We here at The Juice Online take holidays very seriously. Halloween is no exception. In fact, rumors have been flying around the news room that Wes Cheng, our Managing Editor, has been diligently working on every last detail of his Jim Boeheim costume. So as Wes practices frowning and “questioning the intelligence levels” of referees, let’s check out the tricks and treats visited upon Scott Shafer and his #hardnosed footballers so far this season.
The Orange’s defense has been gashed enough this year to make Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger proud. Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush lit up the Dome for 430 yards through the air. LSU running back, and Heisman favorite, Leonard Fournette romped for 244 yards and two touchdowns. And South Florida racked up 45 points. But the two most recent mishaps turned out to be the two costliest. In back to back weeks, the Orange D surrendered 19-play drives to Virginia and Pittsburgh that resulted in the Cavs forcing overtime and the Panthers kicking the game-winning field goal as time expired. Syracuse probably should’ve won both games. And with not being able to get off the field on either drive, the Orange’s bowl hopes surely vanished.
While the defense has struggled to get stops, it has had some bright spots as it integrates a slew of new starters. Mainly, it’s managed to stick the ball in the end zone on three occasions; a 24-yard pick-six for Corey Winfield, a 41-yard interception return for Donnie Simmons, and a 44 yard fumble return by Antwan Cordy. To put that in perspective, those three touchdowns are one more than the total number of rushing scores by every SU running back last season.
This same article last year lamented the misfortune of losing starting QB Terrel Hunt to a season-ending injury. Who says lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place? By now you now Hunt was lost for the year in the first quarter of the season opener to a ruptured Achilles. As big as college athletics has become, don’t forget that these are mostly 18-22 year old kids playing the sport they love. You really have to feel for Hunt after working so hard to come back for his senior season.
Called in to duty with Hunt lost for the year has been true freshman Eric Dungey. And so far the Oregon native hasn’t disappointed. Dungey seems to be developing chemistry through the air with two of Syracuse’s best playmakers, Steve Ishmael and Brisly Estime. And Dungey not only leads the ACC in quarterback rating (159.8) but he’s also quite adept at making plays with his feet out of the pocket. Like this.
After opening the season with three straight wins for the first time since 1991, Syracuse has now dropped four in a row. And with road trips to Florida State and Louisville followed by a visit from Clemson scheduled for the next three games, the losing streak could extend on for some time.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times? You call down the thunder that is Riley Dixon. Oh, he’s more than just a punter. Dixon is SU’s secret (well, not so much anymore) weapon. In three straight games against LSU, South Florida, and Virginia, Dixon ran a fake to pick up a first down. And against LSU, he hurdled the defender and then came up doing his best Muhammad Ali. He even has his own hash tag, #DixonforHeisman. You think that’s impressive? Halloween is scared of Riley Dixon.
Recruiting is a fickle game. Grown men stake their jobs on the promises of 17-year old kids to come play for them. But recruiting is also any successful program’s life blood. Shafer and his staff have certainly raised the quality of recruit that matriculates to upstate NY. And this year the staff finally landed two program-making studs in running back Robert Washington and tight end Chris Clark. However, neither player will be suiting up for the Orange. And that’s another article for a different day.
But there’s no doubt the quality of recruit under the Shafer regime has improved. Look no further than on the field right now. As Stephen Bailey of Syracuse.com wrote, seven true freshmen are currently on the two-deep roster. And first or second year players have combined for 54.5 percent of all tackles, 74.5 percent of all rushing yards, and 53.8 percent of all receiving yards. Player like Dungey, Ishmael, Jordan Fredericks, Erv Philips, Dontae Strickland, Zaire Franklin, Qaadir Sheppard, and Antwan Cordy are not only part of the present but are also the team’s future.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go get my garden hose ready for the punks who think egging my house is funny. Happy Halloween, everyone!
- 2018 Syracuse football recruiting off to a fast start - June 19, 2017
- A look at Syracuse basketball’s 2018 targets - May 4, 2017
- Who is Syracuse basketball still recruiting in the class of 2017? - May 3, 2017
- It’s been a busy offseason for Syracuse football - April 7, 2017
- Syracuse basketball already in a busy offseason - April 5, 2017
- How did Syracuse basketball wind up squarely on the NCAA bubble? - March 3, 2017
- Breaking down Syracuse football’s 2017 NLI Signing Day - February 3, 2017
- What went wrong in Syracuse’s loss to Boston College? - January 3, 2017
- Who gets coal, who gets presents in Syracuse athletics this year? - December 23, 2016
- Syracuse football, basketball gives thanks - November 25, 2016