Syracuse football aims to get back in the win column against Virginia Tech
Syracuse football (4-3, 0-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) continues its road trip when it visits Virginia Tech (3-4, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday. After a grueling 3-game stretch of Clemson, North Carolina, and Florida State to start conference play, the Orange are set to face a less formidable opponent in the Hokies.
SU took down VT on the road 41-36 in 2021 behind a career day from now-senior quarterback Garrett Shrader. The Orange gunslinger threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns while adding 170 rushing yards and 3 scores on the ground. But Syracuse head coach Dino Babers kept it real when asked if that victory against Virginia Tech can help his squad on Thursday.
“It’s a good feeling. I’m glad that we won. But it [2021’s win] has nothing to do with it [Thursday’s matchup]," said Babers.
Another factor that makes this week’s visit to Blacksburg different is the start time. 2021’s tilt kicked off at 12:30 p.m., while Thursday is a primetime contest. Lane Stadium is one of the premiere atmospheres in college football, and a night game only energizes the rowdy VT crowd more. When asked how his squad has prepared for the environment, Babers admitted there’s no way to truly recreate it.
“We’ll turn on the speakers and we’ll do all those things, but that place is different. I had an opportunity to play there for my first time two years ago, and that atmosphere was exciting – and that will be nothing compared to what we’re going to face on Thursday night. It’s really going to be electric there’s no doubt about it.”
However, even with the Hokies’ 12th man, Garrett Shrader sets out to return to his early-season form. Over the course of SU’s current losing skid, defenses have keyed in the Syracuse signal-caller – particularly as a runner. Through the first four games of 2023, Syracuse’s captain rushed for almost 80 yards a contest and averaged over 6.5 yards per carry. But in his last three outings, Shrader has just 42 yards total on the ground with less than 1.5 yards per tote. Not to mention, he had six rushing scores in the first four games and has been held without one since.
Fortunately for the Orange and Shrader, this week’s matchup is far more favorable on paper. The Hokies rank 103 out of 133 squads nationally in rushing defense, letting up over 170 yards per game. That mark also puts VT second-to-last among ACC teams for rushing defense.
Virginia Tech’s porous run defense doesn’t just help Shrader, but it also makes sophomore halfback LeQuint Allen’s job easier. Allen, who is fresh off setting his season-high with 110 rushing yards at FSU, was the lone bright spot in Syracuse’s 41-3 loss in Tallahassee two weekends ago. And coach Babers had some high praise for his bell-cow back after that standout showing.
“LeQuint is a versatile player. He’ll be a first, second, and third down player in the National Football League," said Babers.
Allen, Shrader, and Syracuse attempt to get the offense going against Virginia Tech Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. WAER’s coverage starts with McClurg team Countdown to Kickoff at 7 p.m.