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After a pass from Tommy DeVito that bounced off Trebor Pena’s hands and drew UAlbany within four points at the end of the first quarter, the quarterback responded. He connected with Damien Alford on a deep shot, and the backup wide receiver took it to the house for a 73-yard touchdown.
Here are three takeaways from Syracuse’s (2-1) 62-24 win over UAlbany (0-3, 0-1 America East) as the Orange stayed undefeated against Football Championship Subdivision schools:
Penalties, special teams errors continue to plague SU
Against Rutgers last week, Syracuse had eight penalties for 55 yards. In the first half against UAlbany, the Orange topped that with eight penalties for 79 yards. SU finished with 16 penalties in the game.
It started when Pena fielded a punt early in the first quarter and SU’s special teams unit was called for a 15-yard facemask penalty. The Orange added another facemask penalty later that quarter too, a third on Chris Bleich in the third quarter inside the red zone and a fourth during the fourth quarter. Anthony Queeley grabbed a screen pass and exploded down the right sideline for a 69-yard touchdown, but it was negated by a holding penalty.
Andre Szmyt kicked a 43-yard field goal to tie Syracuse’s record for field goals made but had to rekick it because of a false-start penalty. (Szmyt overtook Cole Murphy in the third quarter with his 60th field goal).
Pena ran back a punt inside the 1-yard line that was canceled out by an illegal block in the back. Pena was also later called for a hold that undid Sean Tucker’s 50-yard run. And SU’s special teams was called for running into the kicker on a punt.
Head coach Dino Babers has said repeatedly that Syracuse’s lack of a designated special teams coordinator isn’t causing the miscues. Before the UAlbany game, he attributed the mistakes during Rutgers to “freshmen” not being ready. SU shares the responsibility with the coaching staff, he said. But for the second consecutive week, the Orange put up an uneven special teams performance that was filled with penalties despite a 38-point blowout win.
“We hurt ourselves. Turnovers, penalties hurt,” DeVito said after last week’s loss. “We can’t make mistakes like that.”
Have we learned anything new about the quarterback battle?
On Thursday, Babers told ESPN Radio Syracuse that he doesn’t like splitting reps between two quarterbacks, but he still hadn’t made a decision on who should be the starter. The plan, he said, was to figure that out on Saturday.
Last week’s decision to pull DeVito in the second quarter was part of a predetermined plan, and there would be a similar plan against UAlbany, he said.
Saturday, he alternated between the two quarterbacks frequently. DeVito finished 6-of-9 passing for 147 yards and one touchdown and one interception, compared to Garrett Shrader’s 11-of-15 for 190 yards and one touchdown and one pick. DeVito was the slightly more accurate passer, while Shrader showed promise running the ball and making defenders miss.
Both threw interceptions, though DeVito’s hit Pena in the hands and Shrader’s was a poorly placed ball that was well out of Maximilian Mang’s reach. Both had touchdown throws over 70 yards, though DeVito’s was a true deep effort that connected with Alford while Shrader’s was a short pass that Tucker turned into a touchdown.
It’s hard to draw any new conclusions from the two quarterbacks beating up a lower-tier Albany defense. And even then, Syracuse used a run-heavy offense that featured 42 runs compared to just 24 passes.
Sean Tucker’s career day
In 2020, Sean Tucker scored four touchdowns in nine games. Saturday in the Carrier Dome, he matched that total during the first half alone. He added a fifth during the third quarter, tying Walter Reyes (2003) and Floyd Little (1964) for the most touchdowns by an SU player (non-quarterback), trailing only Jim Brown. He set a career high in all-purpose yards, too (253).
On Syracuse’s first drive, Babers sent the field goal unit out on fourth-and-3 at the 20-yard line and was greeted by boos from the Dome crowd. Then he called timeout and switched to the offense. DeVito made a good read and handed the ball off to Tucker, who burst free for an 8-yard touchdown run.
Tucker scored again on a 56-yard rushing touchdown when he found a gaping hole on the left side, though Syracuse’s drive was extended and the offense only stayed on the field thanks to a UAlbany facemask penalty. He continued that tempo, scoring three more times after that. One was a short pass from Shrader that he took 73 yards to the house. He added 12- and 26-yard touchdowns after that.
The second-year running back showed his speed and vision on Saturday, albeit with a matchup against a porous Great Danes defense. The former high school track athlete outran defenders and made them miss on numerous occasions, slipping past tackles. He was pulled in the third quarter for Cooper Lutz and SU’s other running backs, a position where Babers has said the Orange have good depth.
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