Nowhere to run: With final Big East game, Orange preps for nation’s No. 2 rusher in Todman

first_imgMikhail Marinovich knows it’s coming. Right up the gut, downhill, hard-nosed running. The bread and butter of the Connecticut offense. ‘They’re going to come out, and it’s no secret what they’re going to do,’ said Marinovich, a junior defensive end on Syracuse. ‘They’re going to run the ball. … That’s what we’re preparing for.’ Being fully ready for Connecticut’s rushing attack will be paramount to Syracuse’s success when the Huskies (5-4, 2-2 Big East) come to the Carrier Dome to take on the Orange (7-3, 4-2 Big East) for a 7 p.m. matchup Saturday. A win over the Huskies would clinch second place in the Big East for SU in its last conference game of the season. It would also keep the Orange’s dreams alive for a Big East championship and a trip to a BCS bowl. A loss, and things get a little more complicated. SU head coach Doug Marrone admitted Monday that his team was caught up in the emotions after a 13-9 victory over South Florida on Oct. 9 that, at the time, was the signature win of Marrone’s tenure with the Orange. That led to a 31-point blowout loss to Pittsburgh the next week.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text And with the emotions swirling after a bowl-eligibility-clinching victory last weekend at Rutgers, Marrone is trying to make sure it doesn’t happen again. ‘I’ve said before,’ Marrone said, ‘where you can never get too high when you win and you can never get too low when you lose. We’ve had that mentality for every game except for right after South Florida. I expect the players to be ready to play.’ And that starts with the most important matchup of the game — Syracuse’s No. 9-ranked defense vs. the nation’s No. 2 rusher. That’s where the stability in the Huskies’ attack lies — in junior running back Jordan Todman. Whereas the Huskies have started three different quarterbacks this season — Zach Fraser being the latest to earn his original starting spot back — Todman is their offensive rock. He is first in the Big East and second in the nation in rushing, averaging 147 yards in his nine games played this season. Todman and the departed Andre Dixon helped run over the Orange in last season’s 56-31 blowout win for the Huskies in Connecticut. Todman ran for 123 yards and a touchdown, and UConn had four touchdowns on the ground. ‘He has speed, he has power,’ SU safety Max Suter said of Todman. ‘We’re going to have to go out and stop the running game first off, and we’ve been working hard on that from the start of the week here.’ Connecticut’s rushing attack is also predicated on a dominant, bruising offensive line that has paved the way for Todman all season. Suter called it ‘big and physical.’ SU defensive tackle Anthony Perkins called it ‘terrific.’ And Marinovich said the Huskies’ offensive line will ‘maul you.’ But Marinovich also said the physicality of the bigger, stronger UConn offensive line can be negated by SU’s superior technique on defense. ‘I think technique will help even the playing field,’ he said. ‘Even if the guy’s bigger, as this offensive line looks on paper — a lot bigger and totally stronger — technique can neutralize a lot of that. A lot of teams get away from what they usually do to try to cope with the physical aspect of UConn’s offensive line.’ Todman and Connecticut’s line has been instrumental in the Huskies’ last two victories, which have surged the team back into the conference picture. After an embarrassing 26-0 loss at Louisville three weeks ago in which Todman only had 80 yards — his lowest output of the season — UConn has stormed back against two of the Big East’s bests. The first was at home against West Virginia on Oct. 29, when Todman had an astounding 33 carries for 113 yards and a touchdown. Dave Teggart’s 27-yard field goal in overtime won the game for the Huskies. And last weekend at home, UConn shocked Pittsburgh, which was previously unbeaten in Big East play. Again, Todman carried the load, this time rushing 37 times for 222 yards. ‘We just have to fill our holes and try to stop the run,’ Syracuse safety Shamarko Thomas said. ‘They are a great team. You see what they did with Pitt.’ Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall saw, too. And he has no plans to fix what isn’t broke. Syracuse avoided the Big East’s second-leading and the nation’s No. 5 rusher in Bilal Powell when Louisville came to the Dome two weeks ago. But SU won’t be as fortunate this time around. And the Orange might have to deal with even more. Edsall said in his weekly press conference Tuesday that he plans on going with what works. Whether that means a surprisingly efficient pass attack or another 30-plus-carry game from Todman. ‘It all depends on how Jordan is doing and how the game is going,’ Edsall said, when asked about the likelihood of Todman getting 30-plus carries again this week. ‘Jordan knows who he is and what he can do. If it takes that many carries from Jordan or if we need to use two guys, we’ll see how it goes.’ Todman’s arrival to the Dome comes a week after the Orange struggled mightily with Rutgers’ unorthodox rushing attack, which was primarily in the Wild Knight formation. Operating as the ‘quarterback’ in the formation, Jeremy Deering ran for 166 yards and a touchdown. And Todman’s arrival comes two weeks after Louisville’s Jeremy Wright picked up the slack for the absent Powell, rushing for 98 yards and scoring twice. One of those performances led to an SU loss. One was a missed field goal away from perhaps leading to the same fate. And with bigger goals in mind than just a bowl appearance now in sight, the SU defense knows it can’t happen again. ‘He’s a great athlete, a really great athlete,’ Thomas said. ‘We just have to try to stop him.’ [email protected] Comments Published on November 18, 2010 at 12:00 pmcenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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