Season Report Card: Syracuse
The 2013 season for Shafer wasn’t a terrible start, especially considering Syracuse was entering its first year of play in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Orange didn’t register any shocking upsets, but won some games that were expected to go either way.
Syracuse found success immediately after the quarterback switch from Drew Allen to Terrel Hunt. Hunt was able to get his feet wet by facing FCS Wagner and Tulane first, but was able to lean on his running game in conference play. Syracuse attempted 553 rushes in 2013, second to only Georgia Tech in the ACC. But not only did Syracuse run the ball a ton, the Orange ran it fairly well, averaging 4.6 yards an attempt. Junior running back Jerome Smith led the team with 914 yards rushing and reached the end zone 13 times. But even with a strong rushing attack, Syracuse only averaged 22.7 points per contest (ranked 100th in the FBS). With Hunt only being a junior next season, the Orange will look to make him a bigger threat to stretch the field vertically.
The defense had a wake-up call after losing 56-0 at Georgia Tech. After its poor performance, Syracuse shutout Wake Forest (13-0) and gave up a single field goal at Maryland (20-3). The Orange defense had a playmaker at both the defensive line and in the secondary. Both named third team All-ACC, defensive tackle Jay Bromley and safety Durell Eskridge struck fear into opposing quarterbacks. Bromley finished the season with 10 sacks (ranked fifth in the ACC), while Eskridge totaled four interceptions (also ranked fifth in the ACC). Syracuse was also stellar against the run, opposing teams only averaged 3.8 yards a carry which ranked 24th in the country. So with an offense that wasn’t necessarily explosive, I’d say the defense performed fairly well to win seven games.
With Syracuse losing its first two games of the season against Big Ten opponents (Penn State 23-17; Northwestern 48-27), it had to feel good getting a win against Minnesota in the Texas Bowl (21-17). Considering this was Shafer’s first year ever as a head coach and the fact that the team was entering a new conference, the season was a moderate success. If the Orange can continue to have a strong running game and become more efficient through the air, they could improve on this season’s record.