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Syracuse Football Travels to UConn for First Road Matchup

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Cuse.com
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Caleb Okechukwu (93) and the Orange defense swarm Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham.

Syracuse set a scorched earth path in its season opener last Saturday, defeating Louisville 31-7. The Orange dominated the Cardinals offense and QB Malik Cunningham. SU held U of L to single digits after allowing a combined 71 points over the last two meetings.

That being said, the ‘Cuse faces a very different opponent this week when they travel to East Hartford, Connecticut to take on UCONN. The Huskies don’t have the same pedigree of quarterback as the Cardinals, but their running game so far in 2022 is top notch. Connecticut through the first two weeks of the season is 4th in the nation in team rushing yards, thanks primarily to their starting RB Nathan Carter. The sophomore has 313 yards on the ground, which ranks 2nd in the FBS in total rushing yards.

Stopping Carter and the Huskies ground game will be tougher than expected this week for the Orange. SU lost a critical part of its defense in week one: linebacker Stefon Thompson. The sophomore went down with an injury in the second quarter for the ‘Cuse and was deemed “out for the year,” according to Head Coach Dino Babers at his press conference on Monday.

“Stefon Thompson was a pass rusher, but Stefon Thompson is so much more than that," Head Coach Dino Babers said. "A lot of people missed the boat on him. His run game is just as good as his pass protection. He’s one of those guys who was extremely extremely productive…He was a valuable member of the defense.”

Twitter: @CuseFootball Stefon Thompson (7) chases down Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham (3)

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@CuseFootball on Twitter
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Stefon Thompson (7) chases down Louisville's Malik Cunningham.

Syracuse now turns to Derek McDonald to fill the void left by Thompson. McDonald, a former tight end, got game action after Thompson exited the contest on Saturday. In that appearance the Redshirt Freshman intercepted a Malik Cunningham pass in the 3rd quarter returning it all the way into the redzone.

McDonald will slot in right next to the formidable linebacker duo of Mikel Jones and Marlowe Wax. Jones, the defensive captain, finished 2nd in the ACC in 110 tackles last season and Wax was recently named the ACC linebacker of the week for the season opener. Throughout the week Jones has stressed the importance of a ”one game at a time” mentality.

“It’s an important game," Jones said. "This is one of the biggest games of the year just being game number two, and no matter who we are playing we have to just be us and be sound on our defense.”

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Mikel Jones (3) and Justin Barron (23) celebrate during the 31-7 victory over Louisville.

Jones, McDonald, and the defense aim to hold a second straight opponent to single digits for the first time since 2010, when Syracuse held Colgate and USF to seven and nine points respectively.

Find out if the Orange can complete this feat on Saturday against the Huskies, WAER's live coverage begins at 6:30 with Countdown to Kickoff, followed by the game at 7.