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Syracuse football: LeQuint Allen shines in Pinstripe Bowl

Orange fans have a new running back to cheer for

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Syracuse vs Minnesota Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Tucker had two words to say to LeQuint Allen before the Pinstripe Bowl.

“You ready?”

That’s all the motivation Allen needed.

“He just had me hyped when he said that,” said Allen. “I went out there with a chip on my shoulder.”

Allen hit the Yankee Stadium turf running and paced the Syracuse Orange offense that ultimately came up short against the Minnesota Gophers. While the Orange left the Bronx 28-20 losers, one of the big winners of the day was Allen. He rushed for 94 yards on 15 carries and grabbed 11 catches for 60 yards. Allen was the first player for Syracuse this season to reach double-digit receptions. His versatility is what gave Dino Babers the confidence to start Allen.

“He plays the game the right way,” said Babers. “He does not give up, okay?”

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Syracuse vs Minnesota Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

That’s the praise you want to hear from your coach, especially after spending most of the season on the bench. Allen only carried the ball 26 times during the regular season, with most of those coming in garbage time at the end of games. He mainly saw the field as a special teams player, where he wanted to still play even as the starting running back.

“He got mad,” said Babers. “He got mad that I pulled him off of the four special teams he was on… He kept saying, ‘Coach, I can do all four.’”

Syracuse wisely kept Allen just on the offensive side of the ball, and for good reason. Orange fans have been used to the hard, one cut running style of Tucker over the past three seasons. Tucker likes to find a hole created by the offensive line and hit that hole with authority. Allen instead takes the ball around the tackles before making a move upfield.

NCAA Football: Pinstripe Bowl-Syracuse vs Minnesota Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The brute force that Tucker uses to gain some extra yardage in the middle of the field isn’t Allen’s game. It’s an evasion game that starts horizontally and works to the outside. And some older football fans might know a similar running back that was a good outside runner.

Babers tells Allen that he reminds him of that running back. Ironically, they share the same last name - Marcus Allen. The Hall of Fame running back was excellent at moving horizontally in the backfield and getting around the tackles before making his move upfield, which is what his similarly-named counterpart at Syracuse is excellent at.

But running the ball is not the only thing that Allen did well in the Pinstripe Bowl. His receiving skills were on full display to help out the Orange offense. Look at this one play in particular in the third quarter (5:47 in video)

It’s been a while that Syracuse has had a receiver, much less a running back, run a route that crisp. From the press box view, which gave the media a vertical look at the field starting at the left end zone, the space that Allen created on his cut to the sideline appeared immense. Babers said after the game that Allen can catch the football, and as he emphasized that phrase, his eyes went wide and paused to give the statement more meaning.

Some fans were probably worried about the Orange offense with Sean Tucker headed off to the NFL. It seemed like that there was reason to be excited about Syracuse again because of the running back position. It’s been a while since the days of the 44 trio, Larry Csonka and many other great running backs to play in Central New York. Tucker brought the position back to relevance in Syracuse with his electrifying play, and the shoes he left behind to fill were enormous.

But Allen took the first steps to dissuade those fears in the Pinstripe Bowl. And while Syracuse lost, the Orange might not have had a chance to win the game in the first place if a true freshman from New Jersey didn’t set the pace and momentum for the rest of his teammates to follow. You can bet Babers is happy Allen is on his team.

“You get a whole bunch of guys like him, you’re going to be smiling a whole bunch of times when the game is over,” said Babers.