SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Heading into the stretch run of the season, Syracuse is in deja vu mode.
The Orange (3-4, 2-1 Big East) are coming off a big win at home last Friday night and have five games remaining to put a positive stamp on the season.
A year ago, Syracuse routed highly ranked West Virginia at home on a Friday night to reach 5-2, then proceeded to lose its five remaining games to finish at 5-7 and miss the postseason.
The Orange are determined to avoid a repeat performance.
"A lot of us have been here before," quarterback Ryan Nassib said. "We've experienced a high like this and seen what can happen. The unfortunateness of last year is kind of a good learning experience for us for this year. Now we know what we can't do."
Last week's 40-10 win over Connecticut was impressive as the Orange excelled on both sides of the ball and on special teams. Although Syracuse did not commit a turnover, there still were three fumbles and the offense corralled all of them.
That alone has head coach Doug Marrone concerned as the Orange gets set to play at South Florida (2-5, 0-3) on Saturday night.
Forget any thoughts of a turnaround just yet.
"It's way too early for that," Marrone said. "When you start putting back to back to back to back games where you have that type of consistency, I think that's when you can sit back and say, 'You know what? We've put three or four in a row. We're starting to turn the corner.' But we still have a long way to go. That's a challenge for our players to step up."
The Bulls have lost five straight, but they're 6-1 against Syracuse and the Orange have not won on the road yet this season. And if there is to be a turnaround, it will have to be accomplished away from the friendly confines of the Carrier Dome. Syracuse plays four of its final five games on the road, with the lone home game against Louisville in two weeks.
"I believe there are only two other teams in the country that have the same type of challenge — BYU and Ball State," Marrone said. "The players are aware of it. It's a management situation of making sure a player is rested. That's where it becomes a Catch 22. You want to be a physical team, you have to practice to a certain extent that way during the week. But we have to be smart and make sure our players can get to the game."
Although Rutgers, Louisville and Cincinnati are a combined 7-0 in the conference, Syracuse is still in the mix with Cincinnati also on its schedule, and the Orange hopes to use that win over UConn as a springboard.
"It was a good start to the second half of the season," Nassib said. "Our next test is to make sure we keep this ball rolling."
Marrone said Thursday that running back Adonis Ameen-Moore, who's scored three touchdowns on short-yardage plays in the red zone, freshman tailback Ashton Broyld, and punt returner Ritchy Desir were nursing injuries. Kick returner Jeremiah Kobena is expected to return to the lineup.