While there were some minor issues here and there, Syracuse’s victory was the second-largest shutout versus the Raiders since a 71-0 in November 1959. That’s nothing to shy at to begin the year - Syracuse got the job done in promising fashion, just like it needed to do (add in that the Orange reached 677 total yards on offense, a program record).
There was lots of questions that needed some answers heading into the Orange’s season opener, and we’ve got 60 minutes worth of game time to dissect.
With all that in mind, here are the three main takeaways from Syracuse’s opening win:
Shrader begins his return to form
Heading into the season opener, most eyes were on Shrader’s performance coming off the offseason right arm procedure, and it’s fair to say that he looked pretty solid in his 2023 debut.
Shrader finished 18/24 in the air with four passing touchdowns (and a poorly-timed interception with seconds left in the first half). He did play the first offensive drive to begin the third quarter (much against our sanity), but he capped off Saturday’s play with four straight completions and a touchdown throw to Umari Hatcher (four catches for 105 yards and a touchdown on the day).
Garrett Shrader throwing on the run— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) September 2, 2023
44-yards to Isaiah Jones for the TD. Orange up 30-0.
Shrader’s scrambling ability looked good as always and the Orange’s fast-paced tempo on offense looked as promising as last year. The biggest sign of improvement was doing a better job reading his options in front of him (rather than staying target-locked to one receiver), and he was noticeably more comfortable looking down the field for the deep-ball.
On that note, something else that was a great sight to see was the receiving options Shrader has around him. Yes, Oronde Gadsden (six catches, 57 yards and a touchdown) will be Shrader’s main target during the year. Shrader targeted the AP All-American on his first five throws and seven of his first eight. But he, Hatcher, Damian Alford, Isaiah Jones and Donovan Brown all had their moments, and it’s clear this is a position with much depth.
The arm looked to be fine, and best of all, Shrader produced in the air and on the ground - a combo which brings tremendous value to Syracuse’s offense.
Concerns with the O-Line are legitimate
Syracuse is noticeably deep in a lot of spots on offense, but one of the biggest questions marks remind the offensive line.
That manifested versus Colgate, where multiple false starts plagued Syracuse early, and the protection was solid but too inconsistent. The pocket collapsed too soon and too often, and while Shrader was able to make plays in scramble situations, that won’t hold up over the course of the season once ACC play starts. Even with the backups in the game and Carlos Del-Rio Wilson under center, the pocket fell apart within seconds:
Guard Chris Bleich was noticeably disappointing versus the Raiders, and the line definitely needs some work building up some consistency if the Orange’s offensive weapons like LeQuint Allen (16 carries, 113 yards and a touchdown) can actually produce at their full potential.
This team will only be good as its protection on offense and its discipline (seven penalties for 60 yards versus Colgate).
The Mob Returns
One side of the ball with the least questions marks is the defense, one of the Orange’s best assets in the past few years.
Syracuse held Colgate to just 106 total yards on Saturday, including 54 yards on 38 rushing attempts for the Raiders. The defensive line looks energetic and provided extra pressure against the Raiders, while Jeremiah Wilson and Greg Delaine each ended up with an interception on the day.
There wasn’t much to analyze in pass coverage since Colgate never really aired the ball down field, but the Orange’s pressure in the pocket was promising and will really be needed later on in the season.
Syracuse’s defense is talented but definitely top-heavy. Alijah Clark briefly leaving the game from an early ding was heart-quenching for Syracuse fans because a few injuries can easily turn a great defense into a solid one, and the Orange can afford little regression on that side of the ball.
But all in all, Saturday was a solid performance for the defense and mostly for the rest of the team. Western Michigan is up next on the docket for Syracuse next weekend.
Now it’s your turn: what stood out to you from Syracuse’s 65-0 win over Colgate?