The Blue Raiders will take to the road this Saturday as they take on the Syracuse Orange, and this one might mean just a little more to one member of the coaching staff than it does to others.
“He said we would all be best friends for life if we beat Syracuse,” linebacker DJ Sanders said of defensive coordinator Scott Shafer. “It’s maybe a little personal for him.”
Shafer spent seven years on the Syracuse coaching staff, with his final two years as head coach before being relieved of his duties in 2015.
Shafer won’t be the only one seeking redemption Saturday.
“I take full responsibility for what happened last week,” stated quarterback Brent Stockstill. “I’ll make sure we put a better product on the field this Saturday. Obviously, we were embarrassed and disappointed by what happened last Saturday, but it’s a new week.”
And it’s a very different team they face, as well. While Vanderbilt runs a traditional pro-style offense, Syracuse will be attacking with an up-tempo, no-huddle offense. However, Sanders feels like practicing against his own team’s offense has them prepared.
“We go against one of the best spread offenses in the country in practice, during camp they were going no-huddle and it was hard for us at first,” said Sanders. “As camp went on, we got used to it and we were clicking, all on the same page. We were making checks and making calls no matter how fast they were going so we just have to keep that up this game.”
The good news for the new look, more aggressive Blue Raider defense is that the Orange offensive line allowed 38 sacks last season. However, that line was extremely inexperienced last year. The few returning starters they had from 2015 were lost for the year early on, so they played most of the year with five linemen who had no starts prior to the season. The Orange offensive line opened the 2017 season with 51 starts, but it would be a surprise if the Blue Raiders, especially defensive end Walter Brady, doesn’t apply plenty of pressure.
The Syracuse defense returns 10 starters from 2016, but last year was statistically their worst defense in years. The Orange allowed over 500 yards per game and 38.6 points per contest in their first season in the Tampa 2 scheme. Those numbers will likely improve going into the second year of the scheme, but then again, they can’t get much worse.
Syracuse’s Tampa 2 scheme won’t look to apply nearly as much pressure as Vanderbilt did last week. Their scheme instead utilizes their front four to rush the quarterback. That will be a welcome change for a Blue Raider offensive line that struggled to slow linebacker blitzes last week.
Middle will once again play the underdog, as Syracuse opened the week as 8.5-point favorites. The Blue Raiders will look to prove the odds makers wrong Saturday when the game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. CT. You can stream the game via WatchESPN or listen on The Game 102.5 FM.