Syracuse beat Wagner 59-0 in what can only loosely be called a football game Saturday. The Seahawks went in not having won a game in three calendar years, and it showed, converting only four first downs and gaining 50 yards of total offense. It was such a mismatch that the two teams agreed to play 10 minute quarters in the second half, college football‚Äôs version of the mercy rule.
A game that lopsided seems like the perfect time to get the starters out of the game early. That serves two purposes: not risking their health and giving younger guys a chance to get game experience, albeit against a team who didn‚Äôt belong on the same field.
The Orange didn‚Äôt do that with their starting offense, leaving Garrett Shrader, Sean Tucker, Matthew Bergeron and company out there into the second half. It almost burned them. Tucker went down on his first and only carry of the third quarter, staying down for a while before jogging off the field. The running back ended up being fine, but it‚Äôs the third time he‚Äôs gone down already this year.
Bergeron was in the game despite having an injury scare of his own in the first half. The all-ACC left tackle experienced lower leg discomfort, and still played into the third quarter.
After the game, Dino Babers said leaving the ones out there for the first drive of the third quarter is standard practice to go through the motions of halftime adjustments. However, Shrader and Tucker said the motivation was to go for records. The tailback was 25 yards shy of SU‚Äôs single game rushing high.
Beyond the fact that this discrepancy in answers is a bad look, the reasons given aren‚Äôt good ones. Neither halftime adjustments after scoring seven touchdowns on seven drives nor the record books are valuable enough to take any risk, no matter how small, when it comes to key players getting hurt. It also took opportunities away from young players.
Backup quarterback Carlos Del-Rio Wilson, the man who most consider Shrader‚Äôs heir apparent, got two series and threw one pass. Tucker‚Äôs backup, freshman LeQuint Allen, only had four carries. Syracuse is not going to find a better time to get those two, among others, live experience before they are expected to be key contributors.
It would be one thing if the Orange didn‚Äôt lift any of their starters early, they did that in some cases, making the decision to leave the offense out there even more curious. Mikel Jones was done in the second quarter and redshirt freshman Austin Roon got the rest of the game at middle linebacker. Another redshirt freshman, tackle Enrique Cruz Jr, a former four-star recruit who Bergeron called the left tackle of the future, got playing time early as well, mostly at right tackle. Why Syracuse didn‚Äôt do this at every position is puzzling, and the Orange are lucky it didn’t cost them.¬†