Then and Now 2023 football: The Schedule | Syracusefan.com

Then and Now 2023 football: The Schedule

SWC75

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The Schedule

Then:

4PM Saturday September 2nd Colgate at the Dome

I’ve said for years that we should open in the Dome against Colgate every year. Enough of Wagner, Stony Brook, Central Connecticut, etc. Colgate is a respectable FCS program and sometimes more than that and it’s one we have a history with. Colgate fans would arrive in busloads, as they always used to in the old days. The all-time series is 31-31-5, believe it or not. We lost our first three games to the Red Raiders and were down 15-31-5 when they last won in 1950. We finally caught them in Dino’s first game here in 2016. We’ve never had the lead in the series but should be able to take it back this year.

Last year was not a vintage year for Colgate, going 3-8. QB Michael Brescia passed for 1,656 yards and ran for 753 more, accounting for 20TDs. He was sacked 27 times. The ‘Gate only registered 10 sacks. If they can’t get to Shrader, they’ll be in big trouble.


Now:

The Raiders were in big trouble, for many reasons, and we annihilated them 65-0. That was the third quarter score. We could easily have topped what the 1959 team did to them, (72-0). Maybe we shouldn’t start off each season with Colgate, (which won’t prevent me from suggesting it again). Total yardage was 677-106, first downs 34-7. “Winning plays” were 127-62 = +65, a margin only topped by our two notorious games vs. Wagner. Colgate wound up losing their first four games, the other three FCS powers Villanova, Pennsylvania and Holy Cross, then won 6 of their last 7 games to wind up 6-5. I wish we’d won 6 of our last 7 games…

Then:

3:30PM Saturday September 9th Western Michigan at the Dome

The Broncos gave us a tough ride when former SU OC Tim Lester was there. We beat them 55-42, (after a 34-7 halftime lead), and 52-33 in 2018-19. But Lester’s gone – after his first losing season. (Dino Babers is glad we have no such standards here). Louisville OC Lance Taylor has taken over and he’s got his work cut out for him. He’s got to find a new QB and RB and also lost his top receiver and has only two starters on defense. One is CB Kent-H Lovely, 3rd team all MAC and first team all-name team. An opposing MAC assistant coach: “It’s going to be a really rough first year…give the dude some time.”


Now:

This one started with a shocker, a 75 yard burst on the first play by Jalen Buckley to give the visitors a 0-7 lead. The rest of the game was the Colgate game all over: 48-7 at halftime. Garrett Shrader and his receivers were playing catch. We didn’t bother to score in the second half and WMU couldn’t so that wound up the final. They yardage in this game was much closer: 496-318, first downs 26-15. Winning plays were 109-76 = +33. We did it on quick strikes, including the 86 yard scramble and YAC to Donovan Brown I referred to before. Shrader and Del Rio-Wilson passed for 343 yards. Western wound up 4-8, beating St. Francis of Pa., Ball State and two directional Michigans. We were playing weak opposition but crushing them like a truly powerful team would do.

Then:

7:30PM Saturday September 16th Purdue at Ross-Aide Stadium TV: NBC

It was great to start 6-0 last year but it could easily have been 4-2, followed by that 5 game losing streak and no bowl. Fortunately we pulled out the Purdue and Virginia games with late scores. The finale of the Purdue game was set up by ridiculous string of 5 unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the last minute of play by Purdue: they basically handed the game to us. They went on to win the Big Ten West. Now, a year later we are traveling to their place, a place of bad memories for Syracuse fans. Paul Pasqualoni’s final season opened with a 0-51 disaster there.

The Boilermakers lost their coach, Jeff Brohm, who returned to his alma matter, Louisville, (who we will not play this year for the first time in several years). They also lost their great QB, Aidan O’Connell and their equally great receiver, Charley Jones, who gave Garrett Williams fits last year, catching 11 balls for 188 yards and two scores. So they may be weaker than last year. Or maybe not.

They picked up a transfer from Texas, Hudson Card, who was a sensation in their spring game at QB. Devin Mockobee ran for 968 yards and 9 scores. Four fifths of the line are back. TJ Sheffield will be the main target after 46/480/4 last year. New coach Ryan Walters was the DC at Illinois last year, where they had the best scoring defense (12.8ppg) in the nation and 3rd best in yardage, (273.5), last year. If he can duplicate those numbers and have the normally productive Purdue offense as well, this could be a very formidable team.


