Orange owns its destiny

Rich Fyle column

From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Syracuse University head football coach Dino Babers probably hasn’t been doing cartwheels for the past 48 hours after his Orange defeated Virginia Tech, 41-36, on Saturday in Blacksburg, Va.

But the Orange’s sixth-year sideline boss certainly has the right to be in an upbeat, bouncy mood after his team stopped a nine-game ACC losing streak dating back to last September.

SU is 4-4 overall, 1-3 in the ACC, and still on course to reach the necessary six wins to become bowl eligible in December.

While Babers’ overall record since the Orange’s last bowl trip in 2018 is an ugly 10-21 mark, his players do play hard for him and he’s got the dynamic one-two punch of QB Garrett Shrader and RB Sean Tucker going for him.

This win over Virginia Tech, coming in the final 18 seconds, marked SU’s fifth consecutive game decided in the waning seconds, and perhaps gave Babers a measure of at least some job security and definitely some relief. With a little luck and some better breaks at the end of recent games, the Orange could be 7-1 or 6-2 instead of 4-4.

SU’s remaining four opponents all have winning records: Boston College (4-3) at home; at Louisville (4-3); at North Carolina State (5-2); and Pittsburgh (6-1) at home.

SU is competitive and a good watch on TV because of Shrader, who accounted for five TDs against the Hokies, and Tucker, who amassed his fifth straight 100-yard rushing game. Tucker’s 1,060 rushing yards lead all FBS players and he has a legitimate chance to break Joe Morris’ 1979 single-season program record.

Shrader and Tucker are the only FBS teammates with 10-plus rushing TDs each, so they are driving the SU bus.

On the other side, the defense has to get more consistent stops and what has happened to former Lou Groza Award-winning kicker Andre Szmyt?

Szmyt missed a potential game-tying field goal against Clemson the previous week. On Saturday, his PAT attempt was blocked and returned by Virginia Tech for two points, and later he missed a chip 18-yard field goal near the end of the first half.

My preseason prediction was 6-6 overall for the Orange and I think that’s how the team will finish, culminating in a mid-level bowl journey.

n World Series prediction: An unlikely matchup between the favored Astros, making their third appearance in five years, and the Braves, making their first trip in 22 seasons, is on tap. I think the villains from Houston, which has only five players left from its 2017 tarnished title, will prevail in six games.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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