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Syracuse Welcomes Undercuffler, UAlbany, into Dome this Saturday

Marlowe Wax hits in chest in celebration after making a tackle against Rutgers.
Marlowe Wax (middle) hits in chest in celebration after making a tackle against Rutgers

Syracuse football's defense has held its ground this season. But could Tony White’s 3-3-5 hit a speed bump on Saturday against UAlbany? It’s an FCS opponent, but WAER's Trey Redfield explains how it’s a possibility.

Last week’s 17-7 loss for Syracuse football (1-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) was the first low note of the young season for the Orange.

The offense could not finish, going 0-2 on red zone opportunities. Plus, the special teams were nowhere near special. Blair Cavanaugh’s group gave up a blocked punt, missed a field goal at the end of the first half and botched a punt that went eight yards in the fourth quarter.

Notice how the defense was not mentioned - and it shouldn’t be.

SU head coach Dino Babers hit on all three facets of the Orange, after their loss to the Scarlet Knights.

“I thought the defense played extremely well,” Babers said after Saturday’s loss. “I thought there were numerous mistakes in the kicking game. I think the kicking game may have cost us as much as the offense scoring enough points.”

The fact is true, especially when you look at Rutgers QB Noah Vedral’s numbers. The senior threw for only 145 yards and a touchdown. Plus, the Scarlet Knights were held scoreless in the second half.

Freshman cornerback Duce Chestnut says his defense is one of the best of the best.

“Elite, elite,” Chestnut said. “We look like one of the best defenses in the country.”

The 3-3-5 is definitely off to a good start, holding both Vedral and Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke to less than 150 yards per game.

Despite the loss, Syracuse moves forward to this Saturday, taking on UAlbany (0-2, 0-1 Colonial).

But if Orange crumble on Saturday, Great Danes quarterback Jeff Undercuffler could be the reason why.

UAlbany Athletics
Jeff Undercuffler throws pass to his right side against New Hampshire.

“He can make great reads, and he can also beat you on his feet,” Redshirt senior defensive end Josh Black said. “He’s got a good arm. He’s just a really solid quarterback.”

So far, Undercuffler’s 2021 campaign has gotten off to a slow start. The redshirt sophomore has thrown 400 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions - both picks coming against FCS powerhouse North Dakota State.

In a shortened 2020, which was played in the spring of 2021, Undercuffler was mediocre tossing six touchdowns and three interceptions in three starts.

But in 2019, Undercuffler took the FCS by storm.

The 6’5” 231-pound New Jersey native was the Jerry Rice Award Runner-Up, which is awarded to the best freshman in the FCS. Undercuffler threw for an FCS leading 41 passing touchdowns and CAA leading 3543 passing yards. Keep in mind, both of these stats were ahead of former North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance, who went third overall in this year’s NFL Draft.

Chestnut says Undercuffler does the right things at the right time.

“He’s just a guy that does what he’s asked to do,” Chestnut said. “He makes the right plays, makes the right passes. He does what he’s asked to do.”

Two seasons ago, Undercuffler did just that. The 2019 CAA Rookie of the Year holds the single-season program record 262 completions on 464 passing attempts.

So if Undercuffler gives the Syracuse defense fits, even though UAlbany is an FCS program, don’t be surprised.

The Orange and Great Danes square off for the first time ever this Saturday at noon. GZA Countdown to Kickoff gets the ball rolling at 11:30.