Syracuse's Dino Babers hopeful for a rebound
By JOHN KEKIS
Just over a week after firing his defensive coordinator, not much has changed for Syracuse coach Dino Babers.
The Orange are still on a four-game losing streak and in desperate need of some sort of turnaround.
Coming off a bye week, Syracuse's 58-27 loss to visiting Boston College was still fresh. BC rolled to a school-record 691 yards of offense, averaging 9.2 yards per play. Its 496 yards rushing were the most ever allowed by the Orange.
Babers dismissed good friend Brian Ward the next day and promoted defensive ends coach Steve Stanard to interim coordinator.
"I decided to make a change, so we did," Babers said Monday in his first public comments since the change. "It's not something I'm happy with. It's the first time it's ever happened in my career.
"It hurt me deeply, but I have a responsibility to not only the community and the administration, but also the members on this football team to try to do everything possible to find a way to win our next football game."
That would be Saturday when the Orange (3-6, 0-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) visit Duke (4-5, 2-3). Syracuse has to win its last three games to qualify for a bowl game, and it has shown few signs the immediate future won't mirror the recent past.
"I just need to see something different," Babers said. "I just thought we weren't moving in the direction that I thought we should be moving. It wasn't one thing. It was a lot of things."
Before the season Babers said the Orange defense was going to be a key to continued success, but it has not performed at the level of a year ago. In 2018 it registered a school-record 43 sacks (second nationally) and 31 turnovers (18 interceptions, 13 fumble recoveries) that produced 111 points, helping the team win 10 games for the first time in nearly two decades.
Syracuse, which has been plagued this season by injuries to key players in the secondary - chief among them sophomore safety Andre Cisco and redshirt sophomore defensive back Ifeatu Melifonwu - has 25 sacks, just 16 turnovers (seven interceptions, nine fumble recoveries) and has allowed teams to convert 41.84% of the time on third down (last year that figure was 28.6%, seventh nationally).
"First time I got here and we talked about a vision and how I envisioned this place being, and I don't see the vision," Babers said. "So we need to do something different because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting to have something different happen.
"I feel like we have really, really good defensive personnel ... that just weren't playing at a high level. We want to see something different than what we've seen."
Babers said he was open to any changes defensively.
"I've seen a lot of offenses, I've seen a lot of defenses and all of them are effective as long as your personnel and everybody can do and understand what you're trying to do," he said. "I think there's defensive styles that fit defensive players. It's all based off of who you have and what you're trying to do and whether you can continuously go and get those people so that you can be consistent in your recruiting."
Babers, in his fourth season, said the team remains upbeat and recruiting has been going well.
"The message I delivered was the truth," he said. "There's no gray how you present it. We've had positive practices, but the only thing that matters is what happens in the game.
"I think they've handled it positively in this room, I think they've been positive on the football field. Let's see if we can get some positive results out of it. We've still got a heartbeat. It's not over, but we've got to start doing something."
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Updated November 11, 2019