When everything is going wrong, pointing fingers is probably not the best way to try and solve a problem. But, after losing Friday night, 37-17, to the University of South Florida in front of 41,582 fans at the Carrier Dome, Syracuse University head coach Doug Marrone did just that.
No, Marrone didn't use the: "it's their fault" routine during the post-game press conference. Instead, he went with the: "who's got two thumbs and can't prepare his team for a game each week? THIS GUY!" finger routine.
"Really, at the end of the day, it starts with me," said Marrone after the game. "I need to do a much, much better better job of coaching this team, put them in a position to make plays, have the ability to win a game, whether it is at the end of the game or early on, and to keep playing well."
Now, fans and media members have seen this play call before.
"Z-left, Y-right, Head-Coach-Fall-On-The-Team-Sword-Because-Nobody-Can-Do-Anything-Right. Ready. Break!"
Of course, behind my snarky tone is the understanding of what Marrone is trying to sell: He is the head football coach. He is responsible for preparing his players. He is the guy to attack.
But, nobody in the media was ready to attack Marrone after the loss to USF, which featured a dozen or more dropped passes from wide receivers and tight ends, including, at least, three that would have gone for easy touchdowns; a shanked punt that led to a early field goal; two fourth-quarter SU drives that marched inside the Bulls' 10-yard line but scored no points; and multiple personal foul penalties.
In fact, some reporters were actually asking SU's head coach: how is it possible that you're responsible for your players bad hands and ill-advised miscues?
"I could create atmospheres for those players where they are in tight windows, make tough catches, move in the pocket, doing different types of drills," answered Marrone. "I have to get them better at that because if not we just sit here and what do we do? You have to have answers for it and the answers start with me. I have to do a better job. It is my fault."
Obviously, Marrone is trying to take the heat off his struggling players and that's what a coach is supposed to do. But, right now, he can't take all of the blame -- and, trust me, there will be enough thermal energy surrounding the head coach if the Orange can't make a bowl game after a 5-2 start to the season.
Every once in a while, players need to be held accountable for their (non-)actions and for the Syracuse football team that time is now.
"I think a lot of it has to do with leadership on this team," said Nassib, who also took blame for SU's faulty hands. "We really have to have some guys step up. Not accepting any little failure. Not waiting on a route in practice, dropping a pass in practice or missing a tackle in practice. All those little things we can’t have anymore. It has to be unacceptable."
Junior wide receiver Alec Lemon, who caught 10 passes for a collegiate-best 179 yards, agreed.
"We had a lot of drops during the week and that translates right into the game," said Lemon. "When you got an opportunity to make a play, get that first down, and Ryan (Nassib) is counting on us to make that catch and we don't. It sucks."
In the end, there are no excuses good enough to explain Syracuse's three-game losing streak and its demise in the Big East Conference standings -- the Orange are officially in last place and mathematically eliminated from winning the league title. By now, every fan has gone through the "Woe Is Us" script two, three or 10 times, however, in reality, Syracuse is just playing very poorly on both offense and defense.
Those of you still watching this team, you, probably, would agree that the Syracuse isn't as good as its 49-23 victory over West Virginia University Oct. 21, indicated, but the Orange are not as bad as what the three-game skid has showcased. And, currently, it is frustrating to see that the pendulum is stuck on one side of the equilibrium.
"A lot of us are going to have to step up," said Nassib. "It doesn’t matter what the age is. It doesn’t matter what position you are or what your ranking on the depth chart. Something has got to change."
As of Saturday morning, the onus does fall on the Orange players, who's bad play allowed for the continuation of their team's currently losing streak. Marrone tried to take the post-game criticism bullet Friday, but he should have saved his Kevlar vest for another week because if his players continue to play like this he'll need it.
-- SB Nation New York blogged live from press row at the Carrier Dome. Be sure to check back for a complete Syracuse Vs. USF StoryStream that will have complete post-game coverage. Follow along on Twitter at SBNationNY or JaredSmithCNY.