Thursday, October 4, 2007

Rap Session with Syracues Blogger Marius Janulis For Three


One of the nice things about blogging is interacting with bloggers from other schools and getting their take on things. Sadly for me, I only seem to reach out during game week, and forget to follow up (read I'm lazy) for any further conversation. And even sader is the fact that there are so few schools in the Big East that are properly represented in the college football blogosphere. Luckily for us, though, Syracuse is well represented by Orange 44 and today's guest Marius Janulis of Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician. If you are not reading Troy Nunes, the fault is all yours! Maybe after you read his answers to the following Q&A you'll make him part of your every day reading.

1.The overall record between these two schools is at 30-24 in favor of the Orange. How much of a rivalry game is this for Syracuse, and if it's a big one, what can you point to as the biggest reason?

Oh, its absolutely a big rivalry game for Syracuse, more so than anyone else in the Big East. Before they left, Boston College was becoming a game on par with the West Virginia game but, well, you know what happened there. At least until recently, I think it was just the very obvious reason that this game always meant something to both teams. Both teams (again, I preface with until recently) were always in the Big East title hunt and/or playing for bowl positioning. No matter the ups and downs of Miami, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh and others, it seemed like we were both always in the mix at the same time.

Louisville, USF and Cincy are still too new to us. Rutgers was horrible for so long and we're so horrible now, its less a rivalry and more a tradition in seeing how much you can score. UConn brings with them the basketball rivalry but its also still all too new. Pittsburgh, sure, they're a rival. But it doesn't feel life or death with them. With BC and the other ACC cast-offs gone and Penn State virtually gone from our rivalry memories, that really only leaves West Virginia.

It's the only game of the year where you wonder what both fanbases have up their sleeves. There's an air of unpredictability because we really, really want to beat each other. It's the only game on the schedule that reminds me of my high school football rivalry, where the loser was forbidden to wear their varsity jackets in the local mall for a year.

Will something be thrown at an opposing player? Will fights break out in the stands and outside? Will Ben Schwartzwalder rise from the grave and demand that the winner pry the rivalry trophy from his cold, dead hands? All of these things feel plausible for this game.

2.What are your fondest memories from this series? And likewise what memory most makes you want to kill a fifth of your favorite beverage?

I have to preface by saying I didn't really start following things closely until my freshman year at Syracuse ('96) so I can't lie and say the 1987 finish was amazing cause to be honest, I didn't find out about that game until a few weeks ago.

I do remember Syracuse putting a hurt on West Virginia three times during my college lifetime, something that seems a lifetime ago for many reasons. It seems crazy to me now that there was a time we dominated the series so clearly.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn't include 1998's game which West Virginia won 35-28. 1998 was the most confusing football season in Syracuse history. We were a pre-season top ten team (I think). We had Donovan McNabb in his collegiate prime and a seriously loaded offense that would go on to score 60+ three times during the season. Naturally, there was no doubt in our minds that we were going to win the national title.

The season started with an absolute heartbreaking loss to Tennessee at home. Yet somehow we beat Michigan AT Michigan (back when that meant something) the following week. Since Tennessee was so highly regarded, we hadn't slipped too far and still had a shot at the national title. Two weeks later, we would lose to NC State on national television and that was that. In true Paul Pasqualoni fashion we had failed to live up to a shred of expectations. And also in true Pasqualoni fashion, with no expectations left, we started winning again.

We were rolling along at 5-2 until West Virginia. As I remember it, there was no reason for us to lose. Then again, it was a night game and as the Pasqualoni Theorem clearly stated, when in a position to prove itself, Syracuse will fail miserably. Somehow we ended up winning the Big East anyway but that West Virginia loss punctuated what we knew before we even went to the Orange Bowl that year and got throttled by Florida...we would never be able to escape our inability to rise up when we needed to as long as Paul Pasqualoni was in charge.

3.If you could take any present Mountaineer and add them to your team, who would that be?

Noel Devine, please? Seriously, have you seen our running game? I'm pretty sure Noel has more yards than our entire offense and he's only played here and there. Plus, we don't really have anyone waiting in the wings to knock our socks off. Delone Carter comes back next year but who knows if his knee will be ready. Having Devine for 2-3 years would take a tremendous amount of pressure off of Andrew Robinson to develop.

Not to mention the fact that this guy is a superstar in the making. I just watched that highlight reel of his from high school. Reggie Bush-esque to say the least. He's probably be the starting halfback on 110 teams right now.

4.Aside from the Louisville game, or expand on it if you want (everyone should have their time to gloat!), what positives to you see coming out of this season so far for Syracuse?

