At the very least, Saturday’s 54-0 win over Wagner in the Orange’s home opener helped dim the disappointment of losses to Penn State and No. 18 Northwestern in the first two games of the season. And it didn’t matter that the Seahawks play at Division I’s second level.
“The challenge for them was to win the way you should win against a lower division opponent,” Shafer said Tuesday. “What’s pleasing to me is they did that. When you lose a game, everything seems like it was horrible. When you win a game, things always seem better than they really are.
“Really, you have to find that middle ground and understand that that’s where the reality sits.”
Reality likely will begin to set in on some more on Saturday when Tulane (2-1) visits the Carrier Dome. Then, after a bye week, Syracuse (1-2) finally opens play in the Atlantic Coast Conference – at home to No. 3 Clemson (2-0).
The Orange thrived on Saturday behind the play of sophomore quarterback Terrel Hunt, who made his first college start one to remember. Hunt completed 15 of 18 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns as Syracuse accumulated 595 yards of total offense on 83 plays. Including the loss at Northwestern, Hunt has quarterbacked seven drives this season and has engineered six touchdowns and a field goal.
Hunt’s pass efficiency rating of 262.0 against Wagner is the third-highest by an FBS quarterback this season, and that’s enough to earn him the start against the Green Wave.
Still, Shafer is making no promises to Hunt or Drew Allen, who started the first three games but has six interceptions and only two scoring passes.
“It’s a long season. It’s always going to be a work in progress,” Shafer said. “Right now, Terrel deserves to get the nod. Both kids have the ability and the skill sets to give us a chance to win. It’s no different than any other position. We’re going to try to make the position better by having competition. We’ll take it one series at a time, one game at a time. As long as the production is where we expect it to be, then whoever is getting those snaps will continue to play.”
One who won’t play is senior placekicker Ross Krautman, who missed the Wagner game to end his streak of 40 consecutive starts. Shafer said Krautman has a small tear in his pelvic area and is in the process of visiting several doctors to get opinions on how to proceed medically. Sophomore Ryan Norton handled the kicking duties against Wagner, hitting 2 of 3 field goals and 6 of 7 extra points. He will kick vs. Tulane.
Like most of his colleagues at Syracuse, Shafer was somewhat subdued on Tuesday, much like his former boss at Syracuse, Doug Marrone, was on Sunday after his first victory as an NFL coach. Marrone, who left the Orange in January to take over the Buffalo Bills, was in tears when he revealed he was mourning the loss of Rob Edson, a good friend of both Marrone and Shafer.
Not much had changed in two days.
Edson, who died Saturday at age 45 of an apparent heart attack, spent 21 years working in the athletic department at Syracuse, his alma mater, working his way up to chief financial officer and senior associate director of athletics. He was in his third year as athletic director at Onondaga Community College, a job he took in order to spend more time with his two young children.
Edson’s death has sparked an outpouring of emotion from both campuses. Edson’s wife, Sue, is assistant athletics director for communications at Syracuse and the chief liaison for the football team.
“It’s been an extremely difficult time,” Shafer said. “Any time you lose somebody that’s part of your family, it’s devastating. There really isn’t a better person than Rob Edson. It’s just a devastating loss. He was just one of the best, one of the most unselfish human beings that I’ve had the privilege to know.
“It’s a shock, but it’s also an opportunity to reflect on every day that we live, every opportunity that we have to spend with the ones we love.”