The Syracuse football team lost 16-13 to Boston College yesterday, however, one storyline prevailed over the result. True freshman quarterback JaCobian Morgan made his first career start, and he was a single score away from earning his first victory.
Saturday represented Morgan’s debut as QB1, but he had experience with SU prior. The quarterback first appeared in the final seconds of the Clemson loss, but never threw a pass. In the next matchup versus Wake Forest, Morgan again got a chance to play late. That time, the quarterback had an opportunity to throw the ball, and he did it well. Morgan completed all seven of his pass attempts, including a touchdown.
Between the Wake Forest and Boston College matchups, that single scoring drive caused a lot of upheaval among fans of the Orange about who should play quarterback going forward. Throughout the week, however, Syracuse head coach Dino Babers never tipped his hand on who would start under center, Morgan or senior Rex Culpepper.
“It’s just one of those situations where you got to continue to evaluate and see exactly where [Morgan and Culpepper] are at,” Babers said Monday when asked about who would start at quarterback versus BC.
On Wednesday, it seemed likely that Culpepper would start against the Eagles – as he had the previous two matchups – because he was listed as the QB1 on SU’s depth chart.
Syracuse's depth chart vs. Boston College released - Notably, no OR for Rex and Morgan, Dakota Davis back in the chart. OR for Trill and Aman Greenwood, likely for the nagging injury. pic.twitter.com/Aa7zCSJF8U
— Steve Haller (@DutchHart) November 4, 2020
Whether that was intentional trickery by Babers, or the genuine choice at the time, Culpepper did not step onto the field for the Orange. The senior never dressed, which made it apparent pregame that one of the freshman quarterbacks (Morgan, Dillon Markiewicz, or David Summers) would have to play.
Rex Culpepper will not dress for today's game, so @CuseFootball will start either Jacobian Morgan or Dillon Markiewicz at quarterback against @BCFootball. Morgan was 7-7 for 59 passing yards last week against Wake Forest.
— WAER Sports (@WAERSports) November 7, 2020
Given Morgan was the only one of the three to see playing time up to this point, it was not a surprise that Babers went with the 6’4 quarterback.
As a whole, the Mississippi native had a solid performance. Morgan threw for 188 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Like any freshman, his inexperience popped up at times, but the quarterback also showed flashes of greatness.
“It didn’t look like he was too rattled,” Babers told reporters following the loss on Saturday. “I thought he made some plays, escaped some things, and he took a shot.”
It is likely that “shot” Dino was referring to, is a play from Syracuse’s second drive of the game. Morgan took a 2nd & 10 snap from the 17-yardline. The freshman was quickly enveloped by Boston College defenders as the pocket collapsed around him from all sides.
Like a seasoned pro – Morgan shuffled forward, checked the receiving options to his right, and then scrambled out to the left. All the while, the freshman had his eyes down the field. As he ran, Morgan threw his left hand into the air to motion the receivers to the sideline he was barreling towards. Then, the quarterback turned his hips towards the middle of the field and lobbed a pass across his body into the waiting hands of wide receiver Anthony Queeley for a 31-yard reception.
— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) November 7, 2020
It was Morgan’s longest completion of the day, and it looked incredibly similar to throws that NFL fans watch quarterbacks Pat Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, or Russell Wilson make on Sunday’s.
The freshman nearly gave SU the lead early in the second quarter. With BC up 3-0, Morgan connected with wide receiver Taj Harris in the end zone from 19 yards out. Harris’ foot, however, landed just a few blades of grass out of bounds. The Orange settled for a field goal, but Morgan would eventually grab that elusive score.
Down 16-6 with 2:05 left in the game – the freshman orchestrated a 75-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Aaron Hackett, and took just 1:44 off the clock.
It was not all positive for Morgan, though. Midway through the fourth quarter, the freshman unwisely targeted Harris with three Eagles covering the receiver. Cornerback Brandon Sebastian tipped the ball up into the air, and fellow corner Jason Maitre came down with the interception.
“[Morgan] tried to make a play, which was a very very difficult throw,” said Babers after the game. “It was one of those defenses that is not supposed to be attacked in the area he was attacking, but there was Taj [Harris] and he was open, so he tried to make the throw.”
Some may look negatively at Morgan’s passing yard total of 188, however, the freshman surpassed the Orange’s average passing yards per game in 2020 (177.8). The Mississippi native was also a victim of circumstance. Syracuse possessed the ball for 21 minutes and 11 seconds in the matchup, its second lowest time of possession mark this season (20:17 vs. Duke on October 10). Boston College’s run-heavy attack (191 yards) allowed it to keep Morgan off the field.
It was neither a great nor terrible debut for the freshman. Morgan’s performance was statistically similar to the average SU quarterback this season. With the lack of experience in FBS football, it is an encouraging start for the freshman.
WAER’s next broadcast of Syracuse football is this Friday, November 20 at 7 p.m. when SU takes on Louisville. Tune into 88.3 FM, WAER.org, or the WAER app for live coverage beginning 30 minutes prior to kickoff.