Friday, September 9, 2011

Syracuse-Rhode Island Game Preview

By Matt Appel

Courtesy of Alexander_O
Syracuse (1-0, 0-0) vs. Rhode Island (0-0, 0-0) (FCS)
For the faithful Orange fans who stayed all 4 quarters and overtime last week against Wake Forest (I’ll embarrassingly admit, I was not one of them), it will be a game that you will probably never forget. Neither will any of the players that played in that memorable game. And rightfully so; outside of last year’s Pinstripe Bowl, it is probably the most exciting Syracuse football game in quite some time. With that being said, it is pivotal that Marrone & Co. do not look past Rhode Island in anticipation of their west coast trip to USC next week. Easier said than done?

When Syracuse has the ball: It was very apparent that during the first 45 minutes of last weeks game that the Orange didn’t have the best offensive flow. That’s because, according to the coaches post-game, nothing they saw in tape of Wake Forest from last year was anywhere close to what they showed on the field. The Demon Deacons are going with a 3-4 defense this year, as opposed to the 4-3 they played in whatever tape the Orange had of them. Luckily, offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett picked up on it in time to salvage the game. Do not expect 3 quarters of stagnant offensive this week. Rhode Island lost at home to Maine last year; the same Maine team that lost to the Orange 38-14 at the Dome. Last week, we saw the weapons that the Syracuse offense will so heavily rely upon this year: over 100 yards from Antwon Bailey, an efficient 20-28 performance from Ryan Nassib with 3 touchdowns, and huge catches from #1 receiver Van Chew down the stretch during that comeback.  Last time the Orange played an FCS opponent, Nassib set the SU record with 5 touchdowns in a game. Expect more of the same this time. Willie McGinnis, a senior defensive end who is the best player on the URI defensive unit, will do his best to make noise in the back field, but shouldn’t be able to do too much.

When Rhode Island has the ball: Basically, don’t expect a whole ton. The Rams’ lone playmaker on offense is senior QB Steve Probst, who led the team in passing and rushing yards last year. The Rams featured an average offense in the CAA last year, ranking 6th out of ten teams in terms of points scored. One thing URI has going for it is the Syracuse defense is somewhat banged up. It does not sound like Chandler Jones, the anchor of the defensive line, will play on Saturday, as he injured his knee (we think, the Orange have been very hush-hush about the injuries) during the game last week. With that said, the Orange should be able to run out a whole string of backups, and still be ok (which will most likely happen by the second half, depending on the score).

Prediction: Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. This has all the makings of a trap game. Syracuse has a big game next week; they’re coming off of a very dramatic win, and are playing a far inferior team this week. Yup, this qualifies as a trap game.  Rhode Island did something ‘Cuse couldn’t do last year: Beat Nova (sure, it might have been in football, but you get the point). 

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