The Syracuse University football game against Rutgers today in the Carrier Dome will serve as more than a renewal of the annual series between former Big East foes now battling for regional supremacy and recruiting bragging rights.
Both programs are also ensuring that the outing, which will be played on the 20-year mark of the 9/11 attacks, will provide opportunity for remembrance for those lost as a result of the national tragedy.
Syracuse walk-on defensive back and special teams contributor A.J. Calabro was announced as one of three team captains for today, as confirmed by SU coach Dino Babers on his radio show Thursday night.
Calabro’s father, Salvatore, was a firefighter in New York City and died trying to save others as the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001.
“He’s part of our family, familia, the ‘Ohana,’” Babers said of the redshirt sophomore from Farmingdale, N.J., without specifically mentioning his family tragedy. “We want it to be emotional, and then we want to play a good, clean game against Rutgers, the state of New Jersey and the state of New York.”
Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. in the Carrier Dome, with fans present for the first time since November 2019, and the game will be televised on the ACC Network.
Babers and Rutgers coach Greg Schiano each called the timing for a respectful observance around the matchup fitting, given the proximity for both schools and fan-bases to the center of the terrorist attacks.
Babers also referred to it as “humbling, and an honor,” to play on the date that holds added significance to the sixth-year coach whose father was a 21-year veteran of the Navy.
Babers said that he gathered his team to speak about the events that unfolded on 9/11 after Thursday’s practice, acknowledging that many were babies or not yet born at the time.
“I just wanted them to understand some of the things that went on,” Babers said. “There’s so much stuff that has gone on in our country in the last year and a half, but we’re all Americans, and this country is a special country.”
Syracuse, which in the past has held team practices and youth clinics on Fort Drum, has confirmed plans to hold a video tribute and moment of silence prior to kickoff.
Rutgers will also be playing in tribute with special uniforms planned to honor their 37 alumni killed as part of the 9/11 attacks.
The Scarlet Knights’ silver helmets will include the red block ‘R’ logo on one side and a black No. 37 on the other, and white jerseys will include the phrase: ‘Never Forget,’ along the side in red lettering.
“So many people that we all knew who lost their lives on 9/11, so certainly 20 years later, we don’t forget them, and we’re going to be doing something as a team as a tribute,” Schiano said.
The Scarlet Knights were a two-point favorite over the Orange as of Friday, according to oddsshark.com, as each aims to extend strong starts from their respective season-opening victories.
Rutgers is coming off a 61-14 win over Temple last Saturday, while SU claimed a 29-9 victory at Ohio.
Today marks the 44th all-time matchup between the teams that clashed annually for 22 years as members of the Big East. The Scarlet Knights — now aligned in the Big Ten Conference — claimed a 23-15 win over the Orange in their last matchup in 2012. They also claimed the most recent clash in the Dome the year prior, 19-16, in double overtime.
The programs have faced off on the recruiting trail in more recent years, drawing from the same pool of homegrown prospects.
The Orange has 10 players from New Jersey on its roster, including starting quarterback Tommy DeVito, star wide receiver Taj Harris, and standout freshman cornerback Darian “Duce,” Chestnut. The Scarlet Knights, meanwhile, sport 15 players from the state of New York, including the 6-foot-2, 260-pound freshman defensive lineman from Jamesville-DeWitt, Caleb Patterson.
SYRACUSE-RUTGERS SCOUTING BOX
NOTES: Rutgers opened with a 61-14 victory over Temple last Saturday, scoring its highest point total against an FBS team since 2008. Through Week One, the Scarlet Knights rank second in scoring offense and lead the FBS with a plus-five turnover ratio.
The Rutgers offensive improvement started last year in Greg Schiano’s return as head coach, finishing with an average increase of 13.4 points per game in scoring offense, the fourth-best jump in the nation.
Rutgers went 3-1 on the road last season despite finishing just 3-6 overall.
Syracuse’s offensive line allowed just one sack in the season-opening victory over Ohio and blocked for a team rushing performance of 283 yards. The unit is key to SU’s potential for a turnaround after ranking bottom 10 in FBS in average sacks allowed for consecutive seasons.
Airon Servais enters tied for the most overall starts in SU history at 49. He already holds the record for consecutive starts and is expected to extend it at right tackle today.
SU kicker Andre Szmyt made two field goals in the opener to bring his career total to 58, one shy of tying Cole Murphy for the SU record. SU PLAYER TO WATCH: RB, Sean Tucker — The returning freshman starter firmly established himself atop the backfield pecking order with career highs of 25 carries for 181 yards to go with a six-yard TD run in the season opener. His 7.2 yards-per-carry average and long rush of 47 yards also marked career bests. He tallied the highest rushing total for an SU running back since Prince Tyson-Gulley ran for 213 in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl.
RUTGERS PLAYER TO WATCH: LB, Olakunle Fatukasi — The senior linebacker made nine tackles, including four for loss, to go with three sacks, one of which resulted in a safety in the season opener. He became the fifth Rutgers player to log three sacks in a game, and his TFLs were most on the team in 10 years. The Butkus Award semifinalist and All-Big Ten first team LB led the conference and ranked ninth nationally with 11.2 tackles per game last year.