Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 3, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 34 of 55 OCT. 3, 2016 35 for "There's a process that needs to kind of play out here before they're anywhere close to what they want it to look like." What the Orange look like now, and what Babers hopes they look like in a few years, are wildly different. When first-year athletics director Mark Coyle — who fired previous coach Scott Shafer last Nov. 23 — hired the 55-year-old Babers, a Ho- nolulu native, Coyle said he wanted a coach with "a proven track record." In four years as a head coach be- fore coming to ACC bottom-feeder Syracuse — first at Eastern Illinois (2012-13), then at Bowling Green (2014-15) — Babers compiled a 37-16 record and won the Mid-American Conference championship in 2015. Babers did it with a high-flying of- fense, which incorporates Baylor 's up-tempo spread with pro-style prin- ciples, he learned from working for former Baylor head coach Art Briles. Bowling Green was fourth in the na- tion in total offense in 2015, averag- ing 546.8 yards per game. "The guys are excited and they bought in from the beginning," Mink said. "One of the reasons they were so willing to do that so soon is Dino's track record as a head coach. Kind of laid it out there in black and white. He's been a head coach for four years, he's won at least a share of a division championship in his conference every single year. "They've seen the offensive output, they've seen that the quarterback is at or near the top of the country in passing yardage and the system has proven itself to work." Getting the players to buy in is only part of the battle for Babers, who is the fifth Syracuse head coach since 2004 — Paul Pasqualoni was fired in 2004 after 14 seasons, and he was followed by Greg Robinson (2005-08), Doug Marrone (2009-12) and Shafer (2013-15). That means inconsistent recruiting and players recruited to vastly differ- ent systems. "What you have right now is kind of a hodge-podge and a mishmash of guys that don't necessarily fit into the schemes that this particular coach- ing staff wants to install," Mink said. "They have personnel for Z, but what they're running on offense and de- fense requires personnel A. "They're kind of at opposite ends of the alphabet here. You really can't be any more different in what they're doing." Under Shafer, who went 14-23 in his three seasons, Syracuse was a ball-control offense and had a differ- ent offensive coordinator combina- tion each season. In 2015, the Orange ranked 125th out of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in tempo, running an average of 62.6 plays per game. This season, Syracuse is running its offense at the fastest clip in FBS, averaging 93.0 plays a game through three weeks, which is predicated on better-conditioned players. "They revamped the whole weight and strength and conditioning pro- gram," Mink said. "It's a 180 from what they were doing previously, and it's going to take time. It's going to take natural time in the recruiting process. I hate to say total rebuild, but it's pretty damn close." Thus far, the fans are still in wait- and-see mode before they turn out to the 49,250-seat Carrier Dome. Syracuse opened the 2016 season with three straight home games, drawing an average of 31,936 fans for Colgate (31,336), Louisville (32,184) and South Florida (32,288). If the Orange stay on that pace in its final three home games, it will fall below the mark of an average of 32,102 fans that attended seven home games in 2015, which was the lowest in Carrier Dome history. "You can throw out any lame ex- cuse you want, whether there's com- peting entertainment options," Mink said of the poor attendance. "The bottom line is it's just going to take sustained success for them to fill the place and rejuvenate the fan base to the level they want. "It's been such a decline for al- most two decades now that people got turned off, and you just inher- ently lose faith after you've seen the same story three times now in the last 15 years, you start to lose faith that this time's going to be different. The product, they just haven't been win- ning so no one wants to pay to see a losing team." The hope is that Babers' offense will eventually fill the stands. S oph omore quarterb ack Eric Dungey — a 6-3, 207-pound native of Lake Oswego, Ore. — leads the speed-based attack. His top target has been a bit of a surprise. Fifth-year senior Amba Etta-Tawo, a graduate transfer from Maryland (15 starts and 938 yards in three sea- sons), has been the offense's top per- former early in the season. Though he had just the month of August to learn the offense, Etta-Tawo began the 2016 season with three straight 100-yard receiving games to go along with three touchdowns. "For him to get off to the start he has, it's been a plus," Mink said of Etta-Tawo, who was added to the Bi- letnikoff Award watch list after the season's third game. "He's a fast guy, he's speed on the edge and something that this team desperately needed. He filled that need very nicely. "He's been surprisingly strong with the ball. He's taken control on some 50-50 balls and he's wiggled himself out of some tight situations where he's broke some tackles and stretched them into scoring plays. He's been probably their most con- sistent receiver." The other side of the ball has been less encouraging. "There has not been a lot of bright spots defensively so far," Mink said. Through three games, Syracuse ranked 116th in the country for to- GAME PREVIEW: SYRACUSE Facts & Figures NOTRE DAME VS. SYRACUSE Game Info Date: Oct. 1, 2016. Site: Metlife Stadium (82,566) in East Ruth- erford, N.J. Kickoff: 12 p.m. Television: ABC/ESPN/ESPN2. Radio: This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 129). Series Facts: This is the eighth all-time meet- ing between Notre Dame and Syracuse. Notre Dame is 4-3 against the Orange. Coaches: Syracuse — Dino Babers (2-2, first season); Notre Dame — Brian Kelly (56-26, seventh season). Noting Syracuse: Prior to Notre Dame's 31-15 victory in 2014, Syracuse had beaten the Irish in three of the previous four matchups … The Orange has one national championship, which came in 1959 … Syracuse joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013, and it is 7-18 in league games so far … Syracuse plays at the Carrier Dome, which is the largest domed stadium on any college campus; it has a listed capacity of 33,000 for basketball, though the limit has been exceeded several times.

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