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UC-Syracuse preview

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Brian Kelly sees the similarities between Syracuse and UC. He can think back to 2007, his first year at the helm of the Bearcats squad, and he can compare it to this season's Syracuse team - in its first year under coach Doug Marrone.

 

He comes to this conclusion: the Orange of 2009 and the Bearcats of 2007 are more similar than you might think.

 

"The first thing that stands out is Doug Marrone has done a great job of getting players to play hard for four quarters," Kelly said. "I told our team this is the first time I've seen some similarities to our team in the first year in terms of playing hard. Everybody has been focused on Syracuse's quarterback situation. (Greg) Paulus did a good job of coming into this year and adding some maturity and stability to the offense."

 

We'll get to Paulus in a second, but first, we'll go to the biggest impact player for the Orange. That would be senior running back Delone Carter, who rushed for a career-best 170 yards and three touchdowns on a career-high 30 carries last week vs. Akron. He potentially could be a force.

 

Just noticed this, but Carter is 26th on the Syracuse career rushing list with 1,380 yards. He's 126 yards behind No. 25 Rob Konrad and far ahead of Kirby Dar Dar (I followed this team growing up in Atlanta - mainly because my father was born in Syracuse - so the name Kirby Dar Dar actually means something to me). Carter most likely will catch Donovan McNabb (1,561) before the season is over. But that led me to this trivia question.

 

With all the great Syracuse running backs it's featured during its illustrious history, who leads the school in career rushing yards? Larry Csonka? No, he's third. Floyd Little? No, he's fifth. Ernie Davis*? No, he's ninth. Jim Brown? Heck no, he's way down at 15th.

 

The answer, of course, is Joe Morris**, who gained 4,299 yards from 1978-81.

 

*When my dad was growing up, my grandfather secured an Ernie Davis autograph for him. Apparently, Davis - who won the Heisman in 1961 and later died at the age of 23 of leukemia - was at some function, where he handed out strips of paper that read, "It has been a pleasure meeting you today. I hope we meet again some day." Then, he would scribble his name. Under the signature, my father - who must have been 9 or 10 at the time - scrawled the word "Browns," because that's where Davis was to play in the NFL before he got sick. I've always admired that piece.

 

A few years ago, my parents framed the autograph, stuck an Ernie Davis football card in there and gave it to me for my birthday. It's one of the coolest birthday presents I've received from them in many years (though the Muhammad Ali-signed framed photo of him knocking out Joe Frazier is pretty damn cool, too).

 

**Of course, I'm not sure I'd heard of Joe Morris before today.

 

Anyway ...

 

Receiver Mike Williams - fifth in the nation with 118.7 receiving yards a game - is always dangerous for the Orange, and Paulus has done a nice job getting him the ball. Paulus, of course, is a nice story, even if you're a Duke basketball hater.

 

"It's an incredible feat to go into the competition he's played with all the looks that you see - and they're a sophisticated offense now; it's not like they're getting basic reads - I think it's been an incredible story," Kelly said. "What he's been able to do to their offense, you can see there's more of an identity and there's leadership. He's really helped Syracuse's program get off the mat here.  He makes players around him better."

 

Lately, though, the offense has turned to Carter, and Carter has responded.

 

"He does not have the top-end speed of (Fresno State's) Ryan Matthews, but he's probably as physical - if not more physical - between the tackles," Kelly said. "You can't arm-tackle him. If you try, he'll take you three, four or five more yards."

 

--So, it sounds like, once again, Tony Pike won't play. That's what Kelly said during his radio show Thursday, which means Zach Collaros will get another chance to impress you. I'm sure Doug Marrone would rather face Pike, because he turns the Bearcats into such a one-dimensional offense.

 

Collaros, though, is ready. I talked to him a little this week about what former Bearcats quarterback Ben Mauk has meant to him. The two roomed together when Collaros was a true freshman, and he immediately began to admire the then-senior.

 

"My parents dropped me off and I was living with Ben Mauk," Collaros said. "We'd come down to the field and we'd throw a lot. He was really big for me. I was actually kind of nervous the first time (they met). It was kind of intimidating because he was such a great quarterback."

 

Last week, before starting vs. Louisville, Collaros said Mauk called him nearly every day just to make sure he was preparing himself the right way. The two seemingly have much in common.

 

"Well, we're both short," Collaros said with a smile. "We both kind of freelance a little bit here and there when some stuff breaks down. He had a really good ability to keep plays going. I like to think I have that ability to do the same. He's really helped me out a lot."

 

--Prediction: People have asked me this week if I think UC could have a tough time at Syracuse. Strange things happen inside the Carrier Dome, they say. Syracuse has shown more promise than the Orange have in many years, they exclaim. That's true, I say. I don't think it will matter much, though. I can see how the Bearcats could have an off day - emotional letdown after South Florida and the Louisville Homecoming game, noon kickoff, strange stadium that might or might not contain any gametime energy. But even if they have an off day, the Bearcats will roll.

 

Say, UC 35, Syracuse 17

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