What’s Ahead: Fans return to ‘The Dome,’ so does Rutgers

Orange Nation
Greg Schiano

FILE – In this Dec. 29, 2013, file photo, then-Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano reacts on the sideline in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans. Schiano will not be returning to Rutgers because the school and its former football coach were unable to come to an agreement on a deal, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because neither side wanted to make the negotiations public. Schiano spent 11 seasons at Rutgers before leaving for the NFL in 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Feig, File)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — If you watched sports for more than just a minute then you have probably heard of the sports books in Vegas and their knowledge. They seem to know most things, if not everything, before it happens.  

Sports books can determine how good a team is or isn’t. With most books having Syracuse’s win total sitting around 3.5, they don’t think this team is very good. But with that said, Vegas also thought last week’s opener at Ohio was either going to be close or an outright win by the Bobcats. Here lies the possible outlier. 

Opening Lines 

Syracuse might be better than we thought. Or not, it really is too early to tell, but I’ll admit to one thing… they were better vs. Ohio than I thought they were going to be. Not only did the offensive line look competent, they appeared to dominate portions of the game last week. 

Speaking of dominate, hello Duce Chestnut. The freshman cornerback registered five solo tackles, a pass breakup and an interception that sealed the deal for the Orange. Along with the key stops when the defense needed it most, it is one of the best debuts for the program in recent memory, including Dino’s. 

“Sunday in the team meeting, Duce Chestnut got the game ball on defense. In 35 years, I have never seen anybody – I’ve never even heard of anybody – getting a game ball in their first collegiate game,” Babers said in his Monday press conference.  

For Babers and the Orange, this dominance is nothing new. For us in the media, training camp was pretty quiet. We weren’t allowed to see much other than stretching. But for this team, they saw Duce making plays all camp. 

“When you have Garrett (Williams) on one side of the field, and you’re in a quarterback battle, you don’t want to be throwing over at Garrett,” Babers recounted. “The quarterbacks started going after Duce, and about halfway through, they started to realize they needed to start spreading (the ball) out and going both ways.” 

After week one, it’s not only the Orange players taking notice anymore. 

DeVito’s Job 

A big point of contention for some, including me, was DeVito as the starting quarterback for the offense. It wasn’t that DeVito isn’t capable of making plays, it’s that he hadn’t for a long time. 

Saturday, Tommy didn’t impress with his arm or daunting stats. He did so with his decision making and leadership. He also impressed with his legs. DeVito ran for a shade under 50 yards and the first touchdown of the season. That along with his cool demeanor went a long way with his teammates. 

“His leadership is amazing. When I gave up pressure on one play, I looked right at him and I was like ‘Sorry, man.’ Because I hate when anyone touches my quarterback. He was like, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ Next play, we kept moving on and we just took care of business from there. Tommy doesn’t get hot-headed. If something happens from the offensive lineman, he’s never someone to name call or anything. He just motivates us for the next play,” said offensive lineman Chris Bleich, who made his first start for the Orange last week. 

Babers also liked Tommy’s decision making. He said DeVito has been making the right play even through camp. But there are still some questions when it comes to this offense and this position. 

Is DeVito the sole guy under center? The answer to that is only known by Dino. He told the media during training camp that Garrett Shrader deserved game time to try and prove himself. That did not really come to be against the Bobcats. Shrader only played in mop up duty at Ohio. But that leads to the other question… was that intentional from Dino? 

The theory behind this is that Syracuse knew there were going to handle the Bobcats and intentionally kept the offensive play calling bland – keeping some things secret until they host Rutgers in week two. That line of reasoning does make sense. After defeating Temple, a team better than Ohio on paper, 61-14, Rutgers is a big step up in competition. 

Battle of Strengths 

Despite the difference in competition in week one, both teams relatively won the same way. They ran the ball effectively and passed when needed. 

Rutgers rushed for 220 yards, all the while not allowing a sack against the Owls. The Scarlet Knights even found the end zone six times on the ground. Starting quarterback Noah Vedral rushed for 79 yards and his backup Johnny Langan had two rushing TDs. Like Syracuse, they are threat with almost anyone who lines up in the backfield. 

What the Scarlet Knights really cannot account for is the homefield advantage. After a COVID-19 plagued 2020 season, the Loud House is ready to be exactly that… loud. 

“It’s not only a real road environment but probably one of the loudest road environments you can have. We obviously played there several years with those keys jangling. It’s going to be loud,” Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said. 

For the former Big East rival, Schiano is familiar with The Dome, and he’s had success. Rutgers will take on Syracuse for the 44th time, having won six of the last eight matchups and three of the previous four inside the Carrier Dome. As for Schiano led Rutgers teams, they came out victorious five of the last seven times against SU. But this is obviously a different group than the one Schiano led previously. 

“Until you go through it, you don’t know how your team is going to respond,” Schiano added. 

Recruiting game 

Syracuse recruits heavy in New Jersey. Ten players on the Orange roster are from the Garden State. And between the likes of Tommy DeVito, Taj Harris and Duce Chestnut, key players for Dino grew up watching Greg Schiano’s team. That makes Saturday’s contest important not only in the recording books, but on the recruiting battle fields. 

“Some of our most explosive players are from New Jersey. So, we understand that it is a recruiting battle. I think recruiting is a little bit different now because I think there is a ton of people that go all over the country. But it’s a very important recruiting there’s area no doubt about it and it’s one top recruiting areas for us,” Babers said. 

“It’s definitely big being that I was recruited by Rutgers and that was a place I was thinking about going,” Harris added. 

The latest Jersey star to don the Orange and Blue, Chestnut, says there’s plenty of kids Saturday that will be watching this game in his home state, and the team that makes the most plays could have momentum swing in their favor this offseason. 

That won’t be on the minds of #OrangeNation when they fill The Dome for the first time since 2019 Saturday. They’ll be looking for their first 2-0 start since 2018 and wondering how they went so long without air conditioning before the newest renovations. 

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