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Syracuse football: sacrificing for the greater good

The final game personified the identity of this group

Wake Forest v Syracuse Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

When we look back at this Syracuse Orange season, the 6-6 record won’t tell us the story of the 2023 Orange. Through all the ups and downs, these last few weeks have given some of the Syracuse players a chance to leave their legacy.

We wondered how the Orange would respond after the firing of Dino Babers and while the win over Wake Forest wasn’t pretty, it showed the character of this team.

Garrett Shrader dealing with whatever injury limited last week came back this week and willed his way to a 10-15 passing day with 3 touchdowns through the air while adding 46 yards and a touchdown on the ground. On a day where the Syracuse offense was 14-19 on 3rd and 4th downs, a lot of that success was thanks to the selfless Shrader.

LeQuint Allen carried 32 times for 144 yards as he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark. We learned after the game that Allen attended the captains meetings this week and after a summer where his status was unknown, his rise to respected leader is a testament to his character.

Dan Villari carried the ball 13 times for 51 yards, caught a touchdown pass and completed both his passing attempts for 51 yards and another score. From switching positions before the season, then playing multiple roles the final month, Villari has earned free meals and drinks in Syracuse for life.

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

How about Damien Alford? Often maligned for inconsistency, he stepped up in his final home game with 4 receptions for 126 yards and two scores. Umari Hatcher added another TD reception.

Justin Barron playing with one hand made seven tackles to tie Marlowe Wax for the team lead. Safety Jason Simmons has been on the wrong end of big plays this year, but when the MOB needed a play to secure the win, it was Simmons making an interception on Wake’s final offensive play.

Credit to the Syracuse coaching staff. It’s not easy to show up and prepare knowing that the future of you and your family is in flux. You can see the respect that the players and coaches had for one another. Watching them celebrate the victory together is something they deserved.

Earning the right to extend their season by one more game might not be the greatest reward, but when we look back at the 2023 Syracuse Orange football team, we should remember a group who fought to the end.

I have a feeling the next couple of weeks for Syracuse are going to be like when a team gets eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs and you learn that half of them are heading to major surgeries to repair injuries they played through for weeks. To put aside the pain, to put aside the loss of their head coach, and to dig in and find a way to win is something we shouldn’t take lightly.