Even flow: After biggest win in years, SU tries to stay grounded heading to Cincinnati

first_imgDerrell Smith doesn’t want to wake up from this dream. Instead of letting reality sink in Saturday, the senior defensive captain didn’t want to think too much about the significance of beating the No. 20 team in the country on the road. He figures that would lead to complacency. And with Syracuse playing its best football in years, he doesn’t want this to be the time SU starts finding satisfaction in just one win. ‘We’re already looking to the next one,’ the senior linebacker said Saturday. ‘We don’t want to be content with what we have. Not now.’ Smith wasn’t alone in his demeanor, either. Two weeks earlier, the Orange finally broke through and beat South Florida, an opponent it had never defeated. A week after that, the Orange was dismantled, 45-14, by a hungry Pittsburgh squad that already lost three games. That complacency, Smith said, was the reason. With the Orange (5-2, 2-1 Big East) now headed to Cincinnati (3-4, 1-1) for a noon start (ESPNU), Smith and his teammates made sure not to get too wrapped up in the significance of beating West Virginia. From the moment Syracuse emerged from the locker room, it made a point of not getting wrapped up in the moment. Instead, it was all about the next game, the next opponent and the next step.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text The approach, Smith said, was different from what it had been two weeks earlier, after the Orange beat the Bulls in Tampa, Fla. This time, no tears were shed. No postgame hugs were seen outside the locker room. Smiles were hard to find. Emotions had been left inside the locker room. ‘To tell you the truth, it might sound cliché, but I’m thinking about Cincinnati right now,’ junior defensive end Chandler Jones added Saturday, adjacent to Smith outside SU’s locker room. When the Orange returned to practice this week, those sentiments remained. Syracuse hadn’t beaten West Virginia in nine years. Now the Orange will face a Bearcats squad it hasn’t defeated since 2004. And though SU is seeing a pattern, the approach to those games has changed this season. Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone doesn’t want his team to ride the ‘highs and lows’ of wins and losses. That’s why, Smith said, Marrone is trying to set the tone for this team to stay level-headed about the ups and downs SU has experienced thus far. That is the way Marrone believes Syracuse will ultimately find success. ‘Our goal is to be a consistent football team, and that’s what we are trying to get done,’ Marrone said Monday at his weekly press conference. ‘And the goal is to be a consistent coach in your demeanor and how you represent the game plan or represent your coaching style or yourself. Players will pick up on that.’ During the week, Smith and teammates Mikhail Marinovich and Antwon Bailey talked openly about that change in culture from previous SU teams. Bailey said SU’s approach this week is simply a byproduct of learning how to win. About having been there, done that. Marinovich reflected upon how the Orange responded from its loss to Pittsburgh, openly talking about how that helped SU realize it can’t ride the rollercoaster that comes with marquee victories. And with that, he emphasized the loss to the Panthers played a big roll in why Syracuse was all business following arguably its biggest win of the past few years. ‘After South Florida, Pitt kind of helped us stay grounded,’ Marinovich said. ‘That’s why we’re not looking at (West Virginia) too much, and we’re saying, ‘Fix the mistakes and move on.’ Because, as we’ve seen in the past, you can’t relish wins or losses. You’ve got to move forward.’ ‘It’s a great feeling,’ added Marinovich. ‘But you can’t get satisfied. When you get satisfied, that’s when you get beat.’ As the Orange began the season, the four-game stretch of South Florida-Pittsburgh-West Virginia-Cincinnati was seen as a make-or-break stretch. To SU left tackle Justin Pugh, it wasn’t difficult to tell why. ‘Cincinnati has won the Big East the past two years,’ Pugh said. ‘Pitt was the favorite this year, and they were ranked 15th in the country before. West Virginia was ranked when we played them. So it was definitely the hardest potential four to play.’ And now 2-1 through that stretch, SU doesn’t appear to be content with where it is heading into Saturday’s game at Cincinnati. Because of that, Smith refuses to let reality set in and dwell on what his squad has accomplished thus far. Instead, he prefers to stay grounded, realizing there’s still work to be done. That now is not the time to be content. ‘This has just been a dream come true for a senior season,’ Smith said Saturday. ‘I’m definitely living the dream right now. I’m on cloud nine. And it’s a great experience, and we want it to continue.’ [email protected] Comments Published on October 27, 2010 at 12:00 pmcenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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