What a difference two weeks makes. Syracuse looked to be dead in the water after suffering a beat down to Northwestern at Ryan Field. Scott Shafer fielded a multitude of questions as to where the direction of this team was headed. The schedule favored the Orange to even up its record at 2-2 prior to ACC action, but SU handled Wagner and Tulane with such ease it has given fans hope. Despite these convincing victories over what some call “JV squads,” Syracuse is ready for Clemson and conference play.
We’ve now seen a complete 180 at the quarterback position, as Terrel Hunt continues to tear it up since taking over for Drew Allen. Hunt was sensational for the second straight week. He completed 14 of 17 for 168 yards and three touchdown passes in the opening 30 minutes alone. When the day was done, he accounted for five Orange TDs. SU finished the day a perfect eight for eight on red zone opportunities. Hunt continues to execute masterfully with his receivers and work nicely with the running game. Brent Axe recently looked inside Allen’s impressive numbers to date (33-for-43 for 462 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions, completion percentage of 76%) and it’s one of the best QBR’s in college football.
Shafer says Hunt is constantly doing what he’s asked to get the job done offensively. Hunt’s poise and demeanor heading into the Clemson game is at a very high point. There’s still plenty of room to grow as well, and even more elements to his game every drive and every play.
The running attack has finally gotten itself going, especially Jerome Smith. Last year the bulldozing back struggled most of the season to find the end zone. Now it’s a different story. Rome has already hit the end zone six times on the ground. His leadership and mental toughness have been huge for this team since the losses to start the season. Smith remains hungry for the football. Don’t forget Prince Tyson-Gulley’s 13 carry, 83 yard performance. The combination of Smith and PTG, plus other contributors in the backfield, gives Syracuse some scary dimensions. George McDonald has the bye week to rev up the playbook even more to develop this offense. He’ll need the extra time against the Tigers, one of the best teams in the nation.
The SU offense covered ground quickly against Tulane. The opening drive covered 75 yards in seven plays and 2 minutes, 21 seconds while the second chewed up the same amount of turf on the same amount of plays in one less tick of the clock. With a fast-paced offense, SU’s defense saw a lot of time on the field and it delivered once more.
Chuck Bullough’s defense was all over the place making plays and causing turnovers left and right. SU blocked a Tulane field goal attempt as well as a pair of punts. SU defenses under Shafer have been looking to not just get stops, but accumulate turnovers. The unit officially had two Saturday, one Nick Montana interception and a muffed Tulane punt. The activity from this defense is something else to watch. Constant defensive movement had the Seahawks and Green Wave looking lost. When your offense explodes for fifty plus points in back to back games, the defense can go unrecognized. It’ll need a rest and a boost with faster ACC offenses coming up.
In the last two weeks Shafer got this team to bounce back after it battled a pair of tough, solid Big 10 teams. Merge the smoothness of Hunt under center with the balanced ground game, and a stingy, gutty defense, Syracuse’s prospects are far different than two weeks ago. Clemson is an elite team. Luckily, the Orange has a solid two weeks to prepare for one of the nation’s best teams.
Posted: Brendan Glasheen