FB : ‘We’ve got to protect this house’: Season opener in Dome gives SU chance to set tone for 2011

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on August 31, 2011 at 12:00 pm Syracuse’s home-game preparation has been altered. Ticket requests for family and friends of the SU players have been taken care of well in advance. Some players didn’t bring cellphones to the hotel the team stays in the night before the game, avoiding any possible distractions.SU’s inability to win at home was a primary barrier keeping the Orange from competing for the Big East championship last season. And that needs to change.One of the things SU head coach Doug Marrone and the Orange upperclassmen have harped on most throughout the preseason is finishing with a winning record in the Carrier Dome.‘We’re going in with the mindset now, basically like the Under Armour thing, we must protect this house,’ cornerback Kevyn Scott said. ‘There’s no way that we should have a losing record in our own house. Really the focus this year is we’ve got to protect this house.’Despite a surprising 2010 season that culminated with a Pinstripe Bowl win, SU struggled to win games in the Dome. The Orange went just 2-4 at home, with both wins coming against Football Championship Subdivision opponents Colgate and Maine. This year, Syracuse has honed in on turning that around. And it starts with limiting outside distractions.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange gets its first chance to do so Thursday in its season opener against Wake Forest at 8 p.m. in the Dome.Syracuse’s solution to its home-game woes remains to be seen. But ‘focus’ is the word that has continually popped up as a key to defending SU’s home turf.‘Really just come out more focused,’ quarterback Ryan Nassib said. ‘The difference between home and away games is at home, there’s a little bit more distractions.‘We did a good job this offseason really focusing on what it takes to be able to win at home and why it’s so important.’Last season, six wins away from the Carrier Dome helped Syracuse finish with an 8-5 record. But the Orange was a completely different team at home.In games against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents, the Orange offense had difficulty moving the ball in the Dome. SU averaged about 80 yards and 11 points fewer at home than on the road.Syracuse’s top-10 defense from last season gave up about 11 more points per game in those four home losses than it did in SU’s road or neutral site games.‘On the road, it’s us against the world,’ starting left tackle Justin Pugh said. ‘No one’s there with us, no one’s supporting us, and we kind of feel like we’ve got to go out there and prove everybody wrong. And at home, maybe sometimes you get a little lackadaisical because you feel comfortable with where you are.’Other players also talked about the additional distractions that come with playing a home game. The stress of getting tickets for family and friends coming to show support can take attention away from the game. The added pressure and expectations from the home crowd, one whose noise and support hinges on Syracuse’s success on the Dome turf, can be unnerving.Scott said he couldn’t figure out exactly what the problem was with the home losses last year. But he did say that pressure ratcheted way up at home.‘You have all your fans there and they’re expecting you to win a ball game,’ he said. ‘Away, you lose and it’s all their friends really. It’s a lot of pressure (at home). You’re under the lights and they want you to win.’Marrone brought up another distraction the Orange will have to deal with in the Wake Forest game specifically. It’s an obvious one — the pressure of playing a season opener at home during the first week of classes. All students are back on campus, adding another potential roadblock as the team tries to maintain its focus.‘A lot goes on,’ Marrone said. ‘And what shows up is a game on a Thursday night that is extremely important. … There’s a lot of anxiety that goes on this week so it’s very difficult to settle down like you are in a great routine.’Marrone vehemently stressed the importance of playing well in the Carrier Dome at Syracuse’s media day Aug. 5. Syracuse can’t be a Big East contender if it doesn’t defeat an FBS team at home.The test to see if SU can develop a home field advantage this year begins Thursday.Said Marrone: ‘We want to share those (winning) experiences (from the road) with the people here because they’ve gone through these tough years also.’[email protected]center_img Commentslast_img read more