Syracuse (1-2) is headed to Minneapolis for its first true road game against another Big Ten opponent in the Minnesota Golden Gophers (3-0). This will also be the team’s first night game in an outdoor stadium, in a city that is known for its cool nights.
For SU to get win number two, senior quarterback Ryan Nassib will have to step on the gas pedal and not hit the brakes until the clock reads triple zeros.
In the first three games of the season, the offense has been slow to start and has needed second half adjustments to produce – and in last weeks case, put up enough points to win the game.
The first step for the Orange is that the red zone must mean touchdown. The Golden Gophers are allowing only 19 points per game, so every time SU gets in its opponents territory, it will have to make it count. Syracuse fans don’t want this game to come down to junior Ross Krautman’s leg, since he is only making 50% of his field goal attempts.
The Golden Gophers also have eight sacks this season and Nassib will need the time to pick apart the secondary and fuel the no-huddle offense. For Nassib to have that time, he will need production from the triple threat backfield of junior Prince-Tyson Gulley, junior Jerome Smith, and freshman Ashton Broyld.
Broyld has proven to be just what Coach Marrone and the Orange expected. The freshman has provided an extra option In the running game this season and gives Smith and Gulley time to get rest on the sideline. Smith is more of a bruiser between the hashes while Gulley is the speed option in the backfield and sees a lot of time as the check-down option for Nassib on pass plays. If the three of them can continue to take pressure off of Nassib, he will be able to spread the field and feed his talented recievers, especially Marcus Sales.
There is good news on the defensive side of the ball, since Minnesota’s starting junior dual threat quarterback MarQueis Gray will not start in the game with a high ankle sprain. Backup sophomore QB Max Shortell will get the start, and while he is young, he has gotten playing time this season with 260 passing yards, four touchdowns, and 1 interception in 2 games. While Gray is more of a dual threat, Shortell is a pocket passer and a bit more accurate than Gray – completing 65% of his passes in the two games he has played this season.
The Golden Gophers are averaging 34 points a game, but expect a slowed down, more balanced offense with Shortell under center. However, all bets are off if he can continually connect with sophomore wide receiver A.J. Barker (10 receptions, 231 yards and 4 touchdowns) through the air, which has been something opponents have been able to do so far this season against the Orange D.
So who is going to leave the stadium with the W? The Orange. Score: 28-21
Why? While this game could turn into a shootout, SU is facing a defense that is barely ranked ahead of USC (who SU scored 29 points on), according to ESPN. Nassib will be able to control the tempo throughout the game with help of the balanced attack from the backfield to lead the Orange to an even 2-2 record.
Bold Prediction: Jerome Smith gets his first rushing touchdown of the season.
All Golden Gophers stats from Golden Gophers Athletics