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Syracuse Football Looks For 5-0 Start Against Woeful Wagner

Syracuse kicker Andre Szmyt (91) kicks one of his five field goals as defensive back Justin Barron (23) holds in the Orange’s 22-20 win over Virginia last Friday.

One thousand, one hundred days. A lot can happen in that time. Over the past 1100 days, Syracuse Football won 13 games, the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic took place, and 56 different songs topped the charts. It's also been 1100 days since Wagner College won a football game. The Seahawks haven’t tasted victory since defeating Long Island University 24-14 on September 28, 2019. 23 losses later, Wagner will attempt to snap that streak Saturday night in the JMA Wireless Dome against Syracuse.

If the Seahawks have any chance of emerging victorious this weekend, it likely won’t be on the defensive side of the ball. Wagner ranks at the bottom of the Northeast Conference in almost every major defensive category, allowing 47 points and 500.7 yards per game this year. Their offense isn’t much better however, as the Seahawks are last in the NEC with just 15 points scored per game, and second-to-last in yardage, producing 225.7 yards per game. Despite all the negative numbers, Wagner broadcaster Keith Raad said the team is staying positive.

“They have those little blips, those little tastes, and once you start to put it together step by step with a scoring drive, a good quarter, a good half, a good second half, putting a game away,” he said. “Then you’ll start to see some of those moral victories… turn into actual victories.”

It’s not as though the Seahawks lack any talent. Defensive end Titus Leo is a potential NFL Draft prospect. While his numbers this year aren’t what you may expect from a reigning FCS All-American and two-time NEC Defensive Player of the Year, that’s because “everyone on planet Earth is avoiding going after [him],” according to Raad. Wide receiver Naiem Simmons is someone to watch on the offensive side of the ball as well. The junior from Cherry Hill, NJ ranks third in the NEC with 78.3 receiving yards per game, and will present a tough challenge for Syracuse’s talented secondary.

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Syracuse players, including Mario Escobar Jr. (33) and Joe Pinjuh II (48), accept congratulations from fans after beating Virginia 22-20.

Speaking of the Orange, they’ll go into Saturday’s contest expecting not just to win, but to blow the doors off the Seahawks. After all, Syracuse hasn’t lost to an FCS opponent since 1958. For the Orange to maintain that streak, they’ll need a better performance from the offense. Outside of a touchdown drive set up by a long kick return into opposing territory from Trebor Peña, Syracuse struggled to find the end zone in their 22-20 victory over Virginia last week. One player the 'Cuse will certainly target is Oronde Gadsden II. The sophomore wide receiver has established himself as Garrett Shrader’s number one target through four games, with 19 catches for 300 yards and three touchdowns to show for his efforts.

Despite seemingly every metric pinning this game as a foregone conclusion, head coach Dino Babers is trying to ensure his team doesn’t let their heads get too big.

“This is a tricky game for us,” Babers said. “We need to stay locked in and understand that [a big upset] has already happened a bunch of times around the country, and we really don’t want it to happen here in Syracuse. You’re talking about a really good football team not being in the right frame of mind. I’m going to do everything in my power not to let that happen.”

Syracuse and Wagner square off in the JMA Wireless Dome Saturday. Kickoff is at 5, Countdown to Kickoff is at 4:30, and it’ll all be on the original home of the Orange, WAER.