AP Sports Writer
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- After two losses against Big Ten foes to start the season, Syracuse finally gets to play a game at home and rookie coach Scott Shafer is ecstatic.
"I can’t wait to coach in front of our student body," Shafer said. "I can’t wait to have the community come out and see the football team. I know our kids are thirsty. I can’t tell you how excited I am to get back there again, run out of that locker room and just play our butts off."
Why wouldn’t he be excited?
Wagner (1-1), which plays at Division I’s second tier, is the foe on Saturday in the Carrier Dome. Not only are the Seahawks coming off a 42-41 loss last week at home to Merrimack, a Division II team, this will be just their second game ever against a Football Bowl Subdivision team.
Time for the Orange to beat up on somebody after a 48-27 drubbing at No. 17 Northwestern a week after opening with a loss at Penn State.
So, with the pressure squarely on Shafer and starting quarterback Drew Allen, here are five things to ponder in the first meeting between the teams:
QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY? Allen has started the first two games, throwing six interceptions to go with just one touchdown pass. He’ll start again against Wagner, but sophomore Terrel Hunt, who scored on a 15-yard run vs. Northwestern, is anxious for more time. "Drew was kind of down. I just want to get a shot," Hunt said. "I think I finally showed I could play. Coach told me, ‘You’re gonna play this weekend, so stay ready.’ I’m just waiting my turn." Meanwhile, Allen is poised to atone for his erratic play. "I’ve been in college football for five years," he said. "I believe I’ve prepared myself as well as possible."
DOME SWEET DOME? This will be just the second time Wagner has played in a dome. Four years ago, the Seahawks played in the Fargodome in North Dakota. Wagner won that game 59-28 in front of 18,128 fans, the largest crowd to ever see the Seahawks. Syracuse isn’t saying how many tickets have been sold for this matchup, but an announced crowd of 34,512 attended the last home game against a Football Championship Subdivision school, a 28-17 victory over Stony Brook.
HOEMCOMING: Wagner coach Walt Hameline is the sixth-winningest active coach in the Football Championship Subdivision, and was born in New Hartford, N.Y., just an hour away from the Carrier Dome. Hameline is in his 33rd season as head coach at Wagner and has a record of 214-128-2. He guided the Seahawks to the 1987 Division III national championship and the 2012 Northeast Conference title. "We’re going to try to be as competitive as we can," Hameline said. "At the end of the day, they’re an 0-2 football team, which probably is the worst thing that could happen to us."
RUN TO SUCCESS: Wagner is led by fifth-year senior running back Dominique Williams, who’s averaged 105 yards per game in his career. Williams is averaging 4.8 yards a carry and 136 per game in 2013, and the Orange have had trouble in the past with FCS running backs. Three years ago, Colgate’s Nate Eachus gained 147 yards. Colgate trailed just 7-0 late in the second period, then fell apart in the second, eventually losing 42-7.
CONFERENCE DELAY: Syracuse and Pittsburgh left the Big East for the ACC, and while the Panthers already have been hammered 41-13 by Florida State on national television in their conference debut, the Orange won’t get a taste of the league until next month. They will host Clemson, ranked No. 3 this week, in the Carrier Dome Oct. 5. "We need to beat Wagner and Tulane and go hard in the bye week to get ready for Clemson," sophomore free safety Durell Eskridge said. "It’ll get the motivation going."
AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org/
Reach Kekis on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/Greek1947