington)

Syracuse loses all three linebackers, with 33 starts among them last season. Ben Maljovec (Jr., 6-3, 223), Jake Flaherty (Jr., 6-1, 228) and Vincenzo Giruzzi (Jr., 6-2, 232) are being counted on to pick up some enormous slack. Maljovec, who has seen action in every game over the last two years, was moved from free safety to linebacker last year. Over his career he has 13 total tackles. Between them Giruzzi and Flaherty have accounted for 20 total tackles over the same period of time (2005 and 2006 seasons). Jeremy Sellers, Elon Mitchell and Derrell Smith have been moved from offense to the linebacker position. Sellers (Sr, 6-0, 211) is a former running back, who played every game on special teams last season. Mitchell (So, 6-2, 232) was moved from fullback to linebacker last season. Smith (So., 6-1, 225) was moved from running back to linebacker for spring practice.

At Washington linebacker Dan Howell (6-1 225) returns for his senior season, with 10 starts last season. Willingham is looking for E.J. Savannah (Jr., 6-2, 222), Chris Stevens (Jr., 6-0, 215), Donald Butler (So., 6-1, 240) and Trenton Tuiasosopo (Sr., 6-2, 240) “to step up and take over.” Among them, Savannah, Stevens, Butler and Tuiasosopo played in 43 games last season.

With more experience than the Orange at linebacker, the Huskies, albeit in transition at this spot, get the edge here.

Cornerback (big edge to Washington)

Syracuse loses both cornerbacks, both starting every game a year ago.

Nick Chestnut (Jr., 5-11, 184) had two starts at linebacker last season, but played mostly cornerback, registering 56 tackles and two interceptions. Jason Tanner (Sr., 5-11, 200) has little or no experience, posting just 4 tackles last season. However, he played in every game last season, running three kickoffs back on special teams, for example. Quinton Brown (Sr., 5-11, 180) traveled with the team but didn’t play in any games last season, though the coach says he has a year of experience at corner. Behind those three are a redshirt freshman and an incoming freshman.

The Huskies lose Dashon Goldson and Matt Fountaine at cornerback. Between them, they started in 12 games last season. Roy Lewis (Sr., 5-11, 187) who started all 12 games returns at cornerback. His 66 tackles ranked third on the team in 2006.

UW needs one or more of its incoming freshmen to help out in the defensive secondary, perhaps, two or three of them.

Look for Matt Mosley (So., 5-11, 190), Jordan Murchison (Sr., 6-0, 194) and Desmond Davis (Sr., 5-11, 190) to contend for playing time. All three of them have little or no experience.

JC transfer Byron Davenport, who played two years for UCLA (one a redshirt year), will enter Washington this fall and contend for a CB spot. 

Returnee Roy Lewis gives the UW the edge.

Safety (big edge Syracuse)

Safety is another strong defensive position for ‘Cuse, with two starters returning, Dowayne Davis (Sr., SS, 6-0, 200) and Joe Fields (FS, Sr., 6-1,210). Davis posted 70 tackles a year ago, while Fields delivered on 66, with 4 interceptions. There is some nice depth behind them.

At UW, C.J. Wallace, a Sunday prospect, along with Goldson, finished third in the conference in tackles last season. The departing Wallace leaves a vacancy at strong safety.

Jason Wells (Jr., 6-2, 210), a starter at free safety, will be back. SS Mesphin Forrester (Sr., 6-2, 205) played in nickel and dime packages last year and should see a lot of playing time this year. SS Darin Harris, who missed last season, is slated to return from injury. Over the 2004/2005 seasons he played in 21 games with 4 starts at FS.

Experience gives our vote to Syracuse.

Special Teams (edge to Syracuse)

Kicker Patrick Shadle (Jr., 5-8, 201) could be one of the best kickers in the nation should he continue with his consistency this year. ‘Cuse loses punter Brendan Carney, a four year starter. Kyle Muir (So., 6-3, 196) will battle Niko Rechul (Jr., 6-2, 195) for the punter’s spot.

Kicker Michael Braunstein and punter Sean Douglas have finished their careers at UW. Punter Jared Ballman, a JC transfer, was somewhat inconsistent during the spring.

Punter/kicker Ryan Perkins suffered severely torn ligaments in his right knee in the 2005 spring game, has had surgery on the knee and has undergone weeks of rehabilitation. He should be ready for the fall practices.

Kicker Erik Folk (Sherman Oaks, Calif.) was signed as part of the 2007 recruiting class. Willingham has invited recent high school grad Carl Rutkowski, a place kicker out of Idaho, to walk-on this fall.

Shadle gives Syracuse the nod.

Our Prediction

Our Six-stat comparator from 2006 (Table 1) gives UW a margin of victory by say seven points. Both teams are inexperienced in critical areas. Both coaches desperately need a win to start the season off with a bang. Playing in the Carrier Dome gives the Orange a seven point advantage, maybe even more, considering the stadium's idiosyncrasies. The Huskies’ playmakers -- Locker, Reece and a couple of incoming freshmen (providing they pass their SATs) -- should be the difference.

Washington 28, Syracuse 24

Table 1. Six-stat comparator: Offensive and defensive (national) statistics for 2006. TO=total offense; TD=total defense; RO=rushing offense; RD=rushing defense; PEO=pass efficiency offense; PED=pass efficiency defense; AVG=Average. For example, the Huskies finished 74th in the nation in total offense in 2006. Their national average for the Six-stat comparator is 78.8.

Team TO TD RO RD PEO PED AVG
UW 74 95 69 66 95 74 78.8
SU 110 107 97 110 86 81 98.5

Table 2. 2006 Statistics. Washington's number is in the first column of the data, while Syracuse's is the second number. For example, Syracuse wins in time of possession, with 29.32 minutes.

1.      1. BALL CONTROL

Time of Possession: 29:12; 29.32

2. BLOCKING AND TACKLING

Rushing Offense: 127.9; 106.92
Passing Offense:
193.8; 157.08
Rushing Defense:
139.2; 185.08
Passing Defense: 242.2;
214.25
Pass Efficiency Defense:
131.3; 133.31
Pass Efficiency Offense: 108.6;
113.29
Total Offense:
321.8; 264.00
Total Defense:
379.3; 399.3

3. MISTAKES

Penalties:
42.3; 46.8
Turnover Margin: -.67;
.92

4. FIELD POSITION

Kickoff Returns:
19.3; 17.98
Punt Returns: 6.5;
7.67
Punting (Net Per Punt): 33.9;
37.25

5. SCOREBOARD BABY:

Field Goals: 83.3%;
89%
Redzone Offense: 84.8%; 83% 
Redzone Defense: 88.9%;
79%
Points For: 21.8; 17.4
Points Against: 25.9;
24.58

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