Syracuse’s win over Virginia Tech last Saturday should still have SU fans walking with a little extra zip in their step. Yes, it was the program’s first win at Lane Stadium since 2001. Yes, it was a dramatic last-second victory. But most of all, it was a coming out party for a blossoming offensive star: quarterback Garrett Shrader.
Prior to this season, former quarterback Tommy DeVito’s role as the starter was a foregone conclusion, albeit one with question marks after two middling seasons. Running back Sean Tucker was expected to carry plenty of the freight, but Shrader’s role was relatively unknown – all that was expected was that his running ability might play a role in jumpstarting Syracuse’s dreadful offense from a year prior. In a preseason piece advocating for a more run-heavy offensive philosophy, we wrote a rather prescient line here at the Fizz:
“Can anyone honestly say that a Shrader and Sean Tucker option-heavy backfield wouldn’t put up some points?” (6/20/2021)
And put up some points they have. The Orange have scored 29.2 points per game since Shrader took over starting QB duties in Week 4. His 410 total yards and five scores last Saturday are further vindication for the Charlotte native that he can succeed at quarterback. It’s easy to forget that in a parallel world, he’d be playing wideout at Mississippi State.
Shrader’s play may even be a surprising development for Dino Babers, whose entire Syracuse career felt like it was teetering on its axis prior to this year. After just six wins in two seasons after 2018’s bowl year, losses and criticism had mounted. When Tommy DeVito continued to struggle early on in this season, it felt like desperation time for Babers and his offense. With DeVito now in the transfer portal, that era of SU football has officially ended – but Shrader’s simultaneous arrival as a playmaker takes some of the sting away. This version of the Orange O is nearing best-case scenario type production.
It’s anyone’s guess as to how long Shrader’s play can hold up. He still isn’t a high percentage passer (right now completing just 52.2%), but gritty runs and a willingness to stand in the pocket have endeared him to an SU fanbase starved for an exciting team. Syracuse should be better than 4-4, but that’s a conversation for another day. With the new Shrader/Tucker era underway, it’s clear this team may be looking toward far greater things next year – or even a once-unthinkable bowl this season.