AP Sports Writer
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- One stood in the lobby of the Syracuse football complex, cameras in his face amid the glaring lights, answering question after question. The other, just a few feet away, spoke softly to the lone reporter who had requested to speak with him, happy to oblige for the good of the team.
Such is life for Orange starting quarterback Drew Allen and Terrel Hunt, the man Allen beat out for the job.
"I think I got a fair shot," Hunt said. "I just came up short. There’s nothing good about it. They just took experience over inexperience. I knew I was the front-runner. He had to earn what he got. We were dead-even."
Hunt, a star at New York City’s Christ the King High before signing to play for Syracuse, emerged as the favorite to win the job after a solid spring, getting more first-team snaps than senior Charley Loeb and junior John Kinder. It didn’t seem to matter that he had never thrown a pass in a college game -- until the 6-foot-5 Allen transferred from Oklahoma in April to use his final year of athletic eligibility after sitting too long with the Sooners.
Though he, too, had limited game experience, Allen was tabbed as the starter 10 days before the season-opener against Penn State.
Rookie coach Scott Shafer, a quarterback in his playing days who also felt the same sting of disappointment as Hunt, broke the news in a tearful meeting between the two.
"I cried a little. He cried. It was a real emotional thing," Hunt said. "You work so hard and you come up short. He said, ‘There’s nothing you did wrong. You guys were dead-even.’ They leaned more toward him because he’s older and has a little more experience.
"When you hear that, you get upset, frustrated. But at the same time you’ve got to be a great teammate and still be a leader -- don’t change who you are because you’re one play away (from getting in the game) like they always tell me. (Coach Shafer) told me he’s always got my back, and as long as I keep doing what I gotta do, my time will come."
"Day 1, he was upset," quarterbacks coach Tim Lester said. "He understood. We showed him everything. He’s still in a great position competing as a sophomore for a starting position. Last year he wasn’t even on the depth chart."
Still, the situation forced Hunt to do something he doesn’t like to do as the team kept the decision private until game time last Saturday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
"It was tough. The media was asking all the time. Everybody was questioning," Hunt said. "I don’t like being fake. You already know that you came in second place. It was tough to just go in there and keep telling (the media), ‘We’re in a race, we’re in a race.’
"But I did what I had to do for the team and I took the back seat."
And so Hunt went through the usual pregame ritual of a starter, even as family members watched in anticipation from the stands.
"I warmed up just like I was starting. But it was a little tough because you knew you weren’t going to run into the game," Hunt said. "Right after the warmups, we ran out. I was all excited and I grabbed a hat and a radio. It was like, oh man, now I’ve got to sit."
If anything, Hunt is well prepared to deal with this kind of disappointment because it pales in comparison to what he’s been through as a young man. When he signed with Syracuse, his 56-year-old father had just died of kidney failure -- exactly a year and a day after Hunt’s 48-year-old mother succumbed to ovarian cancer.
"Terrel’s a tough kid, a really tough kid," Syracuse center Macky MacPherson said. "I know a lot of people that would break in a situation like he was in. He worked his butt off in the spring and he’s still working his butt off.
"I’m proud of him for it. I know he’s going to get his chance someday. When that day comes, I know he’ll do great for himself because he’s a real hard-working kid."
Hunt remains the ultimate team player in spite of it all.
"Selfishly for me, I just want to get in, as everybody would," he said. "But unselfishly for the team I hope not because I want (Allen) to do good.
"And I want us to win."