Syracuse rides Delone Carter, Marcus Sales and some help from the refs to beat Kansas State 38-36 in first ever Pinstripe Bowl
Offense: Syracuse did not come into this game with the reputation as a strong offense, as the Orange averaged only 21.0 points a game this season. Still, a funny thing happens when you have a running back like Delone Carter and are facing one of the worst run defenses in the country: you rack up yards like there's no tomorrow. The Syracuse offense put up 498 yards of total offense on the day, led by Carter's 202 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. Ryan Nassib also found his groove after playing poorly down the stretch of the season, to throw for 240 yards and three touchdowns of his own.
All three of Nassib's touchdown passes went to Marcus Sales, who only had one touchdown during the season, and wasn't even listed on the depth chart before the year started. Sales finished the day with 5 catches for 172 yards. Grade: A
Defense: Much like its offense, Syracuse's defense took on an alternate personality in Yankee Stadium. Syracuse only gave up 13.1 points a game during the season, but life is a bit different when you step out of the Big East apparently. Still, even though Kansas State put up a lot of points, the Syracuse defense played a bit better than it looks.
First of all, holding a Kansas State offense that averaged over 200 yards on the ground per game to 120 yards and 3.3 yards a carry is nothing to be ashamed of. No doubt the Syracuse game plan was to stuff the Wildcats ground attack and force them to air it out, which they did, but had probably been hoping they could do a better job of containing the passing game. Grade: C
Coaching: Doug Marrone took the leash off his offense and let the kids play a bit in this one, and it worked out very well for the Orange. From flea-flickers to reverses, to being smart enough to pound KSU into submission with Delone Carter, I can't find much in Syracuse's gameplan to complain about. Grade: A
Offense: Much like Syracuse, Kansas State didn't have a lot of trouble finding the end zone in this game. What was surprising, however, was to see Chase Coffman have so much success throwing the ball. I had thought that Kansas State would be better served with Collin Klein at quarterback in this game, and it turns out I was wrong.
Coffman completed 17-of-23 passes for 229 yards and a couple touchdowns.
The problem for the Wildcats was that aside from his 51-yard touchdown run in the first minute of the game, Daniel Thomas was virtually non-existent. Yes, he finished with 3 touchdowns, but following that first run, Thomas had only 38 yards on 20 carries. When he struggles like that, Kansas State isn't going to win a lot of games. Grade: B
Defense: Did Kansas State play defense during this game? I'm having some trouble remembering plays in which it did.
Seriously, Kansas State's defense wasn't anything to be proud of all season, and it wasn't on Thursday as well. When you allow an offense that had been as lackluster as Syracuse's to pick up nearly 500 yards of offense, well, there's only one grade you deserve. Grade: F
Coaching: Bill Snyder. I love what you've done for Kansas State in your career, but you made some questionable decisions in this one. While I loved the call to run the option on fourth and goal early in the fourth quarter, the fake field goal you ran later in the quarter when down five just didn't do it for me. You know that touchdown you scored in the final minutes that the refs jobbed you on -- more on that in a bit -- and cost you a chance to send the game to overtime? Yeah, well had you just kicked that field goal, the refs wouldn't have factored into the game and you'd have won. Grade: C
Seriously, refs? A personal foul in the final minutes after Adrian Hilburn scored a touchdown to bring Kansas State within two points? Really? Was a salute to the crowd actually enough to warrant a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call, and force Kansas State to go for two from the 18-yard line? I hope it was for you, because I fear that what was a very good game will only be remembered for your boneheaded call at the end of it.
But, hey, at least you kept the kids from having any fun in their bowl game, right? That's why we have these bowl games, isn't it? As a reward for the players?
Final Grade: This game was not the crispest football game we've seen this year, but as far as the bowl games have gone, this was one of the more entertaining affairs for both the fans and viewers. It's just unfortunate that a terrible call by the referees had such a dramatic impact on the outcome. Still, even with that happening, I'm going to base this grade on the first 58 minutes and 46 seconds. Grade: A-