The Orange and Scott Shafer need a win in the Dome to keep the fans away from the panic button.
The Orange also lost its first two games last year and still finished last season 8-5. SU dropped games against two very tough opponents in Northwestern and USC. This year is off to the exact same start, unfortunately the conference foes are much tougher in the ACC. Perhaps the biggest issue right now is the quarterback situation. Drew Allen has not been impressive. He completed 16 of his 37 passes and threw two interceptions without a touchdown against Penn State. The 48-27 loss in Week 2 against Northwestern didn’t go any better. In fact, it was worse. Allen was 27-for-41 passing but threw four interceptions. Ryan Nassib only threw 10 total picks last season. Now is the time to try Terrel Hunt. He was 2-for-4 passing and he rushed for a touchdown against Northwestern. Syracuse takes on Wagner on Saturday in its first official game at the Dome of 2013 and Hunt and Allen will split time under center. Here are five things to watch for.
1) Who plays better? Allen and Hunt will both get time. Allen’s picks have led to scoring opportunities for the opponent. Perhaps the home field advantage helps, but it takes more than limiting interceptions to win. He also needs to complete his passes. He has just a 55 percent completion percentage and the lack of depth at wide receiver is a concern. If Hunt plays better than Allen and shows potential, the Allen era may be over. Allen’s job is on the line and his performance Saturday may be the real indicator of his talent because he should be playing his heart out.
2) Can Jerome Smith carry this team? Syracuse is weak at the wide receiver position right now. The loss of Adrian Flemming hurts. Syracuse has just one receiving touchdown and five rushing scores. The offensive responsibilities need to be divided up and shared. Also, the offensive line hasn’t been able to create as many lanes for the running backs. If the QBs have trouble completing passes, Scott Shafer may call for more plays on the ground. If that becomes the case, can Smith still be the guy to push for yardage and score?
3) Dome field advantage? The Orange was 4-1 in the Dome last year, that only loss was the first week against Northwestern. Syracuse needs some love right now. The team is struggling and it hasn’t been a fun start to the season for players or coaches. The energy will be high and the Dome will hopefully be loud. Being back at home should be a confidence booster for Syracuse. Wagner isn’t a strong team, and if the Orange can’t win this game it’ll be time to hit the panic button.
4) Ryan Norton is kicking. He has never attempted a field goal in his college career, but he was the primary kickoff guy last year and so far this season. The sophomore takes over for Ross Krautman who is out with an undisclosed injury. Norton will surely have a few opportunities to get SU on the board. Let’s see what he’s got.
5) Will Syracuse finally get Shafer his first win? It’s tough for a coach to try to fix all of the problems at one time. A game against Wagner at the friendly confines of the Dome should be much needed feel-good afternoon. Shafer has to pick up a win in this game to keep the vultures from circling.
Posted: Austin Pollack