Final marks: Beat writers offer superlatives, closing grades for Syracuse’s 2013 season
Photo Illustration by Ziniu Chen | Staff Photographer
Offensive MVP: Macky MacPherson
MacPherson is exactly what Scott Shafer talks about when he refers to a hard-nosed player. There’s nothing glitzy about MacPherson’s approach, but without him, Jerome Smith wouldn’t have rushed for more than 900 yards and 12 touchdowns and Hunt wouldn’t have had nearly as much time in the pocket as he did.
Defensive MVP: Jay Bromley
Bromley entered the season as the lone returning starter on the defensive line. He played up to that role and more, leading Syracuse with 10 sacks and three forced fumbles, while tying for the team lead with 14.5 tackles for loss. With quick feet, fast hands and a constant smile, Bromley was a driving force behind the success of the Orange’s front seven this season.
Most Valuable Freshman: Brisly Estime
Estime showed flashes of his elite speed and shiftiness during the regular season, but broke out in the Texas Bowl with team-highs of five receptions and 47 yards. And, most memorably, he set the Orange up for a game-winning touchdown with a 70-yard punt return in the waning seconds of the team’s season.
Unsung hero: Durell Eskridge
Once Keon Lyn went down, Eskridge was the only consistent player in the Syracuse secondary. He led the Orange in tackles despite playing with a cast on his hand for the first half of the regular season and returns as arguably the most talented player on SU’s roster. He narrowly beats out Riley Dixon for this honor.
Biggest Surprise: George Morris II
Morris was one of the better third-string backs in the Atlantic Coast Conference this year. He rushed for 334 yards and a touchdown with Smith, Prince-Tyson Gulley and Devante McFarlane also taking carries for SU. He averaged nearly 20 yards per kick return and his future is extremely bright.
Biggest Disappointment: Drew Allen
Ahh…Drew Allen. The 6-foot-5 gunslinger’s career-salvaging trip to Syracuse didn’t exactly pan out for him or SU. He threw nine interceptions to just two touchdowns and tried to make throws that weren’t there. The Drew Allen era ended before it began.
Most Valuable Assistant Coach: George McDonald
McDonald’s play-calling was questioned through most of the regular season, but helped carry Syracuse to victory against Boston College and Minnesota. However, his most valuable contributions may have come on the recruiting trails. SU is bringing a slew of playmakers in from Florida and Illinois, setting SU up for continued success in future years.
Single-game performance: Terrel Hunt in Texas Bowl
With three-star quarterbacks A.J. Long and Alin Edouard coming in, Syracuse has options under center moving forward. But after Hunt’s Texas Bowl performance, there shouldn’t be any competition next fall. Whenever Syracuse needed a play, he made it, including a 12-yard scoring scamper to send the Orange home from Houston with a winning record.
Play of the Year: Throw back against Boston College
The play had been in the works for six weeks. Syracuse had practiced it “ad nauseam,” according to McDonald. “I was like ‘f*ck it,” McDonald said after the game. The play worked to perfection and an unlikely hero, Josh Parris, surged into the end zone to send SU to a bowl.
Best game: Syracuse 34, BC 31
After a devastating loss to Pittsburgh the week before, the Orange’s chances of making a bowl seemed bleak. Heisman hopeful Andre Williams and Boston College came in as the favorites, but Syracuse staged the upset thanks to a thrilling two-minute drive that sent SU bowling.
I didn’t pick Syracuse to make a bowl game. And then I didn’t pick them to win it. The Orange did both. It’s hard to win in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a first-year coach and quarterback, but that’s just what SU did. Scott Shafer’s first year went about as well as a Syracuse fan could hope. Yes, there were some bad blowouts but that’s expected in the ACC. The Orange proved it can play with the rest of the conference’s pack.
Before Syracuse’s 21-17 Texas Bowl win on Dec. 27, SU head coach Scott Shafer talked about how the Orange missed out on wins against Penn State and Pittsburgh. But now that all the dust has settled, the close games that define the season are its last two – exhilarating last-second wins against Boston College and Minnesota. Syracuse left the 2013 season with a confident head coach, an established quarterback and the best recruiting class in recent memory.
At the start of the season, Syracuse’s goal was simple: win a bowl game. The Orange wasn’t going to storm into the ACC and finish 8-4; it wasn’t going to stink up the joint and finish 4-8 either. It was simply a matter of winning a bowl and that’s exactly what SU did. The way in which Syracuse came back to beat Boston College and Minnesota cemented this season as a success.
Published on January 16, 2014 at 3:40 am