Posted: 8:25 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013
By Sean Farrell
Three offensive possessions into the game, Syracuse had zero first downs and a trio of three-and-outs. Quarterback Drew Allen had a total of -1 yards passing. The crowd grew increasingly restless and had seen enough.
More importantly, so had coach Scott Shafer.
Terrel Hunt came in for Allen and the switch immediately paid huge dividends. Hunt led an impressive 12-play, 68 yard drive capped off by a three yard touchdown run by Jerome Smith.
Hunt went 15-18 with 265 yards and three touchdown passes en route to a 54-0 victory by the Syracuse Orange over the Wagner Seahawks. Shafer got his first win as head coach and Syracuse now has a 1-2 record.
But after the game, Shafer did not name a starting QB for next week and left open the idea of using Allen and Hunt interchangeably.
"I believe in both of those kids," he said. "It's a long season so we have to keep the position strong by continuing to work both those kids."
Smith ran 14 times for 61 yards and two touchdowns. The SU rushing attack combined for 48 carries for 231 yards and three touchdowns. Jarrod West led all receivers with 147 yards and also scored once. This morning, West learned that his grandfather passed away.
"My grandfather meant a lot to me since (I was) growing up," West said. "Before the game, I said a prayer in the end zone and I told him that I'd meet him here and it was kind of cool to actually score."
Hunt's offense was up-tempo, yet calculated. He didn't look rushed and he knew where he was going with the ball. On his first drive, Hunt went 3-3 for 30 yards, with each attempt coming on third down plays. Just as crucial, it gave Smith the ability to get carries. Last week, Smith had 11 rushes in the entire game. On this drive alone, Smith ran the ball eight times.
After the game, Hunt said he came into the huddle and reassured his teammates that he was comfortable. His teammates responded by playing well around him, which Smith said is a big part of the QB's success.
"Everybody else started doing their job," Smith said. "If everyone else does their job, I think the quarterback's job is going to be okay."
Hunt came back out for a second possessioin and led Syracuse on a touchdown drive. As he did on the next one. And the next one. And the one after that.
Hunt began his second offensive possession with a 42 yard pass to Jarrod West. The pass was slightly under thrown, but West adjusted and made a nice back shoulder catch. Two plays later, Hunt found Prince Tyson-Gulley out of the backfield, who went 30 yards for a TD.
Smith and Devante McFarlane scored rushing touchdowns on the next two drives. Hunt capped off the half by hitting a wide open Christopher Clark down the middle for 41 yard score.
The Orange scored 17 points against Penn State and 27 against Northwestern. Syracuse went into halftime with a 37-0 lead.
The one dark spot was Drew Allen, who struggled when the game was competitive. He continued to lock down on his receivers too early and couldn't drive the ball downfield against a porous FCS defense. Syracuse's only first-half points with Allen came on a 34 yard field goal by Ryan Norton. But the Orange started the drive at the Seahawks' 18, following a recovered fumble by Dyshawn Davis. On the ensuing possession, Allen had two incompletions and George Morris II ran the ball one yard to the 17.
Allen came back for two possession in the third quarter. He threw to a wide-open Clark for a four yard touchdown, which put SU up 54-0. Charley Loeb came in during the fourth quarter.
Although Hunt and the Orange offense deserve so much credit, the play by SU's defense shouldn't go unnoticed. Wagner didn't get a first down until the last minute of the first half. Cameron Lynch then ended the half with an interception and a 47 yard return. Safety Durell Eskridge followed up a ten-tackle performance against Northwestern with an interception this week. On many plays, there were two or three Syracuse players swarming the ball carrier.
"We were so mad coming out of Evanston because we felt we were a better football team than we showed and we felt that we gave plays up," Shafer said. "It's the way you bounce back that shows your real character so they went to work and they were kind of pissed. I'll be honest with you: Tuesday and Wednesday practices, it got a little physical at times and I kind of felt bad for the scout team."
There was a lot of speculation about the attendance for this game. SU announced that the total was 33,299 people, but the crowd looked a few thousand shy of that mark.
"It's great to be home in the dome. It's great too see the student body out there, especially the freshman," Shafer said. " I'm just looking forward to continuing to ramp this up...and make this a difficult place to play."
With the win, Syracuse improved to 86-32-4 in home openers. Next week, SU hosts Tulane on Saturday at 12:30.
"The best thing we can do to help our marketing department is to win games and play good football, that's a tough brand of football, and hard-nosed brand of football, but is also consistent, clean and likable to watch."