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Syracuse travels to Virginia Tech for First Time since 2003 Looking to Jump-Start Passing Attack

Syracuse Quarterback Garrett Shrader breaks off for a huge run against Florida State. The Mississippi St. transfer has 418 rushing yards this season.
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Syracuse Quarterback Garrett Shrader (White) breaks off for a huge run against Florida State. The Mississippi St. transfer has 418 rushing yards this season.

Syracuse football travels to Virginia Tech; aiming to snap three-game skid. WAER's Jackson Holzer details the pivotal midseason matchup.

Syracuse football has lost three straight games. Each by three points. Each in three different ways. It’s fair to say not many SU fans want to hear or see that number right now, but football - and sports for that matter - is about turning the page.

“We’re not in here for moral victories, but these guys are playing their tails off,” said Head Coach Dino Babers. “I don’t like the outcome and they (the players) don’t like the outcomes, but I don’t have a whole bunch of negative stuff about how they’re playing the game.”

One of the most disappointing themes of this season has been the passing game. The Orange have averaged a measly 172.3 yards-per-game through the air, which ranks near the bottom in the entire FBS. Against Clemson last Friday, Syracuse passed for just 191 yards.

SU’s next opponent in Virginia Tech has been pretty stingy against the pass in 2021. It may not be the “no-fly-zone” but it does rank 27th out of 130 FBS teams in the nation. Leading the Hokies is Defensive Back Jermaine Waller, who’s currently tied for the nation’s lead in interceptions with four. However, the Junior’s status for Saturday is in question after he injured his foot in the first half last week against Pitt.

“I really don’t [know],” said Hokies Head Coach Justin Fuente. “I know Jermaine will be out there if he can. I don’t think this is a long-term issue. It’s just that I don’t know how short-term.”

Waller isn’t the only Hokies defensive back that got injured in that Pitt game. Backup safety Devon Hunter suffered a season ending knee injury. True freshman Jalen Stroman is expected to take Hunter’s place.

In the ACC this week, the Orange remain in last place in the Atlantic division after dropping to 0-3 in conference play last week and are 3-4 overall. The Hokies are 5th in the Coastal division after losing last week to Pitt.

The Virginia Tech secondary is banged up. The question now is whether Syracuse can take advantage. Lately, Wide Receiver Courtney Jackson has been the “go-to” guy for SU. Jackson has 15 catches over the last three games and leads the team with 20 receptions this season.

Courtney Jackson running down the field against Wake Forest last season. Jackson set a career high in receiving yards against Wake this year with 64.
Cuse.com
Courtney Jackson (Orange) running down the field against Wake Forest last season. Jackson set a career high in receiving yards against Wake this year with 64.

To get the passing attack going, Quarterback Garrett Shrader has got to be better throwing the football. Shrader has been great this season using his legs with 469 rushing yards not including sacks. But, he’s currently completing just 54% of his passes and his yards-per-attempt is down to 6.60. With former Orange Quarterback Tommy DeVito in the transfer portal, the offense is now fully his to command.

“We’ll continue to build,” said Shrader. “We can finish out this season strong and it starts this week with Virginia Tech.

And finally there’s the man who’s been carrying the load for Syracuse: Sean Tucker. The freshman has been doing it all for SU this year. Not only is he second in the country in rushing yards, but he’s also the leading receiver for the Orange with 224 yards. Tucker comes into Saturday’s matchup rushing for over 100 yards in five straight games. Virginia Tech 0-2 this season when it gives up a 100 yard rusher.

Last year, the team wasn’t that competitive. This season, a bounce here, a bounce there and perhaps Syracuse is a 6-1 ranked team right now. Instead, it’s 3-4 and dead last in the ACC. But, the past can’t be changed and how the Orange respond to this string of painful losses is most likely what’ll define their season. After all, SU needs to win at least three of its last five games in order to qualify for a bowl game.

Syracuse football is traveling to Blacksburg, Virginia for the first time since 2003 Saturday to take on Virginia Tech. Kickoff between the Orange and Hokies is at 12:30 P.M. and Countdown to Kickoff begins at 12:00 P.M. on the original home of the Orange, WAER.