- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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How about the Syracuse Orange?
Doug Marrone's rebuilding job hit a new high Saturday as Syracuse won at South Florida 13-9. It's the program's first-ever win over the Bulls, and now the Orange sit at 4-1 and 1-0 in the Big East, tied for first place with Rutgers at this early moment. (And we all saw that coming, right?)
It wasn't a pretty game or one to watch if you love offense. There was only one offensive touchdown, and that came when the Orange mounted an impressive 98-yard drive in the fourth quarter to take the lead for good.
The Syracuse defense stifled the Bulls and held them to just 221 total yards. Quarterback B.J. Daniels had a rough game, completing just 9 of 23 passes for 124 yards with two interceptions. He also twice missed wide-open receivers for what could have been easy touchdowns. Daniels, much like Rutgers' Tom Savage, seems to have regressed in his sophomore season, though to be fair he is in a new system.
The Bulls' only touchdown came on a 94-yard Lindsey Lamar kickoff return. Their defense played very well, too, but the hard running of Delone Carter proved key to the Orange. Carter finished with 106 yards on 26 carries and was instrumental in the long drive.
This is a Syracuse team that's tougher, mentally and physically, than it has been in a long, long time. It's not at all unrealistic now for the Orange to start thinking bowl game. They'll need three more victories to ensure it because of the two FCS teams on the schedule. But in a wide-open, rather mediocre Big East, there's no reason Syracuse can't make some more noise in league play. The way the Orange play defense and run the ball makes them a team no one will have much fun facing from here on out.
As for the Bulls, this one hurts. They now drop to 3-2, and with a trip to Miami still looming late in the season, the margin for error in Big East play has shrunk. Losing a winnable game at home is a major setback, especially since they have to play Thursday night in Morgantown against West Virginia.