Beat writers award superlatives for Syracuse football season

first_img Related Stories On the Beat: Football season recap, Shafer’s potential replacements and moreScott Shafer’s final press conference as Syracuse’s head coachBeat writers grade position groups, team and Scott Shafer at midway pointOn the Beat podcast: Midseason GradesSchwedelson: Bad 4th-quarter defense puts SU behind 8-ball Turning point: After losing in triple overtime to Virginia the prior week, Syracuse needed a win before facing perennial powerhouses Florida State, Louisville and Clemson in the next three games. SU led by four entering the fourth quarter but its defense couldn’t get a stop on two straight drives and Pitt won at the buzzer.Biggest surprise: Terrel Hunt was the most important player entering the season, but that all changed not even a quarter into the first game. The entire dynamic of the season, and the future of the quarterback position, would look different if Hunt didn’t go down.Final grade: CSyracuse barely beat Central Michigan. And then it lost eight straight games. Being 3-0 for the first time in 24 years proved to be fool’s gold as the Orange sputtered down the stretch. SU made small progress throughout the year but even that is probably diminished with a new coaching staff set to come in next year. Comments Syracuse concluded its season with a 20-17 win over Boston College on Saturday. Cole Murphy hit a game-winning 35-yard field goal as time expired to send Scott Shafer out with a win in his last game as SU’s head coach. He was fired last Monday amid an eight-game losing streak along with his assistants.A 4-8 record is far from what Syracuse expected after a 3-0 start, but youth, quarterback injuries and a struggling defense all contributed to the Orange missing a second straight postseason.Our beat writers award superlatives in seven different categories, including a final letter grade on the team as a whole.Sam BlumOffensive MVP: Steve IshmaelAdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe sophomore wide receiver got limited receptions this year in Syracuse’s offense, but showed that he has the physical ability to be one of the best in the conference. Going one-on-one against defenders, he doesn’t even need a step to make catches because of his height. Whoever comes in should prioritize Ishmael as a primary playmaker since he has the ability to be one.Defensive MVP: Zaire FranklinHe led Syracuse with 81 tackles (13 more than anyone else) and was second to Antwan Cordy in tackles for loss. He was also a sophomore captain and had a vocal role on the team. He’s one of the young players that Syracuse can build its defense around and he showed why this season.Best moment: When Zack Mahoney raced into the end zone toward the end of the first quarter against No. 1 Clemson to tie the game, it showed what Syracuse was capable of this season. The Orange came back from a 14-point deficit against the No. 1 team and played Clemson close the whole way through. Syracuse was capable of more than it accomplished this season, and that game and moment against the Tigers showed that.Chase Guttman | Asst. Photo Editor Facebook Twitter Google+ Worst moment: Terrel Hunt’s injury in the first half of the first quarter of the first game of the season. He had worked so hard to come back from his injury the season before, but it was a futile comeback. He ended up missing the entire season and was not granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA.Turning point: Syracuse’s win against Boston College. There were a lot of bad turning points that SU can point to this season, but beating Boston College was important. It sent the coach off the right way. It sent the players off with some confidence that they could win. It makes Syracuse look better, which is always important when you’re trying to bring in a new coach. That win against the Eagles was far from meaningless.Biggest surprise: Where the heck did Zack Mahoney come from? He may be a walk-on transfer from the College of DuPage, but he has what it takes to play at this level. He is far from elite, but was serviceable when Syracuse needed him to be. And that’s pretty impressive considering he was the backup kick-holder when the season began.Final grade: C+The wins and losses weren’t good — though they were technically an improvement from last year. Young players started making big plays and the Orange was good enough to win some games that it didn’t. At quick glance, this season was worse than it was. But there’s a long-term plan in place, though a lot does hinge on the health of the quarterback, Eric Dungey.Matt SchneidmanOffensive MVP: Eric DungeyThe freshman quarterback led Syracuse in rushing touchdowns with five and accounted for 11 more scores through the air. Despite his oft-talked about head injuries, he was the most productive player on an offense that put up almost 28 points per game.Jessica Sheldon | Staff Photographer Defensive MVP: Antwan CordyThe sophomore tweeted before Saturday’s game that he was transferring and if it’s true, SU would lose a player who held together a weak secondary. He was second on the team with 68 total tackles, led the Orange with 12 tackles for loss and grabbed two interceptions.Best moment: It’s not even close. Scott Shafer being carried off the field for the final time by two seniors was a fitting way to end his tenure as head coach. The Orange beat BC, 20-17, but the moments following overshadowed the score.Worst moment: One of the demerits against Shafer was claiming the Orange could come back in a 31-point game with just more than four minutes left. That was his reason for keeping Eric Dungey in, and the freshman suffered another head injury with the game firmly in the Cardinals’ grasp.Turning point: Syracuse led Virginia by three with less than seven minutes left. The Orange couldn’t stop the Cavaliers on several third downs and the hosts marched 88 yards in 6:52 to send the game to overtime before winning in the third extra period. It sent Syracuse to a third consecutive loss and SU never returned to above .500.Biggest surprise: Last season seemed rare enough in terms of quarterback travesty, when Terrel Hunt was ejected in game one and broke his fibula in game five. This year was even worse, as Syracuse lost Hunt in the season opener, Dungey with three games to go and former starter AJ Long midway through the season.Final Grade: CSyracuse allowed 40-plus points in each of its five road games and vowed not to have the same collapse as last year. But an eight-game losing streak that ultimately cost Shafer his job eliminated the Orange from bowl contention before the season finale. A promising offense was dragged down by a struggling youthful defense and now, hopes turn to a new coach that can hopefully ignite an ACC bottom-feeder.Paul SchwedelsonOffensive MVP: Ervin PhilipsWhen Philips was able to get the ball in space, he made things happen. His stats don’t pop out, but he led Syracuse on several touchdown drives that took only a couple minutes to go down the field. A combination of an early-season injury and SU being forced to play from behind limited his production, but Philips was the most explosive weapon the Orange had.Defensive MVP: Parris BennettBennett won a starting spot just a few days into training camp and proved why it wasn’t much of a competition once the season began. He recorded the third most tackles on SU with, fittingly, 44, despite missing the last four games with an upper-body injury. In those games, Syracuse allowed an average of 231 rushing yards, proving Bennett’s value.Best moment: Scott Shafer and the coaching staff’s fate was already decided by early last week so Syracuse’s players rallied around the staff many of them came to love. Wide receiver Steve Ishmael said it felt like a movie, and indeed, carrying Shafer off the field after one final win was a great moment.Worst moment: Scott Shafer received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the second week in a row against North Carolina State on Nov. 21. Amid Syracuse’s eight-game losing streak, Shafer stressed that while his team may be losing, at least it can “control the controllables.” But when Shafer himself was flagged for yelling at the ref, twice, the wheels had officially come off.Logan Reidsma | Photo Editor Published on November 30, 2015 at 10:14 pmlast_img read more