Against West Virginia, Maryland's defense had to contend with a couple of dynamic skill position players who, individually, caused problems throughout the afternoon. Wideouts Kevin White and Mario Alford scored three times on more than 300 yards receiving between them from talented quarterback Clint Trickett. Highly touted running backs Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood made big plays in the passing and running games. The entire offense, it seemed, eluded Maryland players in space and gashed its way to almost 700 total yards from scrimmage.
The Orange do not have a receiver of the caliber of either White or Alford. Like Maryland, they do not have one particular feature running back. Unlike Trickