The last time the Syracuse Orange had started a season 3-0 was back in 2018 when they went 10-3. That 10-3 record stands as the best, and only winning season so far under Dino Babers. With wins over Louisville, Connecticut, and now Purdue, the team’s identity is shifting in the right direction for the Orange.
It starts with Robert Anae taking over as the offensive coordinator. Anae is coming from Virginia, where he led the offense to be a top five unit with an average of 515.8 yards per game. Anae got the best out of Brennan Armstrong as a passer and as a runner, and that has translated into helping Garrett Shrader as well.
Last season, Shrader was decent, completing 123-of-234 passes for 1,445 yards, nine touchdowns, and four interceptions. He struggled with pushing the ball down the field consistently though. A lot of that had to do with the offensive system under Sterlin Gilbert that was not set up to utilize the strengths of each player and was run with a vanilla scheme. That has changed under Anae.
Shrader has looked more composed as a passer so far through three games, and his accuracy has remained consistent. He has completed 51-of-77 passes for 706 yards, eight touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Anae utilizes plenty of pre-snap motion and misdirection in his scheme, which has helped Shrader be able to read defenses better.
Robert Anae has transformed Garrett Schraeder and this Syracuse passing game. 3 TDs in the last two weeks using motion into stack formations causing confusion and gaining leverage against the defense.@Stephen_Bailey1@minknate@MikeWatersSYR@Manchild_Show@JordanCapozzi_ pic.twitter.com/ithPujDtm7
— Mike Glennon (@Mike_Glennon) September 12, 2022
With the trust Anae has in Shrader as a passer and how he worked on his throwing technique has paid off. It also helps with the balanced offense the Orange are running. With a running back like Sean Tucker the ground game has remained strong. Tucker, a top running back prospect for the 2023 NFL Draft, is coming off a 2021 season where he put up 1,496 yards and 12 touchdowns over 246 attempts. This season so far, Tucker has 66 attempts that have gone for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Shrader’s ability as a runner has still been utilized, just more creatively. He has 46 attempts for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
Against Purdue though, it looked almost as if the offense was reverting back early on. Shrader had some questionable passes, two of which would’ve been picks had Purdue not been penalized. He only ended up completing 4-of-10 passes in the first half for 35 yards. The old Orange offense wouldn’t have made any adjustments to rectify things. That changed this time. Shrader came back out in the second half completing 9-of-19 passes for 146 yards and the offense looked more efficient all around with getting the run game more involved. With 12 seconds left in the game, Shrader threw a 25-yard touchdown to Oronde Gadsden II to secure the win. To go from only three points in the first half to 32 to win the game, they regained the energy needed to put together the win.
B1G PLAY 😤
Shrader to Gadsden for the 25-yd score! pic.twitter.com/hxcJOFysIX
— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) September 17, 2022
The defense has also shown massive strides this season so far. In total last season they only came away with seven takeaways, now they have had five already. Their defensive unit got overlooked in 2021 due to their record, but they only allowed 330.3 yards per game. This ranked second in the ACC, only behind Clemson and 19th nationally. They returned key players from this group that made an impact in the game against Purdue.
In the secondary, Garrett Williams had a huge day. Granted, he did give up a few plays to Charlie Jones, but he also came up huge in critical moments. One of those moments being a pass breakup in the end zone. Mikel Jones, coming off a First-Team All-ACC season, had 10 tackles, three hurries, and a sack. Darian Chestnut also had a few good plays in the secondary against a high-powered passing attack like Purdue. Although they gave up 29 points, their bend don’t break mentality came up big in the end, holding Purdue to their lowest point total of the season so far.
From the offense to the defense, everything is currently clicking for the Syracuse Orange and the momentum is currently in their favor. They have an identity on offense and defense, and Babers has the Orange football team back on track.