SYRACUSE — JaCobian Morgan provided a glimmer of hope for the future at the end of another underwhelming performance by the Syracuse University football offense Saturday in the Carrier Dome.
The true freshman came on at quarterback for the final drive of SU’s 38-14 loss to Wake Forest, completing all seven of his pass attempts for 57 yards and his first career touchdown — a three-yard strike to Luke Benson.
Despite the strong showing flashing his potential for the Orange, which fell to 1-6 overall and 1-5 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, SU coach Dino Babers urged caution when assessing the performance against a relaxed defense, comparing it to a 7-on-7 practice situation.
“I’m glad he didn’t fumble the snap, I’m glad that it looked like he could throw the football, but again, I wouldn’t put too much stock on that,” Babers said afterward. “That’s the end of the game, we’re running out the clock on ourselves, and those guys are giving him throws.”
Babers added: “JaCobian did what he was supposed to do and he went out and had success, and I’m happy for him, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t face a blitz, I’m pretty sure he didn’t face an overload, I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a check, and those are the things your quarterback has to be able to do to run your offense.”
Morgan completed passes to six different receivers and accounted for SU’s longest pass play of the day on a 31-yard strike to Ed Hendrix in which he moved to his left to evade a defender before delivering the accurate throw.
Morgan led SU on a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive that lasted four minutes and 17 seconds. The series marked SU’s longest of the game in terms of time of possession and yards covered, and it also matched the most plays for a single SU drive.
Redshirt senior Rex Culpepper, who started his third straight game in place of injured starter Tommy DeVito, finished 15-for-27 for 85 yards and a touchdown to go with two interceptions and a lost fumble.
The Orange offense operated just 56 plays in Saturday’s setback, failing to reach 60 for the third time in the last four games. The normally up-tempo Orange ran less than 60 plays just three other times during Babers’ previous four seasons combined.
Babers seemed far from the point of considering a quarterback change when asked about the position afterward, despite the struggles with just four games remaining in a seemingly lost season.
He pointed to Culpepper’s grasp of the offense and weighing the pros and cons of scaling back the game-plan for a true freshman under center, and the negative impact that could have on development at other positions.
“With Rex, we have our entire offense,” Babers said. “You’ve got to understand, when you’re a senior, you don’t want to see a bunch of young guys, there are so many young guys out there already that are playing hard, making mistakes, getting better, and when you do that at quarterback, it really limits what you can do.”
Morgan is a 6-foot-4, 203-pound rookie from Canton High School in Mississippi. He was rated as the No. 77 pro-style quarterback and the No. 51 prospect overall from his state in the last recruiting cycle.
“I’m proud of the young guy for going in the game and getting the first touchdown of his college career,” said senior wide receiver Nykeim Johnson, the only SU player made available to media afterward. “That’s definitely an important thing for a player, when you score your first touchdown, so I’m definitely proud of him in that aspect and I hope he just keeps working hard every week so that next year, whenever his time is, he gets his number called in and goes in and does his job.”