After three hard fought games to open the first season of the Doug Marrone era, Syracuse fans looked forward to a nice, easy game with the FCS University of Maine.
Unfortunately, nothing comes easy for the Orange.
The game's scoring opened with a short touchdown throw from quarterback Greg Paulus to Halfback Delone Carter, giving Syracuse a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter. However, Maine would not back down, and the first Black Bear drive showed a much different team then was expected.
Maine is generally classified as a ground-oriented team, who on the back of Sophomore rusher Derek Session, controlled the clock and a game's momentum. This would seemingly play right into Syracuse's defensive strength, which is in the run game. Syracuse has had great success against the rush, allowing only 83 yards per game, good for 13th best in the nation.
However, when Maine Quarterback Warren Smith took the ball after Syracuse's scoring drive, the offense looked much, much different.
Much like Northwestern did to great success the week before in the Carrier Dome, Smith picked apart the Orange secondary on short, quick passes- going 24-35 for 305 yards, and 3 TDs on the day. The Bears offense would respond to Carter's touchdown with a field goal, and then after a surprising onside kick recovery, Smith hit wide receiver Landis Williams for a 56-yard touchdown to give Maine a 10-7 lead.
Syracuse was able to tie the game at 10 with a field goal by freshman Ryan Lichtenstein, but after stopping the Orange following an interception by cornerback Kevyn Scott, Smith drove down the field against the Syracuse defense to find Williams again for a 14-yard score.
Syracuse was able to manage another Lichtenstein field goal to cut the Maine lead to 17-13 at the half, but all 35,000 fans in the Dome were shocked. This was not the team they had grown to love over the last few weeks, this looked shockingly like the Syracuse team that was used to losing over the last four years.
The second half was much kinder to the Orange, who made the necessary adjustments to stop Maine's sharp offense, while continuing to find success with the ball.
With their first possession of the half, Syracuse was able to drive the ball 86 yards down the field, capped off by a nine yard touchdown run for Carter, who finished with 95 total yards (72 rushing, 23 receiving) and four total touchdowns. Syracuse was back on top, 20-17.
On their next drive, the Orange worked with a shorter field, and Greg Paulus connected with Sophomore Marcus Sales in the corner of the endzone for 17 yards and a score, extending the Orange lead to 10. Paulus finished the game with another impressive stat line, completing 21 of 28 passes, for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The defense helped keep the ball rolling as well. After dropping a near-interception earlier in the game, junior linebacker Doug Hogue picked off an errant Smith pass and returned it 30 yards to the Maine 10-yard line, allowing Carter to barrel into the endzone from five yards out for another score.
The scoring pace slowed during the fourth quarter, with Syracuse and Maine trading touchdowns late in the game, securing a 41-24 Syracuse win.
The Orange have a very tough obstacle ahead of them, with the USF Bulls coming to the Dome off of a big upset of Florida State over the weekend.