SYRACUSE You wont hear anyone on the Syracuse University football team say it, but after an 0-2 start against stiff competition, SU finally gets its early-season cupcake today.
Wagner of the Football Championship Subdivision comes at a perfect time for the winless Orange, which has had a difficult time finding rhythm on either side of the ball in losses to Penn State and No. 17 Northwestern.
SU is a 28 ½-point favorite in todays home opener, scheduled for 4 p.m. at the Carrier Dome. The game will not be televised, but is available on ESPN3 online and Time Warner Cable Channel 398, a pay-for-view station.
You can never sleep on an opponent. You can never change, never change what you do, never change how you prepare, said senior quarterback Drew Allen, who will start today but share time with sophomore Terrel Hunt.
Theres a sense of urgency when youre 0-2, he added.
SU is 11-0 all-time against FCS opponents and 10-0 in the Dome since 1978, when the NCAA formed the Division I-AA subdivision (later re-named FCS).
Going back further, the Orange has won its past 29 games against current FCS members, with its only loss occurring in 1958, to Holy Cross, 14-13.
Its football. Its the same thing whoever youre playing, said Hunt, expected to enter around the fourth series of the game. You could be playing little leaguers. Were still going to go out there and try to beat them.
Despite the odds heavily in SUs favor, first-year coach Scott Shafer was quick to point out the credentials of Wagner (1-1). The Seahawks won their first Northeast Conference championship last season with a 9-4 record.
Wagner coach of 33 years, Walt Hameline, was named National Coach of the Year in the FCS by the College Sports Journal and College Sporting News.
Hameline, a 1975 graduate of SUNY Brockport, was also named the NEC Coach of the Year.
Wagner nearly upset Florida Atlantic in its last game against an FBS team, suffering a 7-3 loss in last seasons opener on the road.
We have a team coming off a championship season and broke records, Shafer said.
Regardless of where theyre at, a championship team is a championship team, he added. We need to approach it the same way we would any solid football team were going against.
Wagner captured its season opener, 28-21, over Georgetown. It lost a 42-41 shootout to Merrimack last Saturday.
Running back Dominique Williams is averaging 136 yards rushing through two games.
Quarterback Matt Misley, who also punts for the team, is averaging 140 yards passing and 45 rushing. He has thrown three touchdowns and ran for two this year.
They put up 35 points a game on offense right now, Shafer said.
They have a quarterback that is mobile, can both throw and run, and can create plays to be extended with his feet. Those are the areas were focused in on defending. Were looking forward to that challenge.