SYRACUSE, N.Y. (SU ATHLETICS) – Syracuse is off to its best start since 2018 and begins its longest homestand of the season this Saturday when it hosts Purdue at 12 p.m. in the JMA Wireless Dome. The Orange is coming off a 48-14 victory at UConn to improve their record to 2-0.
“I’m really excited about the outcome of [Saturday’s] game,” said head coach Dino Babers at his Monday press conference. “I thought the football team handled that situation extremely well based off some of the other things that went on around the country. We were excited about the support we had at our first game at home – really excited about how many Orange really came on the road with us to Connecticut. We had a strong, strong outing at that away game. We’re looking forward to getting back at home and seeing if we can make it even louder in the Dome.”
Purdue enters Saturday’s game with a 1-1 record after shutting out Indiana State, 56-0, last weekend. The Boilermakers opened the season with a 35-31 loss to Penn State. Purdue had the lead but a touchdown with 57 seconds remaining gave the Nittany Lions the victory.
“Coach Brohm and the Boilermakers – I’ve coached against him before when he was at Western Kentucky,” Babers said. “He’s a fabulous coach. He’s done some amazing things at Purdue. They have an outstanding defense. As always, he has a quarterback that is just through the roof. He’s going to be the second of what I consider the toughest schedule for quarterbacks that our football team and our defense has to deal with.”
That quarterback is Aidan O’Connell. The sixth-year former walk-on was an All-Big Ten Second Team selection a year ago when he threw for 3,712 yards and 28 touchdowns. He became just the second Boilermaker – joining Drew Brees – to record multiple 500-yard passing games (Michigan State, Tennessee). This season, O’Connell is 47-for-78 for 576 yards and five touchdowns.
“This guy just doesn’t make mistakes,” Babers said. “It’s like you’re playing a coach who can actually throw the football out there. He’s really, really talented and he’s really, really well-coached. There’s no doubt he’s one of the top quarterbacks that we’re going to be playing this year.
“He’s a big-time quarterback. This guy is different. This guy doesn’t run like Malik [Cunningham]. He moves the ball around the field… He is no joke. He knows where the ball is supposed to go. I haven’t seen a team fool him yet with his eyes or get him to hold the football. So the ball is going to come out of his hand and it’s going to go somewhere and, normally, he’s really, really accurate with it. The last time I saw somebody that accurate like that he was got by the Patriots. The guy is accurate with the football. He’s one of the best quarterbacks we’ve played in a long time.”
The Orange defense has been up to the challenge so far this season. Syracuse ranks ranks 26th in total defense (268.0 ypg.) and 17th in scoring defense (10.5 ppg.). ‘Cuse is giving up 151 yards per game in the air, a figure that ranks 19th nationally.
Syracuse’s starting quarterback Garrett Shrader is coming off one of his most productive games as recorded career highs in completions (20) and passing yards (292) and tied his career best with three touchdown passes. He also ran for rushed for two touchdowns against the Huskies and now ranks ninth in the nation in points responsible for with 48.
Shrader completed passes to 10 different receivers in the win against the Huskies, including four to running back Sean Tucker. Tucker finished with 17 yards receiving and 112 yards on the ground. He continues his climb up the Syracuse all-time rushing list as he passed Kyle McIntosh (2,250 yards) for 13th place on the career ledger with 2,334 yards. Next up is Orange legend Ernie Davis, who ran for 2,386 yards from 1959-61.
The Orange are 9-4 in the Dome in non-league games during Babers’ tenure and have outscored their opponents, 507-270.
Syracuse fans can help those who are facing food insecurities when they come to the JMA Dome on Saturday. The Salvation Army of Syracuse will partner with the University to collect non-perishable food items for the Emergency Pantry. There will be drop-off barrels at 11 locations around campus approaching the Dome ahead of kickoff and volunteers will collect monetary donations at Red Kettles stationed around the Dome.