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Syracuse football: players not fazed by upcoming challenge in Clemson

The Orange are ready to rise to the occasion

NCAA Football: Louisville at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the time of year that Syracuse Orange fans both love and dread: Clemson week. The ‘Cuse players are just as aware of the hype behind their next game as the rest of us. Here’s what they said about this battle of undefeated programs:

Isaiah Johnson

  • On playing for Syracuse as a transfer senior: “It’s a dream come true. When you start playing football as a young kid, you dream about playing that big Power 5 football, and playing on the big stages. So getting a chance to continue my football career at a Power 5, with better talent and more competition, is definitely something I’ve been looking forward to.”
  • On the team exceeding expectations: “We just carry it as a chip on our shoulder.”
  • On facing Clemson: “Everybody is excited for the opportunity ahead of us. 1-0 is what we keep telling each other, and that’s what has gotten us this far.... These are the games you pray for.
  • “When it comes to injuries, there’s no 1s, there’s no 2s. Everybody’s ready to step up.”
  • “All the older guys, especially ‘Kel, have been carrying me along... The Mob is like a family.
  • He ended our interview by shouting out his parents and family for supporting him along the way.

Marlowe Wax

  • Not concerned with Clemson’s long home winning streak. “They don’t know what we bring to the table.”
  • “It’s great right now, but if we lose the rest of the games and go 6-6, nobody’s going to care about starting 6-0.... It’s all about what you finish with.”
  • On Saturday’s 49k+ crowd: “It was definitely loud in there. I appreciate Otto’s Army and everybody that came out.”
  • Said Will Shipley’s pass-catching ability separates him from other RBs the Orange have faced this year.
NC State v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Andre Szmyt

  • Feelings on the season so far: “It’s incredible. You can’t ask for more. We’re undefeated, but the past is in the past. We’re trying to live every week and just be in the present.”
  • On how this year compares to 2018: “I’ll save that reflecting for after the season.”
  • “For as long as I remember, being here six years, we play (Clemson) pretty close... I’m just going to do my part and make field goals and help my team win on our third of the ball.
  • Said Coach Ligashesky has made a huge difference in how the special teams unit prepares. “He instills that kind of, ‘Hey, this is like a game.’ Feel that pressure during the week, so when you go out there on Saturday, you feel like you’ve already been there.”
  • On the capacity crowd: “It gives us juice to go out there and play the best football we can. I hope it’s sold out for the rest of the year.”

Matthew Bergeron

  • “The biggest challenge is their defensive front. They’ve got four guys who could be in the NFL next year, so we’ve got to bring our ‘A’ Game.”
  • Bergeron hinted at an aggressive gameplan: “You’ve got to go down to Clemson not playing cautious.”
  • On offense’s performance as a whole against NC State: “I think everyone just got back in their groove.” Says Sean Tucker is “back to where he was” entering the season.
  • Credits Garrett Shrader for making up for a missed assignment on Tucker’s TD run. “It just shows the identity of our team: Every guy is going to bust their ass off until the end... We’ll do anything to win.”

Oronde Gadsden

  • Gadsden was Shrader’s favorite target again last Saturday, often being targeted right after other receivers missed potential catches. “I pride myself on not dropping the ball.”
  • Said his success this year is thanks to connection with Shrader and new assistant coaches helping him better read zone defense.
  • “I consider myself a football player.” Not leaning more towards either the TE or WR position.
NC State v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

Mikel Jones

  • Said there’s only a couple guys who have experienced a full Death Valley, but they all agree it’s as loud as others say it is.
  • Doesn’t feel that defense will struggle to communicate.
  • Mikel cramped up a bit in the 4th quarter of the last game, but he’s good to go now. “I feel great!” he said with a grin.
  • Reserve players still getting enough reps in practice is a big part of why they’ve succeeded when called into action.

NOTE: Garrett Shrader and Sean Tucker were not available for the general media this week. Sean had a one-on-one interview with another outlet and looked fine from the brief glimpse that I got.