The angry words came from the southwest-corner stands at Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium late Sunday afternoon. Two irate Syracuse fans, shaking their fists, tossed verbal grenades at Orange coach Paul Pasqualoni as he spoke with reporters outside the locker room following a 51-0 loss to the Boilermakers.
"You suck, P!" one fan yelled.
"I hope they fire your ass!" the other bellowed.
Since quarterback Donovan McNabb's departure after the 1998 season, the once powerful Orange has gone 33-28, including 4-8 in '02 and 6-6 last year. Predictably, the program's plunge into mediocrity has turned off fans--ticket sales at the Carrier Dome have declined steadily over the last five years--and put Pasqualoni's job on the line in his 14th season.
The prime cause of the downturn has been Pasqualoni's inability to recruit a blue-chip quarterback. In 1998 Michael Vick chose Virginia Tech over Syracuse; two years ago Joe Dailey verbally committed to the Orange but changed his mind and signed with Nebraska, where he's the starter. Against Purdue, Joe Fields became the first true freshman QB to start for Syracuse in more than 20 years. He displayed a powerful arm, completing 8 of 15 passes for 93 yards, but was pulled in the third quarter. Asked whether this was a make-or-break year for Pasqualoni, athletic director Jake Crouthamel said, "This is a very key season, as is every season."
Other coaches on the spot at high-profile schools:
John Bunting, North Carolina. Last Saturday's 49-38 win over William & Mary brought Bunting's four-year record to 14-24. The Tar Heels were 2-10 in '03 with a defense that gave up 505 yards a game, second-worst in Division I-A. Bunting, a former North Carolina linebacker, shuffled his defensive staff in the off-season, but the Tar Heels still surrendered 442 yards to the I-AA Tribe.
Buddy Teevens, Stanford. His team has been routinely thumped in the Pac-10, losing eight conference games by 20 or more points. In his third season, Teevens is 7-16, and his teams have had the worst offense in the Pac-10. There were encouraging signs on Saturday: Stanford gained 465 yards and beat San Jose State 43-3.
Karl Dorrell, UCLA. Counting the opening 31-20 loss to Oklahoma State, which rushed for 426 yards, the Bruins have dropped six straight. Dorrell is in only his second season at UCLA, but with crosstown rival USC a national title contender and reeling in the area's best recruits, the buzzards will be circling over Westwood if the Bruins continue to struggle. --Lars Anderson