SYRACUSE — JaCobian Morgan speaks through his actions, according to Syracuse University football coach Dino Babers, and the true freshman loudly announced his presence Saturday.
Morgan completed 19 of 30 passes for 188 yards, including a one-yard touchdown pass, to go with an interception in his first career start as SU fell to Boston College, 16-13, in the Carrier Dome.
Morgan was the first true freshman quarterback to start for the Orange since Eric Dungey in 2015, taking the place of redshirt senior Rex Culpepper, a surprise inactive due to an undisclosed injury.
“JaCobian doesn’t talk much, he’s one of those guys, everything is action by him,” Babers said of the 6-foot-4 native of Canton, Miss.
“He’s a humble guy, he’s proud, I think he has a lot of confidence, he just doesn’t talk that much, so he’s a listener,” Babers added. “He’ll look you in the eye and listen, and: ‘Yes sir, no sir,’ and then he goes on about his business and it just doesn’t seem like a lot of stuff bothers him.”
The starting debut wasn’t free of rookie mistakes — Morgan took three of his four sacks and threw his lone interception in the fourth quarter — but the first-year passer displayed poise and elusiveness, occasionally getting SU into the fast-paced rhythm that it has lacked throughout the season.
Babers said that he was pleased with the way Morgan moved to avoid the rush at times, and how he bounced back when he was hit by a punishing veteran defense.
Morgan led an eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive in the closing minutes, highlighted by a 14-yard run where he was pushed out of bounds a yard shy of reaching for the end zone. He connected with Aaron Hackett for a short TD pass on the next play that trimmed SU’s deficit to 16-13 with 21 seconds left.
“It looks like he threw for a decent percentage, the ball came out of his hands, it didn’t look like he was too rattled,” Babers said. “I thought he made some plays, escaped some things, and he took a shot. So, check the box, he’s got another box checked.”
Babers said that Morgan “deserves to go back out there first,” without specifying the future status of injured veteran QBs — redshirt junior starter Tommy DeVito and redshirt senior backup, Rex Culpepper — entering a bye week for the Orange (1-7 overall, 1-6 Atlantic Coast Conference).
Culpepper suffered an injury in the last game that has not yet healed and was ruled out earlier this week after attempting to practice, according to Babers. He also declined to rule DeVito out for the season. The incumbent starter sat out his fourth straight game due to a lower leg injury and was still in a walking boot on the sideline.
“I don’t know if Tommy’s done for the season, I do know that we won’t put Tommy out there in a situation where he can’t protect himself,” Babers said. “I really don’t know the answer, but I know right now that he can’t protect himself and that’s why he isn’t suited up.”
Morgan made his initial debut when he came on for the final drive against Wake Forest last week and completed all seven of his pass attempts for 57 yards and a touchdown.
“He’s just a real calm person, so there’s not much you have to tell him,” said SU redshirt freshman Garrett Williams, the only SU player available to media afterward. “He has the same attitude regardless of what’s going on, so you have faith in knowing that he’s going to do what he needs to do and do it in the highest way possible.”