Syracuse seniors focused on leaving as winners

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 20, 2013 at 9:29 am •  Published: December 20, 2013

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Regardless of what happens next week in the Texas Bowl against Minnesota, Scott Shafer's first season as head coach at Syracuse has turned out OK.

Playing in the postseason is a nice reward, especially considering the hand Shafer was dealt as the Orange prepared to leave the Big East to play their first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Coach Doug Marrone abruptly resigned last January, taking most of his staff with him to the NFL's Buffalo Bills. Syracuse still managed to finish .500 and earn a bid to the Texas Bowl in Houston to face Minnesota.

"It's a business trip, a business trip with benefits," said Shafer, who also had to replace record-setting quarterback Ryan Nassib and the stability he lent to the program. "There are so many fronts that are conducive to take the program in a positive step forward when you're playing in a bowl. It's like an extra spring practice to some degree."

Like every other coach in America, Shafer also is thinking about next year, using the extra practice time to evaluate players who didn't see much action during the regular season. "With us playing on the 27th, we won't have as many opportunities, but it's still opportunities," Shafer said. "And just the fact that people are talking about Syracuse during December on the holidays is advantageous to our recruiting front. The chance to be on national TV and play two days after Christmas, all those recruits that we've been working hard to try to get will get a chance to watch our product."

Syracuse (6-6, 4-4 ACC) began the season with losses to Penn State (23-17) and Northwestern (48-27) and closed it with a tough 17-16 loss to Pittsburgh, compliments of a blocked extra point, and a scintillating 34-31 victory over longtime rival Boston College. A couple of plays here and there and the Orange are sporting a much more impressive record as they prepare for the Golden Gophers (8-4).

Still, Syracuse finished behind only No. 1 Florida State, who will play Auburn for the national championship, and Orange Bowl-bound No. 12 Clemson in the ACC's Atlantic Division.

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