Hunt, defense impresses in SU blowout victory

Terrel Hunt took over for Drew Allen early in SU's 54-0 victory over Wagner and immediately breathed life into a hapless Syracuse offense.

Three possessions, no first downs. The Syracuse offense started its home-opener much like it has all season: without much momentum or rhythm. But with the substitution of Terrel Hunt at the quarterback position, that all changed. Hunt’s first five possessions all resulted in touchdowns, as Syracuse routed Wagner 54-0 in Scott Shafer’s first career victory.

Photo: Lenny Christopher
Syracuse running back, George Morris II, breaks free against Wagner in SU's home opener.

Syracuse finished with 597 yards, while only allowing 87, in a dominant win that was never truly in question.

“The thing I’m most proud about is we played a lot of schools like this [in previous seasons] and we didn’t kick their tails like we should in my opinion,” Shafer said, “and I thought today was the way it should be. Shafer added that he wanted to win in a “pretty” fashion. 

Hunt’s poise and confident demeanor made the Syracuse offense look polished. He looked off receivers, kept plays alive with his feet and even showed a deft touch throwing deep, which was typically considered his weakness. Upon entering the game, Hunt said the offense was too tight and he told his teammates to “go out there and have fun.”

“I was really proud of the way he moved around in the pocket and made plays with his feet,” Shafer said. “I thought he had some moxie, some sense to him which I’m really excited about.”

Wide receiver Jarrod West was one of the benefactors of Hunt’s rhythm. The junior was targeted early by Drew Allen, but it wasn’t until the quarterback change that West was able to create separation and find space. West finished the game with five catches and 147 yards and a touchdown, despite playing with a heavy heart. 

Just this morning, Shafer said, West found out his grandfather had passed away. Before the game, West said a prayer, telling his grandfather that West would meet him in the endzone. With a 65-yard touchdown catch, West did just that.

“I was really happy to see that he played well and overcame a difficult situation,” Shafer said.

The Orange defense imposed its will on the Seahawks, controlling the line of scrimmage and getting after the quarterback. Until the fourth quarter, Wagner was averaging less than a yard per play. The secondary hounded receivers and the defensive line clogged running lanes. Syracuse allowed only five first downs, which is something Shafer said he values highly.

Senior defensive lineman Jay Bromley finished with three tackles for loss, including a forced fumble that Syracuse recovered. In total, the Orange had an impressive seven tackles for a loss. Defensive back Durell Eskridge and linebacker Cameron Lynch both caught an interception. The defense showcased playmaking skills and a demeanor that was missing in its previous games. Players were flying around the field chest bumping each other and celebrating stops. 

It’s a defense that Shafer said was upset after last week’s poor performance against Northwestern. The defense’s newfound energy was “a culmination of being upset and frustrated because we didn’t get a victory in those first two and going back to work,” Shafer said.

After the five consecutive scores spurred by the Hunt substitution, Syracuse sailed to a 37-0 halftime lead. The Orange executed in the redzone, going 6-for-7, and showed big play ability with multiple long gains. But it’s important for SU to stay grounded, Shafer said, and not get too high emotionally after such a blowout.

After the game, Shafer said a Lou Holtz quote, saying “it’s never as good as it seems, and it’s never as bad as it seems.” But the rookie coach did get emotional following his first career win. 

“It felt great to turn around and see my son Wolfgang back there,” Shafer said before stopping, visibly emotional. 

Shafer said he would have to go back and look at film before naming a starting quarterback for next week’s game against Tulane, but added that it would be hard not to give Hunt the edge. “It’s a long season,” Shafer said. “We have to be able to win with either of them.”

Following the win, Shafer seemed eager to get back to work in preparation of Tulane. “Let’s get number two as fast as possible,” he said.

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