After just sixty minutes of game time on the field, one thing has already become clear: this season, it’s all about the freshmen and sophomores. Syracuse dominated a shaky Rhode Island team in all facets of the game on Friday night, and some unfortunate circumstances have put a couple first-and-second-years in the spotlight for the weeks to come.
As talked about on the Fizz, true freshman quarterback Eric Dungey now holds the starting role with fifth-year senior Terrel Hunt going down with a torn Achilles. Dungey played well through the first half and into the second before giving way to Austin Wilson, going 10-for-17 for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
Lost in the fold, however, was the performance of the rest of the backfield for the Orange. With Devante McFarlane nowhere to be found on the sideline, the running back role was shared by a committee. A pair of freshmen led the Orange in touches out of the backfield, including New York standout Jordan Fredericks, who totaled 103 yards on 14 carries. Fellow freshman Jacob Hill collected 75 yards on a team-high 17 carries later in the game, while first-year Dontae Strickland also joined the party with 42 yards on just two carries, including a touchdown.
While the wide receivers didn’t see much action because Rhode Island’s rushing defense was so poor, sophomore Erv Phillips played a huge part in the offense out of the hybrid back position, scoring on both of his receptions. Fellow sophomore Steve Ishmael figures to play a large role in the offensive game plan going forward, as well.
Because the Orange are in a transitional period, it’s extremely encouraging to see young guys like Dungey, Fredericks, and even Phillips step up and grab the spotlight. One has to assume that Hunt’s career at Syracuse is over and it’s now about Dungey building confidence with running backs and receivers that will be here for at least another two seasons.
These freshmen already showed potential to fix the problems that plagued the team last year. The Orange was able to move the ball downfield with ease (albeit, against an awful defense) and most importantly, put points on the board. It will be harder to move the ball next week against conference opponent Wake Forest, and although they aren’t the most imposing team, the game is a must-win. The Deamon Deacons dominated Elon, winning their opener 41-3 on Thursday night.