After a well-deserved week off, the No. 18 Syracuse Orange begin their prep for a battle with No. 15 NC State. We continue this week’s coverage of ‘Cuse football with the latest from Head Coach Dino Babers:
A Top-20 Clash Over 20 Years Overdue
Babers was hoping for a top-20 ranking, and now that his squad has that, he said the Orange “have to go out and prove that we deserve the faith that everybody’s putting in us.”
This kind of matchup has been a long time coming in Syracuse. The last time two ranked teams played in the Dome was back in 2001, when then No. 22 ‘Cuse hosted No. 25 Boston College. It’s been even longer since both teams were in the Top 20. For that, you’d have to go back to the 1998 season opener against eventual National Champion Tennessee.
Syracuse is expecting its biggest crowd of the season so far, with Director of Athletics John Wildhack announcing that over 40,000 tickets have already been sold.
Here's what a ticket map with over 40,000 sold for Syracuse-NC State looks like. Still tickets in the upper deck, but not much below. pic.twitter.com/44IYimdzAG— Brent Axe (@BrentAxeMedia) October 10, 2022
Babers said that the crowd noise through the first four home games is nothing compared to what it can be in the next game.
“You’re having a conversation with me after the game and your voice is not gone?” Babers said regarding other coaches. “That’s not loud. Wait until you get 40-something.”
Another week, another season-ending injury. I wish I was joking. This time it’s true freshman Denis Jaquez that Dino announced won’t return this year. Although he wasn’t starting, Jaquez was much-needed depth in the team’s thinnest position group. He’ll redshirt and return to compete for time on the D-Line in 2023.
In better news, Sean Tucker is still operating without an injury designation. Babers said that his lead RB practiced normally on Sunday. LB Derek McDonald also has a chance to return and is marked as a potential starter on this week’s depth chart.
Overcoming the Post-Bye Blues
During Dino’s tenure, the Orange have struggled in games following a bye. He has two goals in mind following a week off: come back healthy and fresh, and don’t be stale.
“We need to make sure that we work hard enough that we get back into game speed really quick.”
He also added that he is not letting performances from last year, both coming out of the bye against Louisville and against NC State the following week, dictate his approach this season.
“A lot of their guys have played a lot of games, and a lot of our guys have played a lot of games and they know each other,” Babers said. “The only thing we don’t know is how much they’ve improved in the last 12 months, and what they don’t know is how much we’ve improved in the last 12 months. But we do have a very good understanding of each other.”
Prepping for the Pack
NC State is dealing with its own injury woes. QB Devin Leary left last week’s game early with a shoulder injury and is questionable for this week. He is still listed as QB1 on the latest depth chart. During his own presser yesterday, Wolfpack Head Coach Dave Doeren didn’t exactly give a straight answer on Leary’s status moving forward:
Doeren says QB Devin Leary's shoulder injury will not require surgery. "Rehab-able injury and that starts today" but said "There isn't a timeline. It could be this week or it could be six weeks."— ️♈️ (@ADavidHaleJoint) October 10, 2022
Says Leary "is tough & will grind" and says he won't answer any more Qs on injury.
Our friends over at Bringing the Pack think Leary will end up missing this week. Two of the other top offensive weapons, RB Demie Sumo-Karngbaye and WR Devin Carter, are expected to play on Saturday. Whether they do suit up for the Pack or not, Babers is reminding his men that they’re “playing a football team, not a bunch of individuals,” meaning they need to be prepared for whoever lines up on the other side of the ball.
“We’re always striving for perfection, even though we know we may not catch it.”
The Orange opened up as slight favorites over the Wolfpack and are in a position to earn bowl eligibility for the first time in 2018. Ironically enough, it was a 51-41 win over NC State that got SU to six victories that year. Will history repeat itself?
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 on Saturday. It’s both part of family weekend on campus and the day of a special Ring of Honor ceremony for the three men that made the Legend of 44: Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and Floyd Little. Their names were painted on the visiting side of the field, below the upper deck, as part of the 2020 renovations. Due to COVID protocols, no fans were present for their unveiling. This time, there will be plenty on hand for the ceremony, including the families of all three Orange Legends.