Faith wasn't wavering in the Syracuse locker room -- or the offensive huddle -- when the Orange fell behind by 20 on the road early Saturday night. Their fifth-year quarterback made sure of that.
"I think I've said it throughout the season," coach Doug Marrone began, speaking of Ryan Nassib, "he really worked hard on the leadership skills. I think it's benefited not only himself, but obviously our team, and I just can't be more proud of him than I am."
"He's doing a very good job these past couple weeks, and we need him to keep playing the way he's playing," Marrone added. "And if he does it gives us a chance, and I can't be more proud of him. But he really worked on that leadership quite a bit this offseason."
Syracuse rolls into Cincinnati this weekend having scored 77 points over its past two games, giving itself the chance to do something that seemed unthinkable two short weeks ago, when the Bearcats were undefeated.
With two straight losses and no more Walter Stewart up front, Cincinnati is trying to find more ways to get to the quarterback -- no easy task against Nassib.
"They don't give up sacks," Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said of Syracuse. "They've only given up 12 sacks all year, one out of 25 pass attempts, so it's extremely difficult to get to him. He's got an extremely quick release, he's accurate, he knows where he's going with the football, he sets his feet and he goes. And he's managing his offense exceptionally well. He has weapons around him.
"It's going to be a great challenge for us. The thing we have to do is no secret -- we have to swarm to the football. We have to get 11 hats to the ball and we have to do a better job of tackling."
Cincinnati gave up five passing plays of 30 yards or more and three passing plays of at least 50 yards in Friday night's overtime loss at Louisville, with Teddy Bridgewater throwing for a career-best 416 yards.
In his 328-yard performance Saturday at South Florida, Nassib completed five throws of at least 20 yards, including three straight completions of 20 or more on the game-winning drive.
"When you give up as many passing yards as we did in the back end, I think everyone in the naked eye wants to look at our corners and safeties," Jones said. "And I think first of all, it's fundamentals, it's technique, it's our break and drive, it's our transition. But I think the by-product of playing great team defense, great pass defense, starts up front.
"Teddy Bridgewater, make no mistake about it, is a great, great quarterback. And any time you allow him the ability to stand in the pocket and throw the football, you're going to be challenged in the back end. He threw the ball 41 times and we impacted the quarterback five times, and that can't happen."