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Syracuse's Marrone still upbeat despite 0-2 start

Associated Press Modified: September 10, 2012 at 5:47 pm •  Published: September 10, 2012

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Say this about Syracuse: At least the Orange are consistent.

Two games and two losses into the season, they've allowed 84 points — 42 each to Northwestern and No. 2 Southern California.

If coach Doug Marrone is concerned, though, he's not showing it.

"I feel comfortable where we are," Marrone said Monday on the Big East conference call. "We played two excellent opponents. Northwestern is a 2-0 team having beaten an SEC team. Obviously, USC, everyone understands the type of team they are.

"From the direction we're going, we feel very good. The thing we need to improve on is the early part of the game, of really settling in to what we're doing. We have to do a better job offensively early in the game and get ourselves going quicker. We haven't done that."

In losing two games — 42-41 to the Wildcats, who beat Vanderbilt 23-13 on Saturday, and 42-29 to the Trojans — Syracuse has been outscored 35-16 in the first half, won the third quarter 27-21 and lost the fourth 28-27.

Still, much to the surprise of most, the Orange were in the game against the Trojans heading to the fourth quarter on Saturday at rain swept MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.

After falling behind 21-3, Syracuse responded with a 12-play, 78-yard drive without a huddle, capped by Ryan Nassib's 3-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Sales. On the next play from scrimmage, Shamarko Thomas intercepted USC quarterback Matt Barkley at midfield and Prince-Tyson Gulley's 7-yard touchdown run moved Syracuse within 21-16 with 3:42 left in the third.

The Trojans pulled away late behind their NFL-bound stars. All-American receiver Robert Woods was spectacular with 200 all-purpose yards and two scores. Barkley threw for six touchdowns, the most by an opponent against the Orange since they began playing the game in 1889. And wideout Marqise Lee caught 11 passes and had three touchdowns.

"We need to be there right out of the gate," Syracuse offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said, "so we can see if that will make us better."

Syracuse does have playmakers of its own, and they've been clicking despite the losses. Nassib passed for 322 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score against USC, and in two games, he is 75 of 112 (67 percent) for 804 yards. What's more, the offense, overall, has generated 1,051 yards.

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