When starting tackle Ryan Alexander left the Syracuse Orange football team a few days before Florida State, there was a chance it could hurt a group already struggling for offense. But despite that, the game at Doak Campbell Sadium proved to be a mild awakening for the Orange offense as the contest wore on.
The first step to that was filling the hole that Alexander left with his departure. The coaching staff went with freshman tackle Matthew Bergeron, who you would think would be among the first to hear the news.
“I think I was the last one to know,” Bergeron said. “I came to practice and they said: “Matt, you’re team 1.””
Once he knew he was starting, he put pedal to the metal trying to make the adjustment.
“It’s harder when you know you’re actually going to play,” Bergeron added. “Now, I think I’m playing harder.”
The Canadian had played roles on special teams throughout the season, so he was already out as a redshirt candidate. Though he may have been stressed about making the adjustment, it wasn’t apparent to his teammates.
“We believed in Matt,” running back Abdul Adams said. “He had a great fall camp. He came in and learned the system really quickly.”
Bergeron credited senior leaders like guard Evan Adams and center Airon Servais for helping him get up to speed throughout the week and being extra vocal during the Florida State game to keep him on the same page.
Once the front five lined up, they didn’t do enough. The Orange only lost 35-17, but both touchdowns came late in the game when a victory was already out of reach. Nonetheless, the scores were still victories for a unit that has allowed their quarterbacks to get sacked more than any other in the country.
“The O-line did a great job,” said Abdul Adams, who scored one of those touchdowns in the third quarter. “We know what those guys can do, now it’s just about executing.”
Head coach Dino Babers echoed the sentiment.
“I thought for the very first time we had series where it looked like we could actually move the football,” Babers said. “I went back in there and checked and there were a lot more 1s than I thought there were after the game.”
Bergeron also felt that he did well, albeit with room for improvement in things like winning the leverage battle: “I was just happy to be a part of it. Moe (Neal) was going crazy and it just gave me motivation.”
When looking back at the tape and seeing how Bergeron plays, Abdul Adams notices a lot more seasoning.
“(Bergeron) doesn’t play like a young guy,” he said. “It’s like he’s already been here before.”
But there’s always room to get better.
“We want to give up less sacks against Boston College,” Bergeron said. “Communication is something that we need to improve too.”