Wednesday, December 29, 2010
New Era Pinstripe Bowl keys for Syracuse
By Brian Bennett
Three keys for Syracuse in Wednesday's New Era Pinstripe Bowl matchup with Kansas State:
Make the Wildcats throw it: Kansas State ranked 20th nationally in running the ball and has a star player in tailback Daniel Thomas. In the latter part of the season, backup quarterback Collin Klein gave the Wildcats another running threat. Like Syracuse, though, they don't own a fearsome passing game. Klein is mostly a runner, and Carson Coffman has been erratic at times as a passer. Scott Shafer's defense works best when it can load the box and bring pressure against quarterbacks. Syracuse needs to make Kansas State one-dimensional -- in the dimension it doesn't want to use.
Run, Run, Run: Kansas State had the third-worst rushing defense in the FBS this season, a stat which must make Doug Marrone smile. You can count on one hand the number of 30-plus yard plays the Orange offense produced in the final weeks of the season, but the one thing they do well is run the ball hard between the tackles. The Syracuse offensive line should control the line of scrimmage and free Delone Carter and Antwon Bailey to get into the second level and make things happen. It could be a cold day at Yankee Stadium; if the Orange can keep the ball on the ground and burn clock, that would provide a huge advantage.
Special teams: Not having punter Rob Long, who is recovering from brain surgery, is a big loss for Syracuse. Long also handles kickoffs and is the holder for the Orange. Meanwhile, Kansas State kick returner William Powell led the nation by averaging 34.6 yards per return. No one knows quite how the winds will work at Yankee Stadium with its unique setup. Special teams can often be rusty after a long pre-bowl layoff, and in a game that could be low-scoring, the kicking game could be the difference.