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Syracuse hits the road for the first time to battle Purdue

Syracuse running back LeQuint Allen scores a rushing touchdown against Western Michigan with the help of his offensive line.
Syracuse running back LeQuint Allen scores a rushing touchdown against Western Michigan with the help of his offensive line.

Last Saturday, Syracuse football (2-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) beat Western Michigan (1-1, Mid-American Conference) 48-7 in the JMA Wireless Dome after another dominant performance from the 'Cuse.

The game couldn't have started worse for the Orange. On the second play from scrimmage, Broncos running back Jalen Buckley took an inside zone handoff up the middle 75 yards to the endzone untouched. The Dome, full of over 32,000 fans, was stunned. When asked about the early score, SU head coach Dino Babers had two endings in mind.

"I'm sitting here going, well, there's either two things that's going to happen: either this is going to happen a lot, or we're never going to see this happen again in this game.”

It most definitely didn't happen again. After the score, SU held Buckley to just 12 more yards and scored 48 unanswered points.

Unfortunately for Syracuse, though, on its first drive, tight end Oronde Gadsden went down with an ankle injury and did not return, leaving his status in question for Saturday's game. Last season, the Florida native was SU's top receiver with almost 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. The tight end was named All-ACC in 2022 and a pre-season All-American this fall.

Oronde Gadsden is no stranger to Syracuse's next opponent, Purdue (1-1, Big Ten Conference). Last season, Gadsden had his breakout game against the Boilermakers. The junior hauled in 6 catches for 112 yards and two scores in a memorable 32-29 win for the Orange, including the game-winning score.

The two programs meet again on Saturday, but the circumstances are entirely different. Purdue has a completely new coaching staff and a remodeled offense. In December, the Boilermakers hired former Illinois defensive coordinator Ryan Walters as head coach to replace Jeff Brohm. At just 37 years old, Walters is the youngest coach in the Big Ten.

"I think anytime you have a change in staff, it's difficult [to scout]. We are watching a lot of tape from a lot of different places… It makes for a lot of homework on our part, it's going to be a brand-new deal for us we can't base it off of last year." Babers said about the new staff in charge and how it affects the game preparation.

In its first two games, Purdue lost its opener to Fresno State 39-35 and beat ACC foe Virginia Tech 24-17.

Purdue is largely different in player personnel this year as well. In last season's week three thriller, the Boilermaker's Aidan O'Connell and Charlie Jones duo shredded the Orange secondary. O'Connell threw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns, while Jones hauled in 11 receptions for 188 yards and a score. Both players were selected in the fourth round of the NFL draft in April and won't take the field Saturday.

O'Connell finished 5th in passing touchdowns and 6th in passing yards all-time for the black and gold. In the offseason, Purdue had the challenge of replacing one of the best quarterbacks in program history. Coach Walters decided to look in the ever-evolving transfer portal to find a replacement.

Syracuse linebacker Marlowe Wax (2, orange) sacks Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell (16, white).
Syracuse linebacker Marlowe Wax (2, orange) sacks Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell (16, white).

The Boilermakers went fishing in the portal and reeled in a big one in quarterback Hudson Card. 247 Sports ranked Card as the third-best quarterback available in the transfer portal. The redshirt junior played his first three seasons of college ball at Texas, recording over 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns. The former 4-star recruit was highly touted coming out of high school, even picking up offers from Alabama and Ohio State.

The dual-threat quarterback has thrown for over 500 yards so far, fifth in the Big Ten, and has shown his ability to extend plays outside the pocket.

When asked about comparing Aidan O'Connell and Hudson Card, coach Babers said,

"First of all, I'm not going to compare players but I can tell you right now, Card is good… there's no doubt about it. He will be the best quarterback we have faced so far."

Ryan Walters, Hudson Card, and crew welcome the Orange to Ross-Ade stadium on Saturday at 7:30. WAER's coverage begins at 7:00 with McClurg Remodeling Countdown to Kickoff.