Now:

They weren’t, although they weren’t easy for us to beat. We stayed ahead of them the whole game but it was 28-20 until Shrader ran for his fourth touchdown with 3:19 left. But his most beautiful fake of a night of beautiful fakes came with 1:08 left from our 24. He was the only guy on his side of the field and could have run for a 5th score. But he elected to take a slide at the Purdue 37 in case he might get caught and roughed up. We just ran out the clock on a solid 35-20 win. The Shredder ran for 195 yards and passed for 184 more as we out-gained the Boilermakers 455-403, (Card passed for 323 yards). Plays were close: 96-88. Purdue stumbled to a 4-8 record but they did beat Virginia Tech, Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana. It was a good road win.

Then:

TBA Saturday September 23rd Army at the Dome

Not only should we open each season against Colgate in the Dome but we should have a regular series with Army, who is just down the Thruway. We played Navy annually for years – why not Army?
I’ve heard several people call into sports talk shows warning about Army, who has had a great deal of success under Jeff Monken, who has gone 64-49 there since he took over in 2014, including an 11-2 and a 10-3 season and two 9 win seasons. But the warning was about Army’s triple-option running game, which can wear a defense down. The thing is, Monken is moving to a shotgun attack with one running back. If anyone can bring a passing offense to Army a guy like Monken could do it but he’s working with players who came here with the idea they were going to run the triple option. An opposing coach: “It’s a huge risk and hey have to be careful how fast they do it.” Maybe this is like Boeheim saying he’ll try a man-for-man and we wind up with 100% zone. Army may revert to the triple option by the time we play them.

Their one returning quarterback is Bryson Dailey, who had touchdown runs of 64 and 54 yards but only attempted one pass. He had four RBs who averaged 4.8 yards per carry but they are competing for one spot. They do have a talented wide-out in 6-4 200 Isaiah Alston who has 38 catches for 718 yards and 4 scores in two years- against defenses focusing on the option. Their defense gets back Leo Lowin, a 100 tackle middle linebacker. Quinn Maretzki kicked 8 of 10 field goals, including the game tier and game winner vs. Navy.


Now:

Army looked a lot like they usually, do, trying to grind things out with their running game, keeping SU’s offense on the bench for long periods. They had a 17 play, 75 yards drive to take a 0-7 first quarter lead and a 19 play 64 yard second quarter drive where we held them to a field goal. Our offense couldn’t take advent age of their rare opportunities and the best we could get a 46 yard FG from Brady Denaburg. This produced a rather glum halftime, at least in the stands. In the second half the more talented team took over and scored 26 unanswered points before the Cadets shocked us with a 80 yard TD pass with 2:32 to go. We then stopped a two point conversion for a 29-16 final. We out-gained Army 403-270 and ever wound up out-rushing them 158-125. We won 87 plays to 74. We’d swept the non-conference season for the first time in memory and were averaging 44 points a game, although we could have had more if we wanted it. We were a pretty potent football team. (Army finished 6-6 including a 0-62 debacle at LSU.)

Then:

TBA Saturday September 30th Clemson at the Dome

Our 27-24 win over the Tigers in the Dome in 2017 is the signature win of the Dino Babers Era, one we have been trying to duplicate ever since. It bears a lot of resemblance to our most famous upset- over Nebraska in 1984. Clemson was #2. They had no reason to think they would have any problem with us. They did, we stayed in it and made the plays at the end to win the game. Then the next year we almost beat them in their own place and we almost did it again last year. In 2021, we lost to them here 14-17. The other games since 2018 have been 6-41 and 21-47. That’s a pretty good record against a program that’s disappointed when they aren’t at least in the national championship playoff.

The problem is, we’ll never be able to sneak up on them again, at least not in this era. We’ll get both barrels of the Tigers each time. It helps if they’ve got quarterback problems and we don’t. Their offense never jelled under 5 star DJ Uiagalelei, (although we’d love Shrader to have 22TD passes and 7 interceptions, as DJ did last year). His replacement is another 5 star, (of course), Cade Klubnik. He’s got two excellent running backs to hand off to, first team all-American Will Shipley (210/1162/15) and his “would start for anyone else” back-up Phil Mafah (98/515/4). Antonio Williams, (56/604/4 – as a freshman), is the leading receiver. They’ve got four starters back in their line, which basically won the game against us by opening the way for 293 yards on 60 carries and 3 scores. They can do that again.

