Orange look to bounce back against ACC’s best, Demon Deacons
Syracuse faces its first ranked opponent of the season when #19 Wake Forest comes to town this Saturday. WAER's Douglas Lattuca previews SU’s biggest test to date.
Coming off of a heartbreaking loss to Florida State last weekend, Syracuse (3-2, 0-1 ACC) has its first ranked opponent, #19 Wake Forest (5-0, 3-0 ACC), coming to the Dome this Saturday for a 3:30 pm kickoff. The Demon Deacons are one of just 17 FBS teams that are still undefeated.
Wake Forest is not new to being one of the more successful teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Demon Deacons are tied for the second-most wins in the conference since 2017 behind Clemson. A big reason for Wake’s success is its explosive offense. The Demon Deacons average 38.40 points per game and just 444.6 yards per contest in 2021.
Wake Forest is filled with veteran leadership up and down the depth chart. The Demon Deacons have 20 returning starters from last season.
"I think the biggest thing between his team and other teams is he's got super seniors all over the board”, Syracuse head coach Dino Babers said. “I was going back and watching tape, and I won't tell you how far back, but they've got as many super seniors – a lot more super seniors than what people think. And he has a very, very veteran group that has been running the exact same system for a long, long period of time."
One of those veterans is starting quarterback and team captain Sam Hartman. The redshirt sophomore is a four-year starter for Wake Forest. The Charlotte-native is 25th in the nation in passing yards with 1,285, averaging 293.5 yards per game. In 2021, Hartman has completed 63.82% of his passes and thrown eleven touchdowns to just two interceptions.
The Demon Deacons roll with a three-headed monster in the rushing game. The redshirt junior Christian Beal-Smith, freshman Justice Ellison, and redshirt sophomore Christian Turner all have over 50 carries this season with Beal-Smith having the most at 65. The Winston-Salem native also leads the team in rush yards with 319.
“They’re a close family over there. They play well together. They care about each other and I’m happy for their success. I hope they don’t have a lot of success when they come up to Syracuse,” Babers said.
The Syracuse defense is statistically one of the best in the nation. The Orange rank 11th in the nation allowing 284.6 yards per game. That’s tops in the ACC. Some star performers include sophomore linebacker Mikel Jones and senior defensive lineman Cody Roscoe. Jones is ninth in the nation in solo tackles with 6.2 per game while Roscoe ranks ninth in tackles for loss per contest with 1.6 and averages over a sack per game.
“He’s got an amazing heart,” Babers says. “He’s very courageous and by having that one opportunity to come back I think he’s really taking advantage of his second opportunity at this level. “
The Orange rely heavily on the run game to produce offense. Syracuse ranks 21st in the nation in rushing yards per game (220.6). Starting running back Sean Tucker leads the way sitting 3rd in rushing and all-purpose yards in the FBS. Additionally, he ranks fourth in rushing yards per game in the country. The second-year back was recently added to the Maxwell Award Watch List for best player in the country. In Saturday’s loss to Florida State Tucker and quarterback Garrett Shrader were the only two SU players to rush the ball; the first time that has happened in at least 40 years.
The Syracuse offense will be without the program’s 8th leading pass catcher all-time in Taj Harris. The junior announced he is transferring from SU earlier this week. The wideout has received offers from Mississippi State, Western Kentucky, Utah, Kentucky, Texas A&M, and Temple per his Twitter.
“It’s was something that I really really wanted to share with him from my heart. I did. It was a very mature conversation between us. We decided the best opportunity for him is to go to the transfer portal,” Babers said about Harris.
Wake Forest took care of business last year when these two teams squared off doubling up Syracuse 38-14 inside the Dome. In ten all-time matchups, the Orange are 6-4.
Kickoff from inside the Dome is set for 3:30 p.m. this Saturday. WAER’s coverage gets underway at 3 with GZA Countdown to Kickoff.