FB : Cohen: SU’s comeback win product of luck more than performance

first_img Published on September 5, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Michael: mjcohe02@syr.edu | @Michael_Cohen13 Comments I won’t let Syracuse get away with this one. It wouldn’t be fair. It wouldn’t be right.To sit here and say the Orange deserved that season-opening win Thursday night against Wake Forest simply isn’t true.Would you disagree?Well, consider this: The team that racked up 406 yards of offense (or 107 more than its opponent), ran 26 more offensive plays and forced six three-and-outs in the first half alone left the Carrier Dome 0-1.That team which was forced to finish the game without its starting quarterback looked up at the scoreboard in disbelief as it read Syracuse 36, Wake Forest 29. SU was nothing but lucky to steal that win away from the Demon Deacons on a night when the visitors were far and away the better side.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘Honestly, I do not know,’ Wake Forest nose guard Nikita Whitlock said of the fourth quarter. ‘All I know is there was a lot of ‘ifs,’ ‘ands,’ and ‘buts,’ and ‘shouldas,’ ‘couldas,’ ‘wouldas’ that were not to our advantage late in the game.’In Whitlock’s list, the ‘ifs’ and the ‘wouldas’ are the most relevant. If starting quarterback Tanner Price hadn’t gotten hurt, Wake Forest woulda won.Plain and simple.Price crumpled to the Carrier Dome turf after Orange defensive end Chandler Jones rolled up onto his knees, forcing redshirt junior Ted Stachitas into duty.The fact that Stachitas is most famous for being the quarterback to succeed Tim Tebow at Nease High School in Florida puts the magnitude of the change into context.When Price left the game on his team’s opening drive of the fourth quarter, everything changed.The previously unstoppable Wake Forest offense sputtered with Stachitas under center. His four possessions at quarterback resulted in a punt, an interception, the end of regulation and a turnover on downs to end the game in overtime. Sixteen total plays with 29 net yards and zero points on the scoreboard.‘I think it was a big momentum shift, it was hard to get the momentum to slow down at all,’ Whitlock said of the injury to Price. ‘I think it was a big part of the game.’Prior to the injury, Price abused the Syracuse defense to the tune of 289 yards and three touchdowns through three quarters and three minutes. He and wide receiver Chris Givens toyed with the Orange secondary, hooking up six times for 162 yards and two scores.The shortest reception was 13 yards, and every single one resulted in a first down or touchdown for the Demon Deacons. Givens finished the game with 170 receiving yards — he later caught an eight-yard pass from Stachitas — good enough for fifth-highest total in the country among wide receivers for Week One.Both of his touchdowns exposed flaws in the Orange defense. The first — a 60-yard bomb in which he beat the double coverage of Phillip Thomas and Keon Lyn. The second — a quick pass out to the left sideline that he took 22 yards to the end zone after running right by SU cornerback Kevyn Scott.‘I think the coaches did a great job preparing me for this game with film study, and I was really comfortable with what we were doing offensively,’ Price said.It showed as he picked apart a defense that ranked No. 7 in the country a season ago.But Stachitas was visibly uncomfortable. As the momentum began to swing in SU’s favor, he looked rushed in the pocket. He forced his second pass to Givens, and it was picked off.On the final play of the game, he flung a desperation heave toward Givens in the back right corner of the end zone, but Scott’s provided good coverage and Givens couldn’t haul it in, giving Syracuse the win.SU head coach Doug Marrone will tell you the team ‘accomplished a lot in this game.’ He said as much in his postgame press conference.It was the first time the Orange won back-to-back season openers since the 1999 and 2000 seasons. And the first win over an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent since 2003.Yet Marrone also points out how easily the game could have gone the other way.‘We didn’t make plays early in the game, and we were very fortunate to win that game,’ he said.If Price stays in, the Demon Deacons probably keep rolling, and the SU head coach is suddenly forced to explain why his team can’t win at home for a second consecutive year.But it didn’t happen like that. Somehow, Syracuse won when it shouldn’t have.I’m left wondering just how much a team can accomplish in a game it was lucky to winMichael Cohen is the sports editor at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at mjcohe02@syr.edu or on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.center_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more