It‚Äôs no secret to anyone who watched the game or listened/read to any postgame coverage of Syracuse’s 32-29 win over Purdue that Garrett Shrader did not play his best. The final line reads almost 200 passing yards with three touchdowns including over 80 rushing yards and a two-point conversion. Yes, Shrader won the game with an incredible throw to Oronde Gadsden II, but that doesn‚Äôt eliminate what everyone saw in the first half/first three quarters.
Shrader finished with a completion percentage under 50%, which is not even close to good enough. Plain and simple, the Orange were lucky to win that game with the way their quarterback played. All too often, Shrader would not have his first read open and immediately look to scramble. Against a defense as talented as Purdue, a Big Ten team, that did not work well. SU didn‚Äôt score a touchdown until midway through the third quarter, only because Purdue penalties extended their drive (don‚Äôt get me started on that).
While yes it is good that when the Boilermakers put the game on a shiny platter for the Orange to take, SU grabbed it and ran, that is not always going to be the case. Undisciplined teams don‚Äôt come around very often, and Purdue put on a display almost never seen in the Dome last weekend. So, let’s go back to Shrader. He played great when it mattered most, and even though he was bailed out multiple times by penalties (13 for 138 yards to be exact), the job was completed and SU is 3-0.
But, the story of Shrader starts before the game, when reports came out that a lot of the team did not practice before Purdue because of an illness circulating its way through the program. Shrader finally admitted to such on Tuesday at players’ media availability. Could that have contributed to a sluggish first half? Maybe, but we‚Äôll never know for sure. Purdue‚Äôs defense was better than anything Syracuse has faced up to this point and will face until NC State travels to Upstate New York in mid-October.
Now, that sickness is just the beginning. Earlier this week, Shrader was spotted walking around campus in a walking boot (by yours truly), which was interesting because nobody, not Dino Babers nor Shrader himself said anything postgame or during weekly media that anything was wrong. So, it could just be a precaution to protect something that happened in practice or a game, but still rather noticeable.
As Syracuse heads into Friday night against Virginia looking to improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2018, the play of Shrader will be essential to the Orange‚Äôs success. Under Robert Anae‚Äôs offense, SU is passing the ball more than they have in recent years, and Shrader is at the forefront of that movement. If he can come out firing, hitting receivers downfield, that will open up running lanes for Sean Tucker underneath, and you can be sure the Orange want to get him going.
So, maybe these are all just minor excuses and inconveniences that caused Shrader‚Äôs tough start against Purdue. But, it‚Äôs not about how you start, it‚Äôs about how you finish, and he did an excellent job of that last week. Now, on a short week, what does that performance look like, and how does Shrader start in his second conference game of the season? We‚Äôll have our answer soon enough.