Injury-riddled Syracuse ready for matchup with Liberty
Rex Culpepper likely will be under center as Syracuse steps out of ACC action for the only time this season Saturday, hosting non-conference foe Liberty.
Second-year starter Tommy DeVito likely was lost for the season last week after sustaining a left leg injury while being sacked for the fifth time in the Orange’s 38-24 loss to previously winless Duke.
While Syracuse coach Dino Babers officially hasn’t committed to starting Culpepper against the Flames (4-0), there is some familiarity with the redshirt senior. Culpepper has appeared in all four Syracuse games this season, completing 8 of 19 passes for 113 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
“I think that we can run our offense with him, and we will continue to run our offense,” Babers said. “Now we’re going to always have wrinkles. We’ll have wrinkles to try to move the football. But as far as changing what we do, we shouldn’t be drastically changing what we do with Rex behind center.”
Injuries are taking their toll on Syracuse (1-3), which will be without preseason All-American defensive back Andre Cisco for the remainder of the season.
Cisco collided with a teammate during pregame warmups prior to the Orange’s 37-20 victory over Georgia Tech on Sept. 26. He sustained a knee injury and hasn’t played since.
“Football’s physical, and that’s the part that makes it different from other sports. It’s the part that you embrace,” Babers said. “We understand that people are going to get hurt and that next guys have to step up. It’s what makes the game unique. We accept that part of it.”
Moreover, linebacker Geoff Cantin-Arku scored on a fumble return but later exited the contest with an undisclosed injury.
While the Orange forced four turnovers to boost their total to a nation-leading 14 through four games, the team was outgained 645-286 in total yards. Syracuse’s ground attack mustered just 28 yards on 23 carries in the loss.
The bright spot continues to be Taj Harris, who boosted his team-leading totals in catches (17), receiving yards (338) and touchdowns (three) while reeling in six for 138 yards and a score against the Blue Devils.
Liberty kept its perfect start intact with three special teams touchdowns in a 40-7 romp over Louisiana Monroe on Saturday.
Treon Sibley recovered a dropped snap in the end zone and blocked another punt attempt that was recovered by Chancellor Smith for a score. Demario Douglas had a 38-yard punt return that led to the Flames’ first touchdown and returned another 73 yards for a score in the fourth quarter.
“We brought everything we’ve got,” Sibley said, per The News & Advance. “We wanted to show that we’re not going to be played with on special teams and we’re going to make plays.”
Liberty’s defense held the Warhawks to 198 total yards of offense, highlighted by 11 three-and-outs on 14 offensive possessions.
“I think the special teams and our defense were as good as I’ve been around on a given day,” Flames coach Hugh Freeze said. “Man, give them great credit.”
–Field Level Media