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Syracuse football: Orange proving leadership matters

Veterans remained poised on the road

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

A lot of Syracuse Orange fans aren’t surprised that the team is 3-0 at this point in the season. Coming into the 2023 season we knew that despite losing several key contributors, the Orange were returning a lot of production from last season’s 7-6 squad.

On Saturday night at Purdue, many of the veterans stepped up and made key plays to keep Syracuse undefeated. After a shanked punt, Purdue got the ball in great field position on their opening drive. The Boilermakers drove down the field and had a 2nd and 1 from the 5 yard line. Senior safety Justin Barron shot the gap and stopped Tyrone Tracy for no gain. Then, with Purdue going for 4th and 2 Barron came up and stripped the ball from Hudson Card keeping the Boilermakers off the board and the sold-out crowd quiet.

After that stop quarterback Garrett Shrader was moving the Orange down field when his pass to an open Umari Hatcher was dropped, bringing up a 3rd and long outside field goal range. Shrader kept his poise under pressure and escaped the pocket (assisted by a Dan Villari screen) to pick up the first down and allow Syracuse to get the first points of the game, a lead they never relinquished.

Barron, Shrader and Marlowe Wax, another Syracuse captain made crucial plays all night long. Wax and Barron combined to make 14 solo tackles, force three fumbles and it was Barron’s deflection which led to Wax’s interception. The patched together offensive line anchored by Chris Bleich played a solid game and avoided any drive-killing penalties.

On a night where the Orange faced a pivotal contest on their quest to secure a second-straight bowl bid, it was the seniors on the team who kept calm hands on the wheel and were able to steer the Syracuse boat away from calamity. We’ve all seen games quickly slip away after a single mistake. The Orange didn’t let a choppy start, get them off course.

At 3-0, Syracuse is half-way to the initial goal of the season, bowl eligibility, with loftier dreams still visible on the horizon.