There’s hasn’t been anything wrong with Clemson’s defense in a long time. They lost their two defensive ends but get back both tackles, star linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., (son of the Eagles former all-pro linebacker) and the entire two deep in the secondary, including emerging star Nate Wiggins.


Now:

This was a hard-hitting game in which we mostly held our own with a disappointing but still very potent Clemson team. The game came down to turnovers. There were four of them, each producing a touchdown, (indirectly). We got one of them. They got three of them and won by 17, 14-31. People link this game to what followed but this was a very different game. We got out-gained 281-389, outran 100-126 and out-passed 181-263. First downs were 14-21. The Tigers took a 7-21 halftime lead. We got it to 14-24 with a Shrader to Allen TD pass with 12:32 left. Phil Maffa scored from 32 yards out after an interception with 6:38 left. We forced a punt but couldn’t negotiate 95 yards at the end. The play everyone remembers because it seemed to be a turning point in a season soon to be dominated by injuries: Garret Shrader took a helmet-to-helmet hit the referees refused to call and didn’t seem to be his normal self the rest of the game – or season. The better team won decisively but this wasn’t a blow-out. I still felt we had a good team and would have a chance to pull off a big upset at North Carolina or Florida State and end the game with a winning streak as the schedule, to use Dino Baber’s term “levelled off”. (Clemson won their last five games to finish 9-4.)

Then:

TBA Saturday October 7th North Carolina at Kenan Stadium

We opened the 2021 season at Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels had a Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback named Sam Howell. We hung with them for 3 quarters, (6-10) before the Heels closed us out with three fourth quarter scores, 6-31. Sam was 25 for 34 for 295 yards but only one score. The fourth quarter scores were all short runs by Javonte Williams. Our offense never got going Tommy DeVito was 13 for 31 for 112 yards and was sacked 7 times while our runners totaled 68 yards on 35 carries. Now we go there again to play them and they have another Heisman candidate QB in Drake Maye who put up Howell-like numbers last year (342/517 .662 4,321y 38TD 7int: he also ran for 698 yards and 7 scores), so it’s easy to imagine the same thing happening to SU this year.

Maye lost his top three wide-outs to the NFL and will rebuild his passing game with transfers. They have “a talented trio of tight ends” (Athlon) led by Kamari Morales (29/358/4). Elijah Green (131/558/8) is the top RB. Interesting that a guy with Maye’s passing numbers is also his team’s leading rusher.

The big difference between now and 2020 is that the Heel’s defense stinks. Last year they were 101st in the country in scoring and 115th in yardage – and passing yardage. They’ve got transfers manning the secondary. They had only 17 sacks last year. Linebackers Cedric Gray and Power, (great name!) Echols hit the 100 tackle mark, maybe because the guys in front of them weren’t making very many of them.

Clemson-North Carolina- Florida State is supposed to be the ‘gauntlet’ in the middle of the season that is unlikely to produce any wins for SU. UNC may be a weak point in this run, one where we could pick up an unexpected victory. We should be able to score, too and we can play some ‘D’.


Now:

We did neither. The Tar Heels looked like a potential national champion in rolling over us like we weren’t even there. We looked nothing like the team of the first five games. It was 0-27 at halftime and finished 7-40. The Heels outgained us 221-644. They out-rushed us 92-202 and out-passed us 129-442. First downs were 11-33. Plays were 76-106. They’d turned us into Colgate. We were just in awe of UNC but for the first time wondered who we were. That became an even bigger question with subsequent events. Not only did we continue to get dominated but the supposedly invincible Heels, after besting U of Miami to go 6-0, stumbled to an 8-5 finish. Was it them or was it us?

Then:

TBA Saturday October 14th Florida State at Doak-Campbell Stadium

The Seminoles won national championships in 1993, 1999 and 2013 while arch-rival Miami won them in 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991 and 2001. Together they should have been two aircraft carriers leading the ACC into battle with the SEC for title of top conference. But both programs slipped into mediocrity and it was actually Clemson who carried the flag on the conference on the national scene. Last year FSU started to look more like the old ‘Noles, as they did when they demolished the Orange in the Dome, 3-38. We had some chances to beat them in recent years and actually did it in 2018, (30-7 in the Dome), but the window appears to be closing. I recall when we lost to their #1 ranked 1991 team in Tallahassee one local reporter noted that the 82 man SU roster included 21 players from New York State and the 103 man FSU roster included 89 players from Florida. It’s hard to compete with a school where the guys they – and everyone else - want live just down the street.

