A quick take on Syracuse’s dominating 48-14 road win over Connecticut Saturday night, in front of an approximately half-filled Pratt & Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Conn:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse picked up where it left off from its opening 24-point win over Louisville to blitz the under-manned Huskies. SU scored points on all five of its first half drives, then continued that onslaught in the second half by scoring on both of its third quarter possessions. Garrett Shrader was 20-of-23 passing for 287-yards (222 in the first half) with three pretty touchdown passes, and rushed for two more scores. The workman-like Sean Tucker ran for a tough 112-yards on 27 carries and scored once, while catching a team-high four passes. The ‘Cuse defense held Connecticut to just 185-yards of offense through three quarters (202-yards overall), before substitutes played on both sides. Syracuse is off to its first 2-0 start since the 2018 bowl season.
ANALYSIS: Unless the opposition wins the coin toss and chooses to receive the opening kickoff, with the improved offense under new coordinator Robert Anae, Syracuse should always elect to take the football first. After settling for a field goal on it first possession in the win over Louisville opening week, SU was the beneficiary of UConn choosing to defer its choice until the third quarter by again scoring points on the first drive of the game. Shrader’s 1-yard TD plunge set the tone as the Orange scored on seven of their first eight offensive drives. The SU defense gave up two big plays for Huskies touchdowns, a 28-yard run and 56-yard screen pass, but was otherwise in control and hard-hitting. The “D” forced one Connecticut turnover (a quarterback sack and fumble recovery by Marlowe Wax) that was converted into a third quarter touchdown.
HERO: Shrader was simply superb running the offense making the right decisions time and again, finding nine different receivers on the night before he exited in the fourth quarter. His three touchdown passes to Damien Alford, Courtney Jackson, and D’Marcus Adams were beautifully thrown balls, and his overall marksmanship resulted in only three incomplete passes. On the ground he converted several third down plays into first downs among his 13 rush attempts. With Shrader’s completion rate of 73% in week one, and 87% versus UConn, is there a better quarterback directing any team nationally after the first three weeks of the season?
ZERO: Dino Babers lamented after the spring game about his kickers not being able to send kickoffs into the end zone for automatic touchbacks, and that trend continued in the opening week win over Louisville. Even though James Williams’ four short kickoffs in the first half resulted in the Huskies starting field position short of the 25-yard line, the kicks were still fielded and Babers apparently had enough. He inserted true freshman Brady Denaburg to kickoff after the Orange’s touchdown late in the first half, and Denaburg promptly boomed a kick into the end zone for a touchback. He did it again on the second half kickoff, and again after SU’s fourth touchdown. Denaburg’s fourth kickoff early in the fourth quarter resulted in a fair catch, so apparently that problem is now solved.
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse plays the first of four straight home games hosting Purdue, one of only two Big Ten teams (Wisconsin) to never play in the Dome, next Saturday, September 17. The teams have only met once previously, the 2004 season opener at West Lafayette, Ind. which resulted in a 51-0 Boilermakers rout. Purdue (1-1) blitzed FCS member Indiana State 56-0 Saturday afternoon, after falling to Penn State in its season opener on September 1. Game Time: 12:00 p.m. ET. TV: ESPN2.