Without the coach and quarterback who helped the Orange reach the postseason, Syracuse stomps forward to face South Florida in the Boca Raton Bowl on Thursday.
The Orange (6-6) fired coach Dino Babers last month near the end of his eighth season at Syracuse. His temporary replacement was Nunzio Campanile, who defeated Wake Forest in the regular-season finale to make the Orange bowl-eligible, before the program hired Fran Brown as its next head coach earlier this month.
It’ll be Campanile who will be guiding Syracuse in Thursday’s clash in Boca Raton, Fla. He will have to defeat the Bulls without quarterback Garrett Shrader, who underwent shoulder surgery after passing for three touchdowns and running for another in the win over Wake Forest.
“It was important for me to get our team to a bowl game,” the senior quarterback said. “I would have (gotten surgery) earlier in the season, but I wanted to wait until we got bowl-eligible. This team has too much talent and works too hard not to play a 13th game.”
In Shrader’s absence, the Orange could opt for backup Carlos Del Rio-Wilson, who threw three touchdowns and six interceptions in limited action this season. Or the team could revisit its creative wildcat offense that it used while Shrader was injured late in the regular season.
In either event, the Orange are looking forward to playing in a bowl game for the second straight season. Previously, they had not played in back-to-back bowl games since 2012 and 2013.
“You have two teams that are trending in the right direction,” Campanile said, “and I just think it’s a really exciting opportunity. … It should be a really fun, entertaining game.”
The Bulls (6-6) showed drastic improvement this season under first-year coach Alex Golesh. The team had won a total of four games in the previous three seasons combined and now will play in their first bowl game since 2018.
“To get here in year one and to continue to lay a foundation for what we’re building in Tampa, it’s absolutely huge for us,” said Golesh, whose squad also became bowl-eligible by winning its regular-season finale. USF trounced Charlotte 48-14 in that contest behind four passing touchdowns and a rushing score from Byrum Brown.
The Bulls’ defense was among the worst in the nation in points allowed per game (34.9) and yards allowed per game (455.3). So, they’ll be banking on their dynamic offense and hope that their defense can contain Orange running back LeQuint Allen, who ran for 1,062 yards (including 100-plus yards in five of the last six games).
Also, USF will be relying on its expected home-field advantage.
“For us to be in our home state, playing against a really good football team, I would hope there’s a bunch of green and gold in the stands,” Golesh said. “It’ll feel like a home game in that regard.”
The teams have met 10 times previously, all between 2005 and 2016. South Florida won eight of those matchups with all eight of those victories coming by at least 14 points.
–Field Level Media