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Syracuse football: Dino Babers’s Pitt week preview

A devastating injury announcement was the biggest news out of this week’s presser

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 22 Syracuse Orange have stumbled a bit in the toughest portion of their schedule, but Dino Babers’s squad can bounce back this weekend in the Steel City. Here’s what Babers had to say as he begins prepping for the Pitt Panthers:

Injury Updates

Remember last week when I didn’t have to talk about a season-ending injury? I should’ve known it was too good to be true. Dino began his conference by announcing that Garrett Williams has a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season. He had previously sat out the game at Clemson.

It’s yet another huge blow for a ‘Cuse squad losing key contributors left and right. As for Williams, now the question is whether he will end up returning to SU again next year or declare for the NFL Draft. He’ll have a little under 5 months to rehab before the Combine. Seeing as how ‘Cuse alum Andre Cisco worked out fine, getting taken in the third round following his own severe injury, my money is on Garrett not playing another down in an Orange uniform.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Louisville at Syracuse Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Keep an eye on Isaiah Johnson and Jeremiah Wilson to step up at corner in Williams’s absence.

Onto the other Garrett: Babers did not provide a concrete update on Shrader, other than he was originally cleared to play against Notre Dame. He wanted to remain in the game after the 1st half, and it was ultimately Babers’s decision to pull him. For what it’s worth, Shrader was walking around on his own in the 3rd Quarter, but he did not have his helmet on at that point.

When asked about if Shrader or Carlos Del Rio-Wilson would get 1st team reps this week in practice, or if they would split the workload, Babers said it was “too much information” to risk giving out to Pitt Coach Pat Narduzzi. Later on, he did make a comment that makes me believe that there is still a 1st and 2nd team QB this week.

“When you split reps, you normally split performance. So, you really try to do it one (way) or the other.”

Backups: Breakouts or Breakdowns?

Speaking of CDRW, Babers had a lukewarm reaction to his relief performance on Saturday:

“I think he did some good things, and I think he did some bad things,” Babers said.

This comes after Babers gave Del Rio-Wilson a “C” grade in Saturday’s postgame conference. While it wasn’t perfect, throwing for nearly 200 yards in a half, against a very stout ND defense, is a pretty good performance to me. That’s with several obvious drops, and he did the simple stuff right too. It may not seem like much but watch how fluid the handoff to Tucker is below. There’s no hesitation and because of that, it doesn’t give the outside defenders enough time to react and cut off the TD run.

Dino is aware of the drop issue and said that is why the offense has been relying so much on Oronde Gadsden as the main receiving target.

“If somebody wants to be the next receiver, catch the football.”

On the defensive side, the plan is to keep substituting guys in similarly to the Notre Dame game. With some of the heavy hitters sidelined, Dino believes this is the best way to give the unit a fighting chance.

“We have to try to find a way to keep the guys fresh,” Babers said. “It takes a lot of energy to stop the run, and you have to be able to rotate the people that you have.”

The backups playing “ok to good” is what is keeping the defense together right now. He also specifically brought up Kevon Darton for taking a leap in production this year.

Traveling to the Pitt of Misery

The last time Syracuse won a football game in Pittsburgh was when the man, the myth, the Absolute Magician himself Troy Nunes was under center. He didn’t have to do much; the Orange defense came away with three picks and James Mungro had 113 yards and a TD on the ground in the 42-10 victory. It’s been nine straight for the Panthers in their place since.

After the last loss, Babers had his team huddle on the central “S” logo to remind them of what they are playing for. It’s a different approach from when Cuse lost to Pitt in 2020; Dino declined to use his timeouts after the Orange basically squandered their last chance to get back into the game. Since we’ve all agreed to repress memories of that season, it’ll be interesting to see if his new strategy pays off.

Pitt will be a 3:30 kickoff at Heinz Field (soulless corporate name stadium) and televised on ACCN.