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Final score: Syracuse 62, Albany 24

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Well that escalated quickly...

NCAA Football: Albany at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Syracuse Orange had never faced the Albany Great Danes in football before, and Albany may not want to revisit this matchup anytime soon. Syracuse registered a dominant 62-24 win for SU on Saturday at the Dome, matching the most points scored in a single game under Dino Babers (2018 vs. Wagner).

While the outcome was maybe in question for a handful of minutes in the first quarter following a pick-six for the Great Danes, the afternoon was pretty much all Orange from start to finish.

The fireworks got started with a Sean Tucker touchdown on the first drive, then followed that up with a 56-yard score just three minutes later to make it 14-0. Albany followed that up with a field goal and a deflected pick-six score to cut things to 14-10. But after that, Syracuse reeled off 48 unanswered points before Albany punched in their first offensive TD in the final four minutes. ‘Cuse took a 45-10 lead into halfitme, tying a school record for most points through 30 minutes.

All eyes were on the quarterback battle, and we’ll get to that. But first, Tucker was the man of the day. He amassed 255 total yards and five scores on just 16 touches in the game — and all but a couple of those were in the first half. Incredibly, he could’ve had more too, if not for the team’s rash of penalties (an unacceptable 16 for a loss of 164 yards). The whistles called back several big gains and potentially two touchdowns for the Orange in the first half.

Still, Tucker was a force both on the ground (13 carries for 134 yards and four TDs) and through the air (three grabs for 121 yards and a score). His 72-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown when Syracuse was facing a 3rd and very long was what really sprung the game open as it gave SU a 31-10 lead in the second quarter.

Passing-wise, it was an interesting game for Syracuse. Tommy DeVito started once again, and was 6-of-9 for 147 yards, a touchdown (a 73-yard rope to Damien Alford) and the aforementioned pick, plus 28 yards rushing. Shrader largely had the ball from the second quarter on, and was hot and cold. He completed 11-of-15 for 190 yards and a TD, with a lot of those numbers compiled once the game was already decided. He also picked up 42 yards and two TDs on the ground.

Though Taj Harris didn’t suit up for the game, it didn’t seem to stop SU receivers from collectively having a good day. Beyond Tucker’s numbers, and Alford’s one big reception, Courtney Jackson and Devaughn Cooper each caught three passes. Anthony Queeley and Luke Benson each had two grabs, though Benson’s were both on the first drive before leaving with an injury. Max Mang, Sharod Johnson and Oronde Gadsden also caught passes in this one.

Defensively, things went about how you’d expect against an FCS team. After some early success for Albany throwing screens, things deflated quickly as the gameplan became incredibly one-dimensional. The Orange managed 13 tackles for loss on the day, including eight sacks. with Cody Roscoe leading the way with three. Stefon Thompson, Curtis Harper. Marlowe Wax, Terry Lockett and Josh Black each chipped in one as well.

It was a team effort, though, as the defense buckled down in the first and then continually forced Albany into passing situations. The Great Danes were just 4-of-14 on third down (three of those late in the fourth quarter) and managed only 11 first downs (half of those also late in the fourth). They also averaged 0.2 yards on the ground for the afternoon.

So, that was potentially unexpected given the offensive struggles last week, Babers’s typically conservative approach vs. FCS opponents and the quarterback switching. But we’ll ultimately take it. I don’t think we learned anything about the QB situation with Tommy throwing a much better deep ball and Shrader not cementing a reason why he should start instead. But it was still good to get our first extended look at the former Mississippi State transfer to make sure we know what we have under center before the schedule gets significantly tougher.

Longer recaps to follow today. Nice win, SU.