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With a third-and-29 midway through the second quarter, a first down for the Orange was completely out of reach. Still, like most third-and-extremely-long situations, Syracuse had running back Sean Tucker go out for a screen pass in order to get yardage before sending out punter James Williams to the field.
But Tucker didn’t just get a few yards — one play after Mississippi State transfer Garrett Shrader missed the snap moving SU back 25 yards — he took it to the house.
Tucker collected the pass before waiting for his offensive linemen to create a wall of blockers ahead of him. Once the blocks were in place, the Great Danes couldn’t lay a hand on Tucker as he passed midfield. Eventually, the Orange’s offensive linemen couldn’t even keep up with Tucker either.
He waltzed into the end zone down the right sideline, adding 76 more yards to his 253-yard performance.
“It was good to see him finish some runs and then also be extremely explosive in the throw game and be able to get those balls to the middle of the field and turn those passes into home runs,” head coach Dino Babers said.
Tucker surpassed his touchdown total from all of last year against UAlbany (0-3, 0-1 America East), scoring five times in Syracuse’s (2-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) 62-24 win on Saturday. After a 10-point loss to Rutgers last weekend, when Tucker had 54 rushing yards, the Orange dominated against the Great Danes, keeping their perfect record against Football Championship Subdivision teams. SU’s $350,000 dollar bill to face UAlbany paid off, as it beat its record from last season, tied for the most points in a game since 2018. It is the fifth time since 2000 the Orange have scored more than 60 points.
Like last week, Babers said he planned on putting in both quarterbacks against the Great Danes. He wants to put the QB competition to rest before conference play starts, still wanting to evaluate Shrader after he played just one quarter in SU’s last game.
“I want to play the guy that’s clearly the best to me. I’ve been in a situation where I cannot define who is clearly the best, but it’s also a time to make a decision,” Babers said on ESPN Radio Syracuse. “So we’ll play this game and we’ll make some decisions, and we’ll move on with the season.”
But while this game was supposed to decide the starting duties at quarterback for Syracuse, both quarterbacks didn’t have to make many plays, as Tucker and SU’s receivers kept gaining open space against UAlbany’s defense. Tucker said that he appreciated the number of carries he got despite the ongoing quarterback battle, finishing the game with 13.
“I like the load, giving me the carries and the opportunities to get more yards,” Tucker said. “I’m going to take that.”
Tucker and the up-tempo offense moved down the field, with Tommy DeVito at quarterback, before landing on a fourth-and-3 with a short field.
Last week, Babers made a controversial call taking off the offense on a fourth down in the latter half of the fourth quarter. He said he trusted in his defense to get a three-and-out, which never happened.
After sending out the special teams unit, boos rang throughout the stadium, the fans once again not agreeing with Babers’ coaching call. Babers called a timeout, however, and sent the offense back out. With no running back in the back field, DeVito dropped back to sell the pass, but he quickly sprinted forward to inside the 10-yard line.
On the ensuing play, the Orange ran an outside zone run to Tucker, who took the ball and started to run down the right side of the field. But Tucker cut up inside early, finding an empty space to walk into the end zone for the first score of the game.
Tucker said that the up-tempo offense, which only went into a huddle once on the drive because of the timeout, tires out the opposing defense, making it easier to score. The Orange also made changes in the offensive line, moving Airon Servais to center for the first time since 2019. But offensive lineman Chris Bleich said that didn’t make a difference, as Servais has been in Babers’ system for five seasons.
“He knows everything that’s possible,” Bleich said. “It helps having that knowledge next to me. It’s nice to have him by my side if I have any questions.”
Against Rutgers last weekend, the offensive line struggled to get Tucker going on outside zone runs as the Scarlet Knights’ defense centered their game plan around stopping him. The Orange ran read options for most of the game, forcing DeVito to make most of the rushing plays.
“We had to get into some of our read game and they were taking away Sean, so some quarterbacks and stuff and other people were getting opportunities to make plays,” Babers said earlier this week.
With Tucker not open, DeVito tried to rush on second down, streaking down the right sideline. DeVito ran for 5 yards, but he was sandwiched between two defenders as he hit the Carrier Dome turf. Shrader immediately took the field as an injury timeout was called, DeVito eventually getting himself up back onto the sideline.
The transfer didn’t have to do much, however, as Tucker got the ball again on an outside zone play. He mimicked his earlier touchdown run, cutting up early into an opening. But he was 56 yards away from the end zone instead of 8, zooming past every level of the Great Danes’ defense untouched.
“He was really patient waiting for the holes to open,” Bleich said. “As soon as he saw the hole, he just took it and went for it.”
Shrader’s first stint was short-lived, and DeVito was back in, throwing at Trebor Pena. The ball deflected off Pena’s palms into the hands of UAlbany’s Christian Lewis, who took it back into the end zone for a pick six.
Babers still kept DeVito in on the next drive, sending a handoff on first down to Tucker, who wasn’t able to get a substantial gain. On second down, Syracuse stacked its receivers on top of each other, forcing the Great Danes to press the one receiver at the line of scrimmage. Damien Alford beat the cornerback on him, and DeVito aired it out 30 yards downfield. Like Tucker, Alford ran 73 yards past all of UAlbany’s defense, giving SU a 21-10 lead.
Babers made a shuffle at quarterback again, putting Shrader back out on the field. Still, one play after Shrader fumbled a snap, he was bailed out by Tucker on a screen pass where the running back took it 72 yards into the end zone. Stefon Thompson stripped UAlbany’s Jeff Undercuffler on the next play, and Tucker again walked into the end zone on the ensuing play. He had four touchdowns in less than 30 minutes of play.
Tucker stayed on the sidelines for the rest of the first half, allowing Abdul Adams to take over running back duties. Shrader used his feet to score at the end of the second quarter, and in the second half he went back on the field for the Orange.
Syracuse’s running back coach Mike Lynch told Tucker that this was his last series of the game, but Tucker was still trying to “put in the work.” On the ensuing play, Shrader stuffed the ball onto Tucker, guiding him to the left side of the field.
Tucker bounced out towards the left sideline, before cutting up vertically past the line of scrimmage. Bodies of UAlbany defenders started to leap at Tucker, but he avoided them all, walking into the end zone for the fifth time. He took his helmet off, placing it on the bench next to the Gatorade, pacing around the sidelines instead of between the white lines.
“That guy knows how to tilt the rock. It’s exciting to see him run,” Servais said. “We just have to do our job, and watching him run down beside us is really fun.”
The post Sean Tucker lifts Syracuse to crushing 62-24 win over UAlbany appeared first on The Daily Orange.