While there was only one football game at the Carrier Dome on Saturday, there were two decisive victories. The more immediate concern was Syracuse flattening FCS opponent Wagner in their home opener, 54-0. It was a complete effort for the Orange (1-2), who outgained the Seahawks (1-2) 595 yards to 87 en route to giving Scott Shafer his first victory as a head coach.
The second, and possibly more important, win on Saturday was that Terrel Hunt completely outplayed Drew Allen while splitting quarterback duties and should be the new starter for SU. After a poor offensive start under Allen, Hunt came in and led the Orange on seven consecutive scoring drives before giving up the reins.
Under Allen’s direction, Syracuse was ineffective, failing to muster a first down in their first three drives. SU did score on the second of those drives, however, when a Dyshawn Davis fumble recovery deep in Wagner territory set up a 34-yard field goal by Ryan Norton. Hunt relieved Allen on the fourth Orange possession and paid immediate dividends, guiding the team 68 yards to paydirt in a dozen plays. Jerome Smith had the scoring honors, running just inside the pylon for a two-yard touchdown.
Norton missed the extra point, but SU led, 9-0 with under three minutes left in the opening quarter. Hunt’s second drive signaled the rout was on as he led the Orange on a three-play drive that covered 64 yards. Two plays after Hunt connected on a 42-yard pass with Jarrod West, Prince-Tyson Gulley took a short pass and raced down the sideline for a 30-yard touchdown, marking Hunt’s first scoring toss at Syracuse. Norton tackled on the extra point for a 16-0 lead less than a minute into the second.
SU’s next three possessions all ended in touchdowns, effectively ending the game by halftime. Smith racked up his second rushing score of the game on the first drive, bolting into the end zone from eight yards out. Then Devante McFarlane posted the first score of his career for the Orange, ending the next possession with a three-yard touchdown run. The final score of the opening half came when Hunt hit Christopher Clark in stride for a 41-yard touchdown pass. Norton banged home all three conversions and Syracuse had the Seahawks in a 37-0 stranglehold at the break.
After intermission, it was more of the same. SU forced a quick Wagner punt, then Hunt directed another scoring drive. Norton booted his second field goal of the game, this one from 32 yards out, to give the Orange a 40-0 lead just over five minutes into the third quarter. Following another Seahawk punt, Hunt delivered the exclamation point of his breakout performance. The redshirt sophomore hooked up with Jarrod West on a 65-yard touchdown bomb and the kick by Norton made it a 47-0 affair.
After Durell Eskridge ended Wagner’s next drive with an interception, the SU offensive reins were handed back to Drew Allen. Allen responded by leading the Orange on a four-play drive that covered 34 yards, including hitting Clark for his second score of the day. Clark was wide open in the back of the end zone and came down just inbounds for a four-yard scoring grab. Norton kicked one more extra point for what would turn out to be the final tally of the game at 54-0 with 4:31 remaining in the third. Allen played one more possession, an effective one that resulted in no points when Norton badly missed a 35-yard field goal attempt.
Terrel Hunt’s banner day showed on the stat sheet, not just on the scoreboard. Hunt completed 15-of-18 passes for 265 yards and three scores. Syracuse had nine different players register carries as they rolled up 236 yards as a team, led by Jerome Smith, who had 61 yards and a pair of scores on 14 attempts. Ashton Broyld led SU with a game-high seven catches and Christopher Clark collected two scoring passes, but Jarrod West had the biggest day of the Orange receiving corps. The junior wideout had a career-best 147 yards on five catches, including a score. More noteworthy about West’s performance was that it came just hours after he learned of his grandfather’s passing.
With all of the offensive fireworks on the day, it is easy to overlook what the Syracuse defense accomplished. As a unit, the Orange held Wagner to 1.7 yards per play and did not permit the visitors to gain a first down until just before halftime. Durell Eskridge and Cameron Lynch each came up with an interception and Jay Bromley collected a pair of sacks and forced a fumble. Dyshawn Davis had the SU’s third turnover of the day, recovering a Seahawk fumble. Jaston George also forced a fumble in the game.
The Orange will play the second of three consecutive home games next Saturday when Tulane comes to the Dome. The Green Wave (2-1) are coming off a 24-15 victory over Louisiana Tech in their most recent game. Kickoff will be at 12:30pm and the game is available online at ESPN3.com.