Langer: Syracuse football has set the bar for itself and its fans to compete the rest of the season

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Last year, three 5-7 teams made it to bowl games, and they all won. From a mathematical perspective, the third win for SU this season puts the team within striking distance of a game.Win totals aside, it’s the kind of win Syracuse got that sets the bar for itself. Beating Wake Forest last week to get that third win wouldn’t have shifted the forecast of this season. SU beat WFU on its way to three straight wins to start the season last year. Nobody was rushing the field.MORE COVERAGE:Syracuse football stock watch: Whose trending up and down after win over VTPhilips on Dungey: ‘He’s fighting. Why can’t we fight with him?’What we learned from Syracuse’s upset win over Virginia Tech Published on October 16, 2016 at 9:58 pm But for the first time in a while, the Orange has pulled off a signature regular season win. The only Power 5 teams that SU beat in each of the last two seasons were Wake Forest and Boston College, with neither team finishing with winning records in the years SU won. On Saturday, Syracuse beat the 17th-best team in the country.“A lot of people doubted us about this game,” running back Dontae Strickland said. “You saw it in the crowd, you saw it on the sideline, even on the field. It was just electrifying.”The Orange flirted with big wins last season, playing tight games when No. 8 Louisiana State came to the Carrier Dome and when No. 1 Clemson made an appearance. The Orange failed to close out those games, though, and failed to give fans much to be excited about.Jessica Sheldon | Photo EditorBut after VT, fans on the field started a “Dino Babers” chant. He’s the man who pleaded for faith — “belief without evidence” — since the moment he was hired. He told them they deserved better and it was just a matter of time until he’d deliver. Ten months later, Babers gave them the first bit of evidence they needed.The Syracuse head coach also got his team to believe in what he said. In a postgame locker room speech, he talked about the “Kumbaya meetings” they had earlier in the week. Ishmael said that Babers’s uplifting words of encouragement are what helped the Orange win the game.“Just by winning this game … we can beat anybody and we can compete with anybody,” Ishmael said. “We can win any game. Any game for the rest of the season. We can win anything.”As he was leaving the press conference area, Director of Athletics John Wildhack’s 13-year-old son, Tommy, gave Ishmael a thumbs up and walked out. A few seconds later, Wildhack did the same.Babers promised to make the future of this program bright, to eventually return SU football to its successful days. And he still has a long way to go. But with the win over Virginia Tech, he ensured a real buzz, and real hopes, would return to Syracuse this year.Tomer Langer is an Asst. Copy Editor at The Daily Orange, where his column appears occasionally. He can be reached at [email protected] or @tomer_langer. Comments The Syracuse Marching Band started playing the school’s alma mater with very few students left in the student section, just like at the end of most football games over the last few years.In most previous games, it’s been because fans have left before the game ended, frustrated with a team that won just seven games over the last two seasons. On Saturday, though, it was because the fans stormed the field after SU’s first win against a ranked opponent since Nov. 10, 2012.“It’s so exciting man. I never experienced this a day in my life,” wide receiver Steve Ishmael said.“It’s most definitely a great experience. Just seeing all the joy and happiness on the field it was so amazing.”Since the arrival of head coach Dino Babers last December, the motto for the team, and the program, has been about patience, about how it takes time to enact change.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBabers had frequently mentioned that his system would really begin to flourish in the middle of his second year. After a loss to Notre Dame, he said his team “wasn’t fighting fair” yet because of all the injuries and the newness of the system. At his press conference the following Monday, he said his team was the batter and the cake hadn’t yet baked.But the outlook for the rest of this season has changed. Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) played its most complete game of the season in a shocking 31-17 win over No. 17 Virginia Tech (4-2, 2-1). With the win, the Orange has set the expectation to compete for a bowl game this season, rather than wait until next year.After the game, Babers talked about how any time a new coach takes over a program, it’s critical to get that one big win to validate all the reasons you’ve told people to buy in and to bring the team closer.That’s what happened against VT.“We’re now a family. We’re an ohana. We’re a la familia,” Babers said. “Now we’re five fingers that are a fist.”last_img

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