EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Syracuse coach Doug Marrone saw wide receiver Alec Lemon as he entered the room and immediately turned toward him. It was good timing, as Marrone had just been asked a question about Lemon.
The senior receiver played his first game of the season after sitting out last week’s opener against Northwestern with a hamstring injury.
“How many downs did you play?” Marrone asked.
“A lot,” Lemon said, bringing a chuckle from the room.
Syracuse hopes that Lemon can play a lot more during the season, as well.
“My hamstring is great, 100 percent,” Lemon said. “I was ready to get back on the field with my teammates. It felt great to get back out there.”
Lemon didn’t answer that way in the weeks leading up to the game, making Marrone worried about his senior receiver, who was named to the All Big East Second Team last season.
After Lemon worked out last week, Marrone spoke with Lemon.
“He said he was okay,” Marrone said. “When players come back out and say they are okay, that’s not a good sign when you had a lot of time off.”
Though the trainers cleared him to play this week, Marrone was still thinking about holding him out until he spoke with Lemon on Thursday.
Finally, Marrone heard some good news.
“He said, ‘I feel great. I really want to play,'” Marrone said. “We took Ryan (Nassib) out there and we worked him out on Friday. He looked good. He really did. So because of his experience we put him in there.”
The decision paid off, as Lemon played the whole game without re-aggravating the injury.
“I’m happy to see he’s back with us on the offensive side,” Marrone said.
Lemon was part of an effort that kept Syracuse competitive with the No. 2 team in the country. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Orange trailed by just five points and had the ball with an opportunity to take the lead.
Though Syracuse would go on to lose, there were several positives to take away from the loss.
“We did win the moral victory,” Lemon said. “It was the No. 2 team in the nation and we put up a good fight against them. We lost the game, but we feel great about what we did. Coming up, we know what we can do in 10 more games.”
The same can be said about Lemon.