Two weeks down and two losses later, Orange Nation is feeling deflated to start the season. It’s not even the 0-2 start that has the Syracuse faithful down, but the lackluster offensive production thus far. But it’s not all bad. Yes, Drew Allen has struggled mightily and the defense is still working out consistency issues, but there is a lot of season left. Luckily, Wagner enters the Dome this Saturday with Syracuse seeking to release its frustration on the lowly Seahawks.
Allen is fighting for his job the next two games at the Dome. Scott Shafer made a move to Terrel Hunt for the final SU drive against Northwestern. Although it was only against the Wildcats’ backup defense, Hunt lead the team to a touchdown drive capped off by a 15-yard rushing TD. Meanwhile, Allen is desperate to find open receivers more than ever with his tight end Beckett Wales in a boot on his left foot. Three receivers had more than 50 receiving yards but Allen could not find any receiver enough to create an offensive threat.
When preseason camp ended, it seemed as if Allen and Hunt were neck and neck in the QB race. Maybe this as an opportunity for Hunt to inherit the job if Allen fails to get the offense going in the Dome. Allen will most likely get the start in both the Wagner and Tulane games but it would not be surprising to Hunt get a fair share of snaps. An interesting tidbit was the debut of WR Quinta Funderburk. He had two catches for 22 yards and was targeted by Hunt throughout the last Syracuse drive. George McDonald would love to have Funderburk, the former 4-star recruit, as a legitimate threat in the Orange passing attack.
Allen and the offense should take the training wheels off. The Seahawks simply don’t have the athletes to keep up with the Orange. Use the wideouts to get downfield and use their size to an advantage over smaller DBs. Find confidence for Allen, while helping him develop a relationship with his receivers. Use Ashton Broyld in space, his speed is far more than anything Wagner will normally see. It’s a terrific opportunity to finally get the passing game going, and build some confidence around a unit that’s taken a lot of criticism.
As for Wagner, the Seahawks are coming off a disappointing home loss to Div. II Merrimack. Senior running back Dominique Williams ran for over 100 yards and had two scores on the day, but Joe Clancy and the Warriors were too much to handle. This is a great opportunity for Syracuse to find consistency in their game. The defense played solid against Penn State but fell off in Evanston playing against the two-QB system. The Orange defense needs to cause pressure on the line and create turnovers. This could be a much needed confidence boost.
Even more important for the Orange is the running game. As The Fizz mentioned early in the week, the rushing attack is supposed to be the bread and butter of the offense. So far, Jerome Smith and Price Tyson-Gulley have not had breakout games. It would not be surprising to see both abuse the Wagner run defense, which gave up 124 yards of rushing to a DII school. Pound Smith insider, utilizing his size. Use PTG on sweeps and outside runs since Wagner will not have the speed to keep up with him. Let McDonald be aggressive and begin to find his identity as a play caller.
Shafer has seen his team fall in the first two games of the season. Syracuse fans imagine he will lead a fired up team ready to play this Saturday. He cannot afford not to.
Posted: Zephan Mayell