We knew it would happen. We knew it would happen even if Drew Allen had managed more than 5 yards passing after three lackluster series against a porous Wagner defense. We knew it would happen even before the Dome rang out in boos after Allen and the offense were stymied for yet another series in the first quarter.
So when it did happen, it was greeted with cheers. Terrel Hunt, the (presumed) new starting quarterback of the Syracuse Orange, took the field to cheers and ensured the fans (and a new train horn) all shook the dome 68 yards and a touchdown later. Hunt never let up, making quick decisions that Allen never seemed to make, completing throws Allen had yet to and running in a way we know Allen can't.
Hunt finished with 287 total yards and three touchdowns. Allen finished with 55 and one after mop up time in the second half. The debate is over. The prodigal son who was to erase the memories of transfers past has now ensured that Greg Paulus will be remembered much more fondly by comparison.
The Dome (and most of the fanbase) called for Drew Allen's head after the third series. Shafer delivered. Hunt delivered. Now there's no going back.
I'm sure over the next week, month and season we will talk about just how much Hunt can and/or will grow as Scott Shafer's quarterback. After one game against an FCS school, he looks solid. How will he fare against the ACC? Probably better than Allen which is all that really matters right now.
While this may sound somewhat ominous, I am excited. Hunt has a great relationship with the offensive personal and more importantly, their trust. He has the potential to grow into a very high level dual threat QB by his final year at SU. It just comes at the price of a thought to be savior from Oklahoma who is now right back where he started: the bench.
Sean Farrell: Wow. What a game. Terrel Hunt was amazing, the running game got back on track and Scott Shafer even made fun of Bud Poliquin's sweater during the post-game press conference! But there are two aspects that I want to focus on: 3rd down conversions and the turnover battle.
During the week, Shafer mentioned that he wanted to see Syracuse put themselves in better down-and-distance situations. Last week, Syracuse converted 6-13 (46 percent) on 3rd down. Against Wagner, the Orange went 10-17 (59 percent). On the ten converted 3rd downs, Syracuse averaged a manageable 5.3 yards needed to move the chains. George McDonald, who has been criticized by me and other members of this site, did a very good job play calling in these pressure situations. Likewise, Terrel Hunt succeeded in executing. For several of these conversions, Hunt completed high percentage passes between 8-15 yards rather than going for too much. The Orange had an astonishing 48 rushing attempts, which is a testament to the offense's ability to keep drives going. Just for reference, Syracuse went 42.3 percent on 3rd down from 2010-2012.
The Orange won the turnover battle against the Seahawks, 3-0. Jay Bromley forced an early fumble, which Dyshawn Davis recovered. Durell Eskridge and Cameron Lynch each had an interception. (In fairness, Eskridge caught a ball which fell into his lap after another drop by a Wagner receiver.) Syracuse actually won the turnover battle against Penn State, 4-3. But if Syracuse had avoided one of those miscues, they possibly win. Against Northwestern, SU lost this battle 4-0. Drew Allen accounted for six of the seven turnovers on interceptions. Obviously, much of this will depend on who is playing quarterback moving forward and how well he does. But if Syracuse can continue to limit turnovers and put itself in reasonable third-down situations, the team will be fairly successful. Yes, even against Division I schools.
Dan Lyons: I think the resounding feeling that I have coming out of the Wagner game is one of relief. Things were pretty dark 'round these parts after the debacle in Evanston, and while I don't think many saw Wagner as a real threat to beat Syracuse, it was great to watch everything click and see the Orange just bury a team, no matter who it was. In my now six seasons of Orange fandom (I'm getting old...sheesh), I had never seen a Syracuse team truly do to an FCS opponent what so many other teams do on a yearly basis. Even the blowout wins like Colgate in 2010 were somewhat sullied by an opposing 100-yard rusher, or something of the like. This season, one where North Dakota State has knocked off Big 12 champion Kansas State and Oregon State fell to a team that plays home games on bright red turf, I was prepared for an ugly win. 54-0 is far more satisfying.
I'm also relieved, because it looks like our quarterback situation for the next three seasons may be fairly bright. Now, anointing Terrel Hunt as the next great Orangeman based on what amounts to two or three quarters of play against Wagner is incredibly premature, but boy - he looked legit. He throws an effortless, catchable ball, he seems to be totally in sync with his receivers and just looked very poised in the pocket. He's not the athlete that other scrambling quarterbacks that he's sure to be compared to are, but just the threat of him tucking the ball on a read or breaking contain on a pass play totally changes the dynamic for an opposing defense. And when was the last time that an SU quarterback had that much success tossing the deep ball? Again, I know, Wagner, but the deep pass to Jarrod West was not to a wide open receiver, but he placed it perfectly. Drew Allen definitely has a bigger arm than Hunt, but that doesn't make him better on those throws.
The defense looked pretty awesome. Hopefully the season will be more Penn State and Wagner and less Northwestern on that side of the ball. The Clemson game will probably be the real test there, as Clemson's offense is basically Kain Colter-led Northwestern on all types of illicit steroids. Nike's going to need to break out the bluest pants they have for that one.
There's only so much celebrating that can be done for a win over an FCS squad, but so many of the team's issues, including ones that are independent of the opposition like communications on offense, seemed to be ironed out, that I think we SU fans are allowed to be fairly optimistic about the season once again. Now hopefully that optimism will bring some extra bodies to the Dome this Saturday.
Around the ACC
John Cassillo: The ACC put together yet another successful weekend for the most part, as its top teams in action -- Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech -- all kept winning, while Clemson and Miami enjoyed weeks off. Though he wasn't at the same level as week one's stellar performance, FSU quarterback Jameis Winston manged to put in another strong effort -- 15-for-18, 214 yards and two scores -- to keep the Seminoles unbeaten. He had plenty of help from the ground game too, as the racked up 377 yards rushing. If that's how this team is going to run the ball all season, there are very few teams that can stop their offense.
If there's one disappointing ACC result this weekend, it was Wake Forest's home loss to UL-Monroe. Though it may have been mildly predictable given Wake's offensive struggles thus far, it's still tough to see a major conference team lose to a Sun Belt squad on their own turf. Of the teams currently sitting near the bottom of the conference -- Wake, Syracuse, UVa and Pittsburgh -- the Deacs appear to be in the most trouble. With no ability to score points, they'll be hard-pressed to keep things close with most opponents. Looking at the rest of the ACC, however, Syracuse still has plenty of work to do in order to climb out of the cellar.
Virginia Tech 15 ECU 10
Wake Forest 19 UL Monroe 21
Pitt 49 New Mexico 27
USC 35 BC 7
Florida State 62 Nevada 7
Georgia Tech 38 Duke 14
Maryland 32 UConn 21
I'd like to end this with a quick thank you to the Edson family. In case you haven't heard, Rob Edson, the OCC athletic director and formerly of Syracuse Athletics, passed away at the untimely age of 45. Sue, Rob's wife, has always been extremely cooperative with all members of the media. She was extremely patient and understanding with a freshman trying to get credentialed for Bleacher Report. Our condolences to the entire Edson family.