The really morbid thing about the Louisville game is, now we know it was a fluke, so Syracuse nation is looking back on it with a "Yeah, but" mentality. "We passed for four touchdown. Yeah, but Louisville's secondary was abysmal." "We beat a team favored by 36. Yeah, but now we know they weren't as good as people thought." The Miami University loss really screwed that memory up for all of us.

I think the greatest positive I can say has come out of this season is that Andrew Robinson proved he is who we thought he was. We're not ready to crown his ass just yet, but we are breathing a sigh of relief in that we know he's good enough to be our guy for the next three years. You don't know what its been like in the A.D. Era (After Donovan). This is huge for us, even if he struggles for much of the season.

Other than that, I really don't know what else there is. Our special teams? Hooray for Max Suter for providing some semblance of excitement. I'd say hooray for our receivers when they catch the balls thrown to them but that's not a guarantee.

Oh, and we don't wear the orange-on-orange uniforms every week. That's positive.

5.Greg Robinson- Needs more time or needs to go?

It sounded so silly but many of us in the blogosphere were calling the SU-Miami U game the most important game of Greg Robinson's career. You know what, it really was. It was a chance for him to prove that he could build on success and build on an emotional win. What he proved is that he's not a good motivator by any means and everything that happened the previous week was more luck and the other team's deficiencies than anything he's been doing.

In the meantime he hasn't proven he's a good recruiter by any means and his penchant for saying "I don't know" and lacking any emotional resonance in his press conferences drives us insane.

The logical part of my brain says he should get one more year. He'll have a team that is 100% his. He'll have a seasoned Andrew Robinson and a health(ier) Delone Carter. And he will officially have no excuses to fall back on. If he failed next year, that's it. Plus, it doesn't sound like we can afford to buy out his contract. And the hot rumor is that Randy Edsall, UConn head coach and SU alum, is ready to jump ship.

But then there's the other side to that coin. We already accepted this would be a rebuilding year, can we go through another season like that? Can we afford to? Athletic Director Daryl Gross has invested a lot into the football program and its return to glory. This season is going to set us back enough in the highly competitive Big East, can we afford another terrible season and the effect that will have?

At the end of the day, assuming we finish the year 2-10 or 3-9, he should be fired. There margin in the Big East right now for tolerance of failure is zero. There's too many good programs. Our recruiting bases are evaporating. Our exposure is dropping. We can't afford to continue on this path much longer. Pay the man and let's move on.

6.Rich Rodriguez- Evil Genius or overrated?

It's amazing what expectations can do to a reputation. Look at Nebraska and Florida, where coaches with decent records were given the boot because they didn't meet the criteria assigned to them.

I think for Rich Rodriguez, that's eventually going to be his downfall. This is the second straight season West Virginia was pre-ordained for the national title. Whether correctly or incorrectly, every time they fail to meet that expectation it is a disappointment (nationally that is, I don't want to speak for you guys, but I have to assume you think the same in some respect). Rodriguez is a good coach but I think he missed his opportunity to sell high, if his intention is to cash in, that is.

7.Thinking back to 2004, is the Big East farther along or behind where you thought they would be?

The Big East is so far ahead of where I imagined, its ridiculous. I think most people penciled in West Virginia as conference champ for eight of the next ten years, with a Pittsburgh and maybe a Louisville peppered in there. South Florida, Cincy and UConn were these cute little upstarts who'd probably have a nice 8-9 win season along the way but that's about it. As for Rutgers, well, suffice to say they have exceeded expectations in the short-term although I wonder how long they can sustain it.

I've said recently that Syracuse picked the worst possible time in the history of the conference to be bad and I still think its true.

8. Would you prefer the Big East stay as it is, cut down to just the football schools, or expand the football conference, or some other combination?

I'd like to see the conference add one more football team so we can see an even 4-and-4 Big East schedule. Ideally I'd love for it to be someone whose also on our basketball side. Of course the natural selection is Notre Dame but there's no logical reason for them to ever choose the Big East over the Big Ten, if they do decide to join a conference. There's always an East Carolina or an Army/Navy I suppose but that feels tacked on. I think eventually we'll convince Villanova to up it to our division. That link to Philly is something sorely missing these days. The Big East needs a team in Philly, doesn't it?

9. Finally, if you could have any football blogger take over your site for a day, who would that be and why?

I'd love to let KSK's Big Daddy Drew take over for a day and have his way with a Greg Robinson press conference and the Octonion. Although I don't know if I could ever do them justice again after that...

Thanks again to Marius Janulis for stopping by to give us his thoughts!!!

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