The lack of a consistent offensive attack probably is what prevented Syracuse from winning the Big East title and a bid to the Fiesta Bowl that ultimately went to Connecticut. But you wouldn't know it by the explosive attack Orange coach Doug Marrone put on the Yankee Stadium field in a 36-34 Pinstripe Bowl win over Kansas State Thursday afternoon.
After finishing with losses in three of their last four games and averaging only 10.7 points in that stretch, Marrone said he used the time off to challenge his team to play better offensively. The Orange produced only one play from scrimmage longer than 50 yards all season, but had two against Kansas State, including a 52-yard scoring pass from quarterback Ryan Nassib to Marcus Sales and a 60-yard run by MVP Delone Carter, who rushed for 198 yards on 27 carries. Sales also scored on passes of 44 and 36 yards from Nassib.
"We knew what we wanted to do, and we did it," Carter exulted after the game. Describing the running game's success, he added, "We studied their defense all week, and we knew there would be seams and we had to take advantage. In the second half, I had to take it to another level. This is the best game I've had all season."
Nassib's 52-yard TD pass to Sales in the first quarter came on a fleaflicker when he took the pitch from a back and then fired downfield to a wide-open Sales. "I smiled when that call came in," Nassib said.
Then, the success of the running game forced the Wildcats to respect play-action fakes, and that helped Sales get open downfield. Nassib described those pass plays set up by play-action as "called shots." Apparently, he didn't make the connection to former Yankee Babe Ruth's "called shot" in the 1932 World Series at Wrigley Field. Nonetheless, he had a good idea they were going to work.
"We baited them and baited them," Nassib said of the running plays that set up the deep passing game, "and then, we went over the top. It was nice."