SYRACUSE — The surging Syracuse University rushing attack maintained its blistering pace Saturday despite missing half of the top six players in their offensive line rotation.
The Orange recorded 376 team rushing yards for its highest output in the last seven seasons while quarterback Garrett Shrader and running back Sean Tucker each eclipsed 100 yards for the second straight game in a crushing overtime setback against Wake Forest, 40-37, in the Carrier Dome.
The SU ground game remained highly productive in the expected absence of veteran guard/tackle, Darius Tisdale, the surprise inactive status of guard Chris Bleich, and an injury suffered by sixth-year senior Airon Servais in the first quarter that left two freshmen up front for most of the performance.
“If you had told me we would have those type of guys out there and still do the things that we did offensively, my goodness gracious,” SU coach Dino Babers said afterward. “I told them I’m really proud of them. They made some mistakes and there were some things that they did wrong, but overall, I’m really proud of how they went out there and battled.”
Freshman Kalan Ellis drew his first career start at left guard in place of Bleich, who was out with an unspecified injury. The 6-foot-6 and 356-pound rookie from Hawaii held his own from the opening snap, helping pave the way for Tucker to score a six-yard touchdown run on SU’s opening drive.
Josh Ilaoa, a 6-foot-3 and 300-pound freshman from Charlotte, N.C., was also thrust into the mix and played most of the game at center after Airon Servais left with an apparent leg injury.
Shrader credited the pair of first-year players for rising to the occasion after being “thrown into the fire,” earlier than expected in their respective careers.
“I’m proud of those guys, the way they fought,” Shrader said. “The numbers show the way they played, I’m sure there were some mistakes in there, but it was a good effort and I’m proud of those two guys especially.”
Babers stated afterward that the team hopes to have Servais and Bleich back for Friday night’s game against Clemson but was not certain. Servais remained on the sidelines until the game finished and appeared to be moving with a limp.
Servais made his 54th straight start before departing, which is the longest consecutive streak and most total starts in team history.
Tisdale, meanwhile, is likely facing a lengthy absence after leaving last week’s setback with a leg injury. He was on the sidelines wearing a brace and using a scooter to move around on Saturday.
“Our line as a whole, they’re all good, any of them can play different positions, and the young guys coming up played hard today,” Tucker said.
The SU offense also finished with season highs in total yards (514) and first downs (33) while playing undermanned up front.
Tucker produced his eighth career 100-yard rushing performance in 15 games and is tied for the ninth-most such outings in SU history. Joe Morris possesses the school record with 22 games in which he ran for 100 yards or more.
Tucker is on pace to surpass the SU single-season rushing record of 1,372 yards established by Morris in 1979.
SHRADER JOINS ELITE COMPANY
Shrader became the third SU quarterback since 1979 to produce back-to-back games with at least 100 rushing yards. Eric Dungey accomplished the feat in 2018 (Miami and Florida State) and Bill Hurley pulled it off in 1979 (Northwestern and Washington State).
Shrader finished with career highs of 29 rushes for 178 yards after taking 16 carries for 137 yards last game against Florida State.
SZMYT TIES SCORING MARK
Syracuse kicker Andre Szmyt finished with seven points and tied Nate Trout (1996-99) for the SU scoring record of 334.
Szmyt matched the all-time mark with a 38-yard field goal in overtime and had already reset the team record for most career field goals earlier this season.