Alright, a loss is going to sting, especially this year when Syracuse is competitive. But after the 33-30 road loss, there might actually be more positive takeaways than negative. This column won’t change the fact that SU is still winless at Doak Campbell Stadium, and that they begin ACC play 0-1 after a win slipped through their fingers against a winless Florida State team. That being said, this is why the Orange should feel optimistic heading into the teeth of their schedule.
Garrett Shrader is More than a Runner
It sounds weird when you read it out loud because he tied the program single game rushing touchdowns record for a QB with three, but Garrett Shrader showed Dino Babers that he is competent enough to handle the offense with his arms and legs. The Mississippi State transfer went for 150 yards on 13/23 passing with a touchdown and an interception on a hail mary at the end of the 1st half. With his three ground scores, Shrader ran for a game best 143 yards. While it might come as a surprise that Shrader outran Sean Tucker, the bigger shock should be his moderate success in the air. Even though, 13/23 is not going to pop off the tape, FSU’s defense was daring him to beat them rather than Tucker. At the very least, Shrader moved the ball between the 20’s, which is all Babers can ask.
Rhino is All the Way Back
The long awaited return of Chris Elmore set Syracuse fans up for disappointment. When asked which plays he wanted back after the game, Elmore said, “Every block in the first quarter.” After missing the first month of the season, rust was to be expected. Once the senior settled down, the playbook really opened up. Even Shrader said the offense was stumped in the first frame, and that something had to give.
“It was big having Rhino back, and just having the confidence to be able to run a lot of the stuff that we can’t necessarily run with the other guys [Max Mang, Luke Benson], especially using his experience,” Shrader said.
So Elmore opens up the playbook, which was on full display in a 30 point showing against a defense riddled with four and five star recruits.
No Taj Harris, No Problem
Any time a QB nearly doubles his passing yardage total from the week before, it’s impressive. Doing that without the team’s best receiver is unheard of though. Taj Harris didn’t make the trip down to Tallahassee for undisclosed reasons. Harris might have been missed, but not as much as people thought. Anthony Queeley snared his first touchdown of the season. Courtney Jackson racked up a career best six receptions for 57 yards. So while Harris fans are stirring that the program’s favorite receiver didn’t get a chance to make his mark on the ACC opener, it’s only fair to wonder what this blossoming offense will look like when Harris rejoins the team.
Duce Chestnut is Special
It’s not new, but it is renewed. Ever since the true freshman Duce Chestnut earned the game ball in the Orange’s Week 1 win over Ohio, there have been “growing pains”, according to Babers. This was probably Chestnut’s best game since the opener, and that can be said without accounting for his interception. Simply put, it was special. FSU QB Jordan Travis threw an out route like he had been doing the entire game, not realizing that Chestnut read the play perfectly. Chestnut channeled his inner-center fielder for the pick.
“When you make a play like that you have to go for it,” Babers said with a chuckle. “The catch he made was no joke because he caught the ball and the first thing that hit the ground was his elbows. As a wide receiver when you catch a ball like that a lot of times your elbows will jar the ball free, but he stayed locked on…. A lot of confidence. A lot of moxie. The catch was a lot harder than what you guys think it was and he made it look easy.”
One day ACC signal callers will stop throwing to Chestnut. That day might not come this year, and that’s alright. But win, lose, or draw, Syracuse fans can look back on that play and smile.