Bowl Season



Big 12 vs. Big East Bronx, N.Y.
Yankee Stadium
Dec. 30
3:20 p.m.

Sean Keeley, of answered a few questions about the Orange.

BS: Doug Marrone has had a huge impact in 2 years in Syracuse. Talk about his influence and the importance of getting to the Pinstripe Bowl, the first bowl for the 'Cuse since 2004.

Sean Keeley:Marrone's influence cannot possibly be overstated. He took one of the worst football programs in college football and turned it into a winner in two seasons. Just imagine what he'll be able to do in two more years when he has a roster full of his guys and all this success in his belt to lure recruits.

Syracuse fans have loved what he brought to the table since day one. He is probably the only person in the world who would rather coach at Syracuse than USC, Florida or Ohio State and there's no one more dedicated to making it work here. We believe him when he says that he cannot fail. After the guy before him, it's a refreshing change.

Syracuse getting to a bowl, let alone the Pinstripe Bowl, is a huge boost to the entire university. The football program is a year ahead of schedule, the athletics department gets a month to put the school in front of NYC eyeballs and an entire recruiting base that Syracuse is still trying to win back gets a front-row seat.

A BCS bowl would be the first choice, obviously, but the Pinstripe Bowl is definitely choice No. 2.

BS:The offense has been very stagnant of late. Talk about the offense including star running back Delone Carter and the rest of the offense.

Sean Keeley:Delone's doing what he can. The truth is that the offensive line hasn't come together 100% and Ryan Nassib is still coming along. Nassib has to improve with his timing and decision-making if he wants to remain our QB for the next two years. It also wouldn't hurt if we had a center who could snap from the shotgun formation in order to give him more time.

SU's receivers have been better than expected but they've still made a ton of mistakes. So many dropped balls, it's crazy. And the unit lacks a true home-run threat. That's where recruiting has to come in.

BS: The defense has been very strong. Talk about the defense including impact RB-turned LB's Derrell Smith and Doug Hogue.

Sean KeeleyIt's pretty amazing that two guys who came to Syracuse to play offense ended up being the cornerstones of out best defense in a decade. Smith and Hogue were fantastic LBs and they provided freshman Marquis Spruill with a ton of knowledge and experience. The unit will miss them but there is a bright future ahead.

The defensive line was really strong. Chandler Jones and Mikhail Marinovich were solid contributors on the end while Bud Tribbey and Andrew Lewis plugged up the middle.

The defensive secondary was a nice surprise at times. Mike Holmes had a great year and capped a really solid career while the Thomases (Shamarko and Philip) grew and will continue to improve over the next few years.

BS: How important is it for Syracuse to do well in this bowl, considering playing in New York City and being in a bowl game for the first time in so long?

Sean Keeley: Everyone's very excited about the bowl itself but I think it's extremely important for Syracuse to actually win the game. SU ended the season losing three of their last four games and lost a lot of that luster they had gained. A win in the bowl game sends them out a winner and reminds folks the Orange didn't just get lucky. 

Plus, eight wins sounds a helluva lot better than seven. It makes a difference and really sets a great tone for next year.

BS: If you had to pick one player who will have a breakout performance in the Pinstripe Bowl, who would it be?

Sean Keeley: I look to Antwon Bailey to be the breakout star of the game. It's going to be cold and probably windy, so I don't expect much out of the passing attack. That means the Orange are going to rely on their ground game and short-passing game. That's where Antwo Bailey comes in. He's been a great change of pace back all season for Delone Carter as well as a bigtime option for Ryan Nassib in the flat or in short-yardage situations.  He's going to be the No. 1 back next year and I think he sets the tone for 2011 in this game.

Thanks a lot to Sean Keeley. Check him out at
Also, Syracuse punter Rob Long, who has played in all 48 games in his career, will not play in the Pinstripe Bowl because of the finding of a brain tumor. Keep him in your thoughts.

Andrew Lawson (BracketCat) of was nice enough to answer some questions about the Wildcats.

BS: The Wildcats are in a bowl under Bill Snyder, who basically built the program. How big an influence has he made in his 2 years since un-retiring?

Andrew Lawson: It's hard to say, because one of his chief tasks was to re-balance the roster after Ron Prince signed an unprecedented 19 JUCO players in his 2008 class. We're only about halfway through that process and we're about 15 scholarships under the limit. But Snyder has restored a few core qualities of his program: how players represent themselves, internal responsibility and accountability, discipline, etc. Until this season, I also would have added "good football fundamentals" to that list, but K-State's tackling and run defense regressed to 2008 levels this season, and that's distressing. But our penalties are down and we commit to the running game, a notorious Prince failing, so there has been distinct improvement in most areas.

BS: The offense is certainly based on the rushing attack, averaging over 200 yards per game. How good had RB Daniel Thomas been and how has the rushing attack helped QB Carson Coffman succeed?

Andrew Lawson: The rushing attack has been crucial to K-State's success, although the passing game has been better than expected, given Coffman's limitations and numerous injuries to K-State's wide receivers. But midway through the season, teams started stacking the box and limiting Thomas to around 100 yards a game or less. Thomas is an NFL talent who's still learning the position (although he's had a bit of a fumbling problem lately), but it's hard to run when there's no space. The solution was twofold. When Coffman had good passing days (such as against Colorado and North Texas), the offense was two-dimensional and difficult to stop. But the better solution came in the form of Collin Klein, the backup quarterback, who is a better runner. He and Thomas ran the ball down Texas' throat, and the Longhorns were powerless to stop it. Since then, Snyder has platooned the two QBs to maximize their strengths and limit their weaknesses. It's worked pretty well, but the defense continues to undermine K-State's offensive success.

BS: The defense struggled mightily towards the end of the year. Who are the key players and what are the weaknesses of this unit?

Andrew Lawson: K-State cannot stop the run. Period. End of story. The defense was worse every game, leading to a near-total collapse at the end of the season against Colorado's Rodney Stewart and an embarrassing, but sufficient, effort against North Texas' Lance Dunbar. The problem is multi-pronged, and it stems from lack of depth, insufficient talent, poor tackling skills and questionable defensive schemes. The defensive line is too small, too slow and doesn't shed blocks well. The linebackers --  one of whom is fairly slow, and the others being undersized and inexperienced -- then get blocked by offensive linemen and knocked out of the play. That leaves our safeties needing to make difficult tackles, and most of them have been pretty hit-and-miss at it. The two standouts worth mentioning both are freshmen who have been thrown into the line of fire early. Safety Ty Zimmerman, who leads a pass defense that has been pretty decent, and linebacker Tre Walker have been above-average tacklers and decision-makers, even though Walker is extremely undersized and Zimmerman only converted to the position this fall. I expect them to account for at least half of K-State's tackles in this game.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Andrew Lawson:  Selfishly, I hope Collin Klein gets the start and has a good game, both passing and running. Although Coffman likely will start, I feel that's a bit of a waste because he's a senior playing in his last game. Klein gives us hope of competition in the spring at a QB spot that all too often underperformed this season from a dual-threat standpoint. I also would like to see young defensive players such as Walker, Zimmerman and defensive tackle Raphael Guidry take a step forward, because they will have to lead the defense next year.

Thanks a lot to Andrew Lawson. Check him out at

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