Three days from now, Syracuse Football will be back on the Dome field to do battle with Colgate. You can never take an opponent lightly, even if it’s an FCS school, but this matchup with the Raiders represents an opportunity for the Orange to tinker, experiment, or try some new things. Three things MUST happen on Saturday from that tinkering and experimenting if SU is to have hope for the rest of the way.
1. A RECEIVER NOT NAMED ORONDE GADSDEN TO EMERGE
There’s only so much stock you can take from the first game of the season, especially when it comes against an FCS opponent. But if Garrett Shrader does not have any reliable weapons behind Gadsden on Saturday, there will be immediate cause for concern. Defenses are going to plan for Syracuse’s undisputed top weapon, so someone needs to step up, and it does not matter who. It could be Damien Alford, who has gotten plenty of hype in the preseason. Might it be LeQuint Allen, who showed receiving prowess in the Pinstripe Bowl? Or will it be an unknown commodity like Kendall Long or Donovan Brown, similar to what Gadsden was a year ago? It doesn’t matter who, but someone must elevate their play and take the load off Gadsden.
2. THE DEFENSIVE LINE TO WALK THE WALK
Both Coach Babers as well as members of the front seven have been talking the talk throughout training camp about the depth of this unit. Nobody needs reminding about how much trouble SU had stopping the run down the stretch last season. It also goes without saying that Colgate does not carry the running firepower that Clemson has with Will Shipley or Notre Dame with Audric Estime, but if Chris Achuff’s unit allows significant chunk yardage play after play on Saturday, it’ll be hard to not be anxious. There’s plenty of experience on the defensive line with the likes of Caleb Okechukwu, Kevon Darton, and a healthy Terry Lockett. They’ve talked the talk, now it’s time for them to walk the walk.
3. GET EVERYONE OFF THE FIELD QUICKLY
The most important one was saved for last. In last season’s matchup with Wagner, despite Syracuse holding a 49-0 lead at halftime to the point where 10 minute quarters were played in the second half, both Shrader and Sean Tucker were inexplicably on the field. The latter went down on the field for the third time in five games. It was bad enough that they were out there to begin with, the fact that Tucker went down again is just salt in the wounds. Hopefully Coach Babers has learned his lesson and won’t make the same mistake again. As long as the Orange take care of business and build a sizable lead before halftime, there’s no reason any of the big guns should be on the field, especially those who were banged up in 2022.