One galling thing is that their star defensive player is defensive end Jared Verse, who was playing for Albany when we played them two years ago in the Dome. He was all over the field and even caught Sean Tucker from behind. Dino Babers went over to “congratulate” him after the game. It was obvious he belonged in D1 and Syracuse seemed the logical destination. But film of that performance reached the internet and FSU Coach Mike Norvell saw it and recruited him to State, where he was first team all-ACC last year and will likely be first team All-American this year. He was on the losing side in the Albany game, (62-24) but on the winning side of the 3-38 game. He was likely to be a high pick in the NFL draft but elected to stay another year at FSU so he could beat us again. ☹

Norvell has rebuilt the Noles with transfers. They got DT Braden Fiske from another SU opponent, Western Michigan, (59t, 12TFL, 6 sacks), Darrell Jackson from Miami, (27/4.5/3) and Gilber Edmund, (39/9/2) from South Carolina looking for another gold nugget. Verse’s opposite number, Patrick Payton was the ACC’s defensive rookie of the year with 31/6/5. These guys get after you. They have four starters back in the secondary, including all-ACC Fentrell Cypress II, (love the names).

The star on offense is QB Jordan Travis (226/353/3214/24/5). When he decided not to jump to the pros, top receiver Johnny Wilson (43/897/5) and top running back Trey Benson (154/990/9) also decided to stay. Travis is best remembered by Syracuse fans for being the beneficiary of a hold that was never called against us two years ago, a non-call so egregious it was shown- and mocked - all over the country. He also got a call on Marlowe Wax that he was hit out of bounds when the replay showed he wasn’t, causing Wax to back off of him to avoid a similar call on a subsequent play, allowing Travis to gain another ten yards. We lost 30-33. You don’t forget those things. But we’re unlikely to get revenge this year.


Now:

A week later, it happened again. In this one we gave more of a fight, only being down 3-17 at the half. Our problems were more on offense than defense. Eventually, the defense got tired and the roof gave in and we lost by an even bigger score, 3-41. We were out-grained by less 261-535 but lost the plays 61-116, even worse than UNC. At least FSU went on to win the conference and go 13-0 until the playoff committee snubbed them and half the team declared for the pros and hit the portal and they had to deal with Georgia. At least our three game gauntlet for Clemson, UNC and FSU was over. We even had 12 days until the next game. Now we could start the season closing winning streak we all looked forward to and put the bad memories behind us.

Then:

7:30PM Thursday October 26th Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium

Garrett Shrader and Damien Alford return to the scene of their dramatic victory of two years ago:


Can they duplicate that – or will they need to? The once-powerful Hokies went 3-8 last year. They’ve yet to find a replacement for the legendary Frank Beamer. Brent Pry replaced Justin Fuentes last year but pulled no rabbits out of his hat. An opposing coach said: “Brent understands that place really well, (He was a grad assistant there in the Beamer Era), and he’s a Bud Foster dude through and through but the problem is…there’s no talent on the roster because they had a coach who didn’t understand how fragile Frank Beamer’s system was. Now to get back the talent back from their home state, they’ve got to show proof of concept but they can’t because the talent is so bad on the roster. They’re trapped right now.” Last year they scored 19.3 points per game, the fewest for Tech since 1989.

Their quarterback will be Grant Wells, (198/332 .590 2171y 9td 9int) or Baylor transfer Kyron Drones, (does he throw drones?) Three transfers, Ali Jennings, Jaylin Lane and DaQuan Felton will be his main targets. They transferred from Old Dominion, Middle Tennessee and Norfolk State. Malachi Thomas (37/146/1) and NC A&T transfer Bhayeshul Tuten will tote the ball. (”What a beautiful baby: what did you decide to call him? Bhayeshul. It has a nice ring to it.”) The offensive line “remains an issue”…”it will lean heavily on unproven starters” who are switching positions. The defense is still pretty good but they failed to produce turnovers, (Tech was -6 on the year) and only four starters are back.

The schools they got the transfers from: Old Dominion, Middle Tennessee, Norfolk State, VMI and Georgia Southern, do not suggest a program changing- influx of talent.


Now:

They proved to have plenty of talent. Their record was no better than hours: 4-4, with a loss to Purdue! But they suddenly became UNC or FSU, crushing us 10-38. Maybe being told that they were the beginning of the ‘flattening of our schedule’ put them in a combative frame of mind. This one was 3-30 at halftime and 10-38 at the end of the game. We got out-gained 137-528 and out first downed 9-28. But the stat that really stood out was rushing: 0-318. Plays were 61-101. We’d reached the point where we were unable to play competitive football. We’d also reached the point where realized that the 8 year Dino Babers Era was coming to an end, although we now know there was a 7 win minimum for the regular season that AD John Wildhack had set as the bar to clear. That was still possible, but not the way we were playing. (Tech wound up 7-6)

Then:

7:30PM Friday November 3rd Boston College at the Dome

The Eagles got out of their rut last year. In eight of their previous nine seasons, they’d gone between 6-7 and 7-6, (including one 6-5 and one 6-6). Jeff Hafley broke them of that rut with a 3-9 season last year. An opposing coach: “This is going to be a big year for this staff…There’s concern here. They’re down overall…(Hafley) hit on a couple of transfers when he first got there, but we haven’t seen them do well with high school recruiting…This is a hard place to get talent to commit to…So this season is less about wins and losses than it is figuring out what they’re doing long term. Right now it doesn’t look like they know.”

Their star quarterback, Phil Jurkovic, who had transferred here from Notre Dame, has transferred home to Pittsburgh, (I think they call that the hop, step and jump). His main target, the electrifying Zay Flowers jumped to the pros. That’s bad news because the Eagles finished last in Division 1 in the NCAA in running the ball with just 63 yards a game. The good news is that Hafley has Jurkovic’s back-up, Emmett Morehead, who put up virtually identical numbers: (pick which is which: 59.5% 6.9 Y/A 11TD 8 int rating: 125.9 -43 y rushing vs. 59.9% 6.5Y/A 10TD 6 int rating: 125.7 -22 yards rushing.) Of course they were both throwing to Zay Flowers but Hafley brought in Ryan O’Keefe from Central Florida, who caught 157 passes, 12 for TDs, in the last two years. But he averaged only 9.8 yards per catch, (at 5-10 175, he’s not a tight end). Flowers, who is virtually the same size, averaged 15.3 in his career here. The offensive line is…well…’rebuilding’.

The Eagles gave up 30.8 points per game on defense. They did have one outstanding player: edge rusher 6-2 237 Donovan Ezeiruaku, who had 64 tackles, 15 for losses, 9 of them sacks. He better get to the quarterback because they lost four starting D-backs. They are looking for a kicker and a punter.


Now:

We finally found a team we could compete with. Unfortunately, we still lost 10-17. We were out-grained 246-350 and out-first downed 10-27. We won the rushing battle 209-175 as LeQuint Allen ran for 142 yards, (plays were 75-97). What killed us was the complete lack of any passing game. Garrett Shrader could no longer make a go of it trying to overcome an injury to his throwing arm and his back-up Carlos Del Rio-Wilson couldn’t connect to anyone either and he get so badly beat up as the game progressed that his season came to an end with this game. Our line could run block when they put their minds to it but couldn’t protect the quarterback. We went from zero yards rushing vs. VPI to 37 yards passing and four interceptions against BC, (who finished up 7-6 with a bowl win over new ACC member SMU). It’s remarkable the final score was a close as it was. What was to be done?

Then:

3:30PM Saturday November 11 Pittsburgh at Yankee Stadium

We all know about the history of this series, (and if you don’t you will hear more about it when the two teams gather in Yankee Stadium for the 100th anniversary of college football in Yankee Stadium). It’s like pro wrestling: one school had clobbered the other and the tide turns. We played them ten times from 1916-30, winning twice, tying twice and losing 6 times. The annual series commenced in 1955 and was competitive from 1955-63, each team winning four times. Then SU went off on a 7-2 run. Pitt brought in Johnny Majors and they beat us 11 times in a row. Coach Mac turned it around in the 80’s and we went on a 16-1-1 run through 2001. We walloped them in their place 42-10 that year. Who could have imagined what would happen next? The next year in the Dome, the Panthers built up a surreal 3-48 lead before we made it respectable at 24-48. From that point, we’ve won three times in 20 years. And Pitt seems as strong as ever, so don’t expect a turn-around any time soon.

Pitt and BC would seem to be in similar situations: college programs trying to survive in pro towns. Maybe the difference is the personality of the coach and the quality of his staff. An opposing coach said: “This is maybe the most slept-on staff for recruiting because they’re not hauling in five stars but they are always recruiting very well for their needs and culture. They are good evaluators. The secret here is that they adopt Pat’s (Narduzzi’s) mentality or they get run off and you know you’re gonna see a nasty defense regardless of personnel.”

Football is still won in the trenches and Pitt will be a big problem for any team on both sides of the ball. Their defense has the most sacks in the country in this decade, (48 of them last year). They still live in Carlos Del Rio Wilson’s dreams. That defense lost 6 starters, all of whom went to the NFL. David Green is the only returning lineman. But these guys wouldn’t be playing for Narduzzi if they couldn’t play defense. Linebacker Bangally Kamara is a ‘disrupter’. They are replacing their safeties but alternate three cornerbacks who have been playing for a total of 11 years.

Three starters and a tight end return to the offensive line. Phil Jurkovec, who played his high school ball here, finally landed behind them and should put up better numbers than Kaden Slovis did last year – and probably more than he did last year behind that BC line. Konata Mumpfield (58/551/1) is the leading returning receiver. Rodney Hammond Jr. (109/460/5) replaces Israel Abanikanda as the feature back. Kicker Ben Sauls kicked 15 field goals in last 16 attempts to finish 20/24. Pitt has kicked some memorable field goals against us in recent years. Caleb Junko averaged 48.7 yards on a dozen punts last year and Martin Devonshire led the ACC in punt return average (9.7), including an 82 yarder vs. Rhode Island.


Now:

Amazingly, Dino Babers and his staff engineered a total remake of the offense and used it to dominate a school that has dominated us for years. The team that ran for zero yards on October 26 against Virginia Tech ran for 392 yards against a team famous for its defense, which was good because we only passed for 8 yards. We were running the wildcat formation the Miami Dolphins used to make the playoffs in 2008 after going 1-15 the previous year. Either Garrett Shrader, LeQuint Allen or our tight end, Dan Villari, would get the shotgun snap and run off right tackle or left tackle. They all ran for over 100 yards! And they’d find a hole each time. We erased a 7-13 halftime deficit to dominate the second half 21-0. It had been a long time since we’d dominated anyone. The yardage was 400-269, first downs 21-11, and plays 80-73. We actually had hope again! (Pitt wound up 3-9.)

Then:

TBA Saturday November 18 Georgia Tech at Bobby Dodd Stadium TV: TBA

As with Purdue and North Carolina, it’s hard not to remember the last time we played the Yellowjackets in their place. It was possibly the worst ever performance by an SU team. Facing a Georgia Tech team that had lost 3 games in a row and given up 45 points to U of Miami and 38 to Brigham Young in their last two games, we produced a goose egg on offense and had no answers for their triple option attack on defense, losing 0-56. Well, Tech no longer runs the TO and Scott Shafer is gone, we can hope for better results this time. I think. (Tech also ran us out of the 2004 Champs Sports Bowl, 14-51 in Coach P’s last game and also beat us in the Kick-off Classic 7-13 in 2001. But, hey, our 1-10 team of 2020 whipped them in the Dome 37-23 to get that ‘1’, so the Jackets aren’t invincible.)

They are another opponent who had trouble scoring points last year, just 17.2, (it takes almost 30 points to win an average D1 game in this era). Quarterback injuries hurt them. Jeff Sims, who was their QB for that 2020 game, played 7 games and is now at Nebraska. Then came the two Zachs, (Zachs are nice but you really need Bubbas). Akron transfer Zach Gibson played in 7 games was 57/104 (54.8%) for 589 yards, 1TD and 2 interceptions. Zach Pryon, a 4-star freshman, played reasonably well for three games: 49/82 (59.8%) 565 yards 3TD and 3int and a win over that other Tech in Virginia. The Zachs will be joined by another 4-star, Texas transfer Haynes King. Reports from the spring were that Pryon had “better command of the offense”.


Now:

This proved to be Dino Babers’ last stand. We tried to do to the Yellow Jackets what we did to Pittsburgh – and it almost worked. Tech had dominated the first half to lead 3-17 and then pushed it to 3-24 early in the second. but then we got the running game going in the second half and scored 19 unanswered points to get to withing 22-24 with 7:41 left. We’d have tied the game except Brady Denaberg missed an extra point and we failed on a two point conversion that would have tied it. At that point the defense let up and Tech put on a 9 play 75 yard drive to clinch it at 22-31 and seal Dino’s fate. Both teams ran for 206 yards and Dan Villari was 14 for 14 passing. That’s the good news. The 14 completions were for only 52 yards and no scores. Tech managed 138 yards passing. First downs were 15-23 and plays 76-73. (Tech wound up 7-6 and beat Central Florida in a bowl game.) Babers was fired the next day.

Then:

TBA Saturday November 25 Wake Forest at the Dome TV: TBA

In the 20th century, Wake Forest was a bottom feeder, (winning percentage .394, the worst in the country among the major colleges). In the 21st century, they been quite pugnacious, .489, a good deal better than us: .419), thanks to Jim Grobe and Dave Clawson, Dino Baber’s predecessor at Bowling Green. An opposing coach; “Every December, it seems like some big program is gonna come along and snap up Dave and Wake is going to fall back to the basement but he stays, they keep improving facilities and these guys keep building.“ Our series with them has been the closest thing to a rivalry we have: 10-20, 39-29, 13-0, 30-7, 30-17, 9-28, 43-64, 41-24, 39-30, 14-38, 37-40, 35-45 = 6-6. This year’s game may be one we have to win to get to a bowl. So much depends on the health of the two teams in the 12th game. When healthy, they could both be good enough to win another wild game.

This being 2023 football, Wake’s star QB, Sam Hartman, will play his fifth year of college football as Notre Dame’s QB. Mitch Griffis, (29/41 .70.7 348y 5TD 1int), will make an interesting replacement. He’s kind of smallish for a modern QB at 5-11 192. Athlon: What he “lacks in size he makes up for with precise throws, mobility and competitiveness that’s a requirement under head Coach Dave Clawson”. He’s got three top receivers back, Taylor Moses, Jahmal Banks and Donavon Greene who totaled 126 catches for 1,853 yards and 26TDs last year. RB Justice Ellison had 699 yards on 170 carries (4.1) and scored 6TDs. “Almost every player on the two-deep has spent at least three seasons at Wake Forest, but roles have changed in in some significant ways.” That’s the sort of thing that would make more of a difference in the opening game than in the 12th game, by which time everyone will know their roles.


Now:

Babers was gone but his Era hadn’t ended yet. If we could beat Wake, we could get to a bowl game and that could end it on a positive note, (if we could win the bowl game). The result was a dramatic team effort to get one more win. Shrader seemed miraculously to have found his throwing arm, hitting Damien Alford for a 7-0 lead. Wake tied it up but Shrader answered with a 1 yard run. After a Wake field goal, Villari found Alford for a 47 yards third quarter score and we were up 21-10. The two teams alternated touchdowns until it was 35-31 at the end and the SU players went over to sign their alma mater. We out-gained the Deacons 468-384. Shrader was 10 for 15 for 173 yards and 3 scores and ran for 46 yards on 10 carries and another score. LeQuint Allen ran for 144 yards and Villari had run for 51, passed for 51 and caught a 13 yard touchdown pass. Our gamers had come through! We were looking more like the team that began the season.

There was one more game – a bowl game against an old nemesis, South Florida, a team that beat us 8 time in 10 games in the Big East conference, most of them not close. Their history has been a roller coaster, getting good and then getting bad or at least mediocre. We always seemed to catch them on the way up and were about to do so again. Meanwhile our situation deteriorated. Shrader had given us all he could and opted for surgery, ending his career here. Something like 13 other guys, (if I recall the numbers correctly) were unable to play and 8 more had opted out. Something like that. What’s more our head coach had been fired and members of the staff, including the offensive coordinator were looking for other jobs. On top of that, South Florida had three weeks see what were doing – and not doing- on film. The result was an 0-45 debacle that could have been a lot worse. It was 0-31 at the half. First downs were 9-21, plays 71-113. It was one more indignity for a valiant team.

It’s also a product of having so many bowl games that a team in this condition is in one. We wound up 6-7 after being 4-0. Last year we were 6-0 and wound up 7-6. In 2020 we were 5-3 and wound up 5-7. In 2017 we were 4-3 and had just beaten #2 Clemson – and wound up 4-8. In 2016 we were 4-4 and wound up 4-8. This our great problem that Fran Brown is going to have to solve. We don’t have the depth to make it through a 12 game season. Stay tuned. It begins next year.
 

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