The only way SU's season opener against Villanova could have gone worse is if they had lost.
And they should have.
The Wildcats were the better team for the majority of the night, with a dominant Orange drive to start the second half representing the lone outlier, and if not for a pair of missed field goals by Nova's kicker the nightmare start to Syracuse's 2014 season would have come to fruition.
The Cats put up more yards passing and more yards rushing, they dominated time of possession, they stood up to the Orange physically, and they had the most explosive player on the field in Poppy Livers.
Not to mention that SU's most important player, senior quarterback Terrel Hunt, made a fool of himself by throwing a punch late in the first half and getting ejected.
On the bright side, though, Coach Shafer has plenty of fuel to work with over the next two weeks as he prepares the Cuse for a road game at Central Michigan. Hunt's second half absence deprived him, and the offense as a whole, of valuable "preseason" reps. But motivation to work hard and tighten things up should not be hard to come by in the wake of a lackluster showing in front of the Central New York faithful.
A 27-26 double overtime win is better than a loss, but if Syracuse is going to win enough games to be bowl eligible against the rest of their challenging schedule they've got to make serious improvements before the step up in competition.
Fake field goals and stuffed two-point conversions can only get you so far.