Orange have tall order in Happy Valley
September, 10, 2009
By Brian Bennett | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Doug Marrone usually speaks of his time as a player at Syracuse as kind of a utopia. That's how much love he has for his alma mater.
But the first-year coach has one major regret from his playing days. He never was part of a team that beat Penn State, a pretty fierce rival for the Orange back then.
"It's something I look back on in my career, and I apologize to our fans and to the coaches who put in so much effort," Marrone said earlier this week.
No one would expect Syracuse to apologize for losing to Penn State this weekend. In fact, no Big East team has a tougher assignment than the one the Orange are facing. They have to go on the road against the nation's No. 7 team in front of more than 100,000 fans in one of the hardest places to win in America.
And they'll have to do so with a quarterback playing just his second football game since 2004. Greg Paulus played well given the circumstances in last week's 23-20 overtime loss to Minnesota, but he said he saw many things on film that he needs to correct, not just his interception in overtime.
Paulus said his experience playing basketball at Duke and going to some of the ACC's most hostile arenas should help prepare him for Saturday's atmosphere.
"It helps settle you down a little bit," he said. "You're not about oohing and aahing about the crowd. You're maintaining the game plan and keeping the crowd out of it."
The Orange showed a lot of fight in the Minnesota game, so much so that the appreciative Carrier Dome crowd gave them a standing ovation as they left the field. They know they'll have to play just as hard but with a lot more precision to have any chance at all against the Nittany Lions.
"I think it's important for this team to find the positives," Marrone said. "I want to make sure they understand what's good and what's accepted, but never ever accept the point that we lost a game.
"I told them, I really did love the effort. They played hard. But don't ever confuse effort with results. We have to execute better."
One of Syracuse's biggest challenges will be slowing down Penn State's explosive spread HD offense. Quarterback Daryll Clark threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns in the Nittany Lions' 31-7 win over Akron last week.
"He can pass and he can run; he can do it all," Syracuse defensive tackle Arthur Jones said. "He's like a baby Michael Vick or something."
The Orange saw that offensive firepower up close last year while losing 55-13 to Penn State at home. That was the first time the two teams had played in 18 years.
Marrone can only hope it won't be that long until he finally notches a victory over the Nittany Lions.