A Syracuse win over Central Michigan seemed assured by early in the fourth quarter on Saturday. And yet, nearly the entire first-team offense was still out on the field through the Orange's final offensive drive, which wrapped up with under a minute to play. That included SU quarterback Terrel Hunt, who was running the ball and taking hits through the final touchdown (which he carried into the end zone himself).
As Syracuse.com's Chris Carlson asked yesterday: Why was Terrel Hunt running the ball with 59 seconds left in a blowout win?
It's not a weird question at all. Most of us were asking the same thing in the comments during the game. We continue in that vein today, taking on the role of the coaching staff.
Should Hunt have been pulled earlier? And what would you have done as a coaching staff, given that the first-team offense really didn't get a ton of reps together in week one?
Jared Smith: Yes, he should have been pulled much earlier. Honestly, I don't think he should have played at all in the fourth quarter.
Look, I get Scott Shafer's explanation but the game was well out of hand and there's no reason why this team should have had a starter in the game in the fourth quarter unless it was to rotate in to give the backups a quick breath. Syracuse did its job, got a big lead on the road and the Chips were down by four possessions heading into the fourth. That team wasn't making a comeback even against our second-stringers.
One of the biggest ways I decided if a coach should decided to pull a starter is this: 1) If this player had been out of the game to start and we had this big of a lead would I feel uncomfortable about us blowing the lead? (No way, right?); 2) If this player gets hurt, how much is it going to hurt our team down the road? (In this case, it would be a BIG freakin deal.)
This team can get reps in practice and didn't need to do it in a game where the Chips were down and probably not caring much. Shafer should get some flack for this because I was giving it to him too.
Sean Keeley: Normally I'd be of the mind that every starter should have been pulled by no later than the mid-fourth quarter. BUT, in a weird way, I feel like it still made sense to let everyone play out the game here.
Just because this game was out of reach and the team looked great, that doesn't mean we'll do the same thing this week against Maryland. And certainly not against ND, Louisville, FSU and Clemson. Live game experience is invaluable for this team and especially for this offense. Give me every single actual game snap you can possibly give me before FSU comes to the Dome and we visit Clemson.
I'd even argue we should have let CMU come all the way back and tie it up so we could go to overtime and get more snaps. Maybe that's a tad ludicrous but I just feel like, in this instance, I'm okay with risking it in order to give Terrel Hunt and his offense a few more live game experiences to put in their tool belt.
John Cassillo: Oddly, I'm okay with the starters being out there -- but only because of the fact that the Villanova game was such a lost game for this offense's development. Things were just warming up against the Wildcats when Hunt got pulled, which completely threw a wrench in their normal function for the remainder of the game. So in terms of getting reps together, this was a perfect opportunity to do just that.
But I don't know if I'd have put my quarterback in harm's way like that. Of course, Hunt's a tough guy to take down, but it doesn't mean those hits don't have an impact. Yes, we were testing out our short yardage offense to see if we could fix some issues -- which I do support -- but if Hunt had suffered a broken hand or something while scoring that meaningless one-yard TD, was it worth it? I know this is all kind of pointless to wonder about. But if we end up in this situation again, I'd like to think we're a bit more cautious with Hunt, who's obviously the most important piece of this offense.
Thoughts? Would you have pulled Hunt and the rest of the offense much earlier? Or maybe you would have run out some different plays, just to get some work in on some deep or mid-range passing routes? Coach away in the comments.