"I judge everything by the body of the work,'' Marrone said. "We go through quarters [of the 12-game season] with our team. We are 2-1 in the first quarter and 2-1 in the second quarter and we are sitting at 4-2 and that's what we are.
"We understand that we have a tough schedule ahead of us, but we understand that we need to get better every day. That is the one theme I have been talking to with the kids about which I truly believe.''
In truth, then, it is hard to tell how much Syracuse has improved since Marrone took over for Greg Robinson, who had one-, two-, three- and four-win seasons (not in that order) in four years as the SU coach. That fourth win this season, though, might be an indicator. Syracuse beat South Florida 13-9, holding the Bulls without an offensive touchdown in Tampa.
By comparison, West Virginia's defense is ranked among the best in the country, and both teams handled USF in pretty much the same way in back-to-back weeks. The Orange gave up one field goal and 219 total yards, the Mountaineers two field goals and 202 yards.
So it is probably safe to assume that Syracuse is better defensively than the team that gave up 28 or more points seven times last season, including a 34-13 home loss to West Virginia. The Orange is ranked No. 18 in the country in total defense, although again, having given up 166 to Akron and 195 to Colgate contribute mightily to that.
Where Syracuse struggles is on offense, despite the fact that Delone Carter is averaging 93.7 yards per game rushing and quarterback Ryan Nassib has 11 touchdown passes against just four interceptions (two of those picks last week against Pitt). But scoring points has been a problem, with just 27 coming in the last two games and 109 of 156 this season coming against those three no-contest opponents.
Still, that's perhaps getting too specific for Marrone, who would prefer not to lay blame at the feet of anyone, but rather just work to get better everywhere.
"How we continue on and how we practice is key for this team,'' Marrone said. "There are two ways that can happen. There are great things ahead of us. You can look at it that way, which is the way we are looking at it. We have a long way to go, we have a lot of time to practice and get better each and every day. We are going to continue to do that. We aren't looking at it any other way. We aren't looking at it as things are bad and the sky is falling down. I don't feel that way and I don't think the players do.
"Why I am able to stand up and say that? Did we execute the way we wanted to last game? Absolutely not, but we went down to the last play trying, and that will make you a better football team in the future as long as you have that type of mentality. And that's what we are trying to do. We are trying to create a foundation. We are trying to be a winning program that is consistent, and right now we haven't played consistently."
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.