The Syracuse Orange had another tough game against Big Ten foe Northwestern on Saturday. The result: a 48-27 drubbing and an 0-2 record. But while the coaches had a tough time finding anything that worked, they did provide fans with a reason to show up for the home opener.
Late in the fourth quarter, after Drew Allen threw his fourth interception, Terrel Hunt entered the game. Hunt proceeded to lead the offense down the field for a touchdown, and displayed a blend of running and passing ability. He completed two passes to Quinta Funderburk for 22 yards and ran for 30 more, including a 15 yard touchdown run.
And just like that, Coach Shafer officially had a quarterback controversy on his hands.
The coaches confirmed Tuesday that Hunt will play in some capacity against Wagner. Allen will remain the starter for the time being and, all things considered, that may be for the best.
The Northwestern game was Allen’s second career start. It’s still too early to give up on him. Moreover, Allen is playing on a new team, with a new system, and the players surrounding him are still learning the offense as well. Even Ryan Nassib could have struggled with the turnover Syracuse experienced in the off-season. Adapting to a new coaching staff and the losses of Justin Pugh, Zach Chibane, Marcus Sales and Alec Lemon would be a lot for anyone.
But the coaches did give Allen the starting job for a reason. His struggles to this point don’t necessarily mean that there is a better alternative.
Allen’s most recent performance wasn’t all bad, either. 27-41 (66%) with 279 passing yards looks pretty good on paper. The four interceptions he threw notwithstanding, he was more accurate than he had been the week before, when he completed fewer than 50% of his passes.
Hunt’s lone drive does not justify anointing him as this team’s savior yet. He may have orchestrated a touchdown but it was against Northwestern’s back-ups, in a game that was already over. Even if his lone drive had been against the Northwestern starters it would not have been enough. You can’t judge a quarterback based on one drive.
It seems wise that the coaches are going to give Hunt a chance to prove that the touchdown was no aberration. He played as well as anyone could have hoped last week and he deserves a chance to earn the job. But with Wagner and Tulane on deck, there is no need to make him the starter just yet.
The next two weeks should provide the Orange with a perfect opportunity to fine-tune their offense. They should be able to win both games and advance to 2-2 easily, regardless of who starts. So, with Clemson coming to town October 5th, why should Shafer tip his hand now?
If Allen and Hunt divide the snaps for a couple weeks, Clemson will have to prepare for both quarterbacks. The Orange will need every conceivable advantage they can get just to remain competitive in that game. For now, Shafer should make it an open competition, let the best quarterback win and keep Clemson in the dark.