Syracuse already has matched its win total from last season, and that's a good thing.
Still, that's not saying much one game into the season. At least it's nice for the players to finally enter a week on a positive note after a 10-loss campaign.
“I feel like there’s a lot of hope restored in the program,” redshirt freshman defensive back Garrett Williams said. “It was a really big confidence booster. Honest, I feel like it was a big weight off our shoulders.”
The boost comes from a convincing 29-9 win last week at Ohio of the Mid-American Conference. The Orange defense held the Bobcats without a touchdown and the offense behind a healthy front line produced 283 rushing yards and allowed only one sack.
Next up is former Big East foe Rutgers (1-0) on Saturday in the Carrier Dome for the Orange's first home game with fans since the 2019 season finale, a span of 650 days. Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano is wary of that rarest of college football venues — a road game inside.
“It’s not only a real road environment, it’s one of the loudest road environments you can have," Schiano said. "We played there several years, those keys jingling and jangling, so it’s going to be loud. We have to get ready for that noise. We practice with crowd noise all the time, but the crowd noise you pipe in over those speakers and the crowd noise you are going to face in the Dome are two different things.”
Rutgers is a slight favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, and figures to offer a stiff challenge. The Scarlet Knights scored five different ways in a 61-14 victory last week over Temple — a safety, a field goal, a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and an interception return touchdown. It had six rushing touchdowns overall, the most in a game under Schiano, who is in his second stint with the team.
Rutgers is seeking its first 2-0 start since 2014. The Scarlet Knights’ 61 points against Temple were the most against an FBS opponent since 2008 and the second-most scored in a game under Schiano, who is in his 13th season with the school. Rutgers ranks second in the nation in scoring offense and its plus-5 turnover margin leads the country.
Sean Tucker emerged as the go-to tailback for the Orange as a freshman last season, averaging 4.6 yards behind an injury-riddled offensive line. He had a career-high 181 yards against Ohio, including a 47-yarder.
“He had two or three runs where he jumped out there, but it’s the little runs that make a difference whether you’re going to push up for big numbers," Orange coach Dino Babers said. "And if you watch his 3-yard runs, his 4-yard runs, his 5-yard runs, he really ran really, really hard between the tackles. That was a doggone good game and a lot of that credit goes to the offensive line and the guys that were blocking up front.”
Rutgers senior LB Olakunle Fatukasi had a game-high nine tackles with four for loss, three sacks, a forced fumble and a safety against Temple.
Rutgers is playing Syracuse for the first time since 2012 and for the 44th time overall. The Scarlet Knights have won six of the last eight matchups and three of the previous four in the Carrier Dome. The 44th meeting ties the most for Rutgers against an FBS opponent, matching the number of games against Army. The RU-SU game was played every season from 1980-2012 and Rutgers won five of the last seven under Schiano during his first tenure.
Fans attending the 2 p.m. game must bring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result obtained within 72 hours (PCR) or six hours (antigen) of kickoff. Masks are required when not eating.
AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan in New Jersey contributed to this report.
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