Win and in: Orange looks to end 6-year bowl drought with victory over Louisville

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ The acknowledgment of Doug Marrone’s four-letter taboo finally came from Ryan Nassib Wednesday. It was prodded out of Andrew Lewis. It was prodded out of Doug Hogue. ‘Everyone knows what our record is,’ Lewis said. ‘Everyone knows how many wins we have to have to become bowl-eligible. It’s in everyone’s mind. ‘Yeah,’ Lewis admitted, ‘we talk about it.’ Doug Marrone referred to the word ‘bowl’ as ‘the four-letter word’ just a week ago. The word is the topic that hovered over the start of summer practice and the beginning of SU’s season, as Marrone said the 2010 season was bowl or bust. And a bowl is the primary goal this program has crept closer and closer to with its surprising start to the season. But getting to a bowl game was the goal that soon turned taboo. Largely because it recently became an afterthought when the Orange (6-2, 3-1 Big East) ascended to the No. 2 spot in the Big East. Largely because the likes of Marrone, Nassib, Lewis and Hogue feel this Orange team can exceed the seven wins needed.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text However, with a win over Louisville (4-4, 1-2 Big East) Saturday (noon, Big East Network), Syracuse will get to the seven wins that will make the team bowl-eligible. The opportunity comes after an offseason in which Marrone’s goal was one most pundits felt was unattainable for SU in the head coach’s second season. With an SU win, bowl is exactly the word that will reverberate across the city of Syracuse for the first time since the days of Paul Pasqualoni. From the time Lewis committed in 2004 as an SU recruit. A bowl is the postseason reward that Syracuse hasn’t earned since 2004. And with a win, SU and Marrone will reach a plateau that will suffice their starving football fan base. Even if their fiery appetite has been doused with six sudden wins. The city might be happy with one more win. But the coach won’t be. ‘We haven’t really accomplished anything,’ Marrone said Monday. To Lewis, that mentality that runs through the entire SU team is exactly why he says he loves this team. Loves this team. Marrone has maintained that he approaches every game and every win the same, and Lewis might be the one player who has bought in the most. This is, after all, the 23-year-old who committed to what was at the time Pasqualoni’s program. He then signed with SU just more than one month after the last time the Orange played in a bowl game. On Dec. 29, 2004, Pasqualoni exited as head coach of the Syracuse football program a 51-14 loser to Georgia Tech in the Champ Sports Bowl. In February of 2005, Lewis signed on to play for new SU head coach Greg Robinson. Then came what is now nearing six years. Six years without a bowl for Syracuse and Lewis, a redshirt senior. Six long years — and Lewis has been through all of them. He was there for the plane ride back from Iowa after the Orange never had a chance, falling 35-0 in 2007. He was there for the torrential boos after Syracuse lost to Akron 42-28 in 2008. Lewis was there for all different kinds of postgames. He has been apart of the Orange program for every postgame since that last postgame — the one in Orlando in 2004 — where bowl actually meant something to SU. ‘(Bowl eligibility) would be huge for the program,’ Lewis said. ‘Huge for the community.’ For the Louisville postgame scene on the Carrier Dome field to be one full of bowl talk, there still is a game that needs to be won. Lewis knows that. Because of it, the starting defensive tackle professes that he and his teammates aren’t looking past the Louisville game, much like they profess they haven’t looked past any SU game all year. Lewis knows he must stop Cardinals running back Bilal Powell if the Louisville running back is able to play. Powell is the Big East’s leading rusher, with 1,067 yards. But Powell exited the Cardinals’ 20-3 loss to Pittsburgh last week with swelling in his knee. Cardinals’ head coach Charlie Strong said Powell was ‘day-to-day’ this week. The Cardinals may also be without their starting quarterback Adam Froman, who has a thigh bruise. The injuries to the Louisville offense would ease the matchup that would secure bowl eligibility for the Orange. But the main hurdle that may keep the Orange from securing a bowl spot this week comes with the Cardinals’ pass defense. Nassib will be tested by what he describes as an ‘athletic’ defense overall. The Cardinals rank second in the Big East in pass defense, giving up 173 yards through the air per game. If Nassib goes for another five-completion performance like he did versus West Virginia, the Cardinals may be able to hold off the bowl celebration. Even if Powell doesn’t play. A loss for Nassib, Lewis and the Orange would mean a delay of at least a week in securing the bowl. For a team that goes week to week, it could be the detrimental blow. The guy who has waited forever, Lewis, doesn’t want a Louisville loss to change the bowl talk. He doesn’t want to take it to the road yet again. ‘(It’s a feeling of) ‘This is it right here. This might be it. This could be it,” Lewis said. ‘But we realize that it may not be it for us. Because if we lose, it’ll be the next week. And if we lose that one, then the next week.’ Lewis cherishes SU’s ‘1-0,’ game-by-game approach. And despite the fact that talk of ‘1-0’ for this team is getting old, Lewis is content with old habits when approaching the win-and-in contest with the Cardinals this weekend. If the Orange win, Lewis professes his celebration after the game will be the same as always. He will take off his helmet, assemble with his teammates, face the Syracuse marching band and start to sing. The Dome fans will be serenaded with the SU alma mater Lewis always belts. Then will come the fight song. That’s it. Just like Marrone, mum was the initial word for Hogue when speaking of bowl eligibility. He said his teammates don’t want to talk about what the game means. But after tip-toeing around everything that his response pertained to, Hogue confronted what will confront SU Saturday. With a win, SU and the city of Syracuse will be talking bowl at an earlier point in the year than any season since 2001. And fans in the Dome won’t only be saying it. They will be shouting it. Screaming it. Singing it, as Lewis sings. The drowning out of six years will fill the Dome if SU wins. Said Hogue: ‘In the back of our heads, we know.’ aolivero@syr.edu Commentscenter_img Published on November 3, 2010 at 12:00 pmlast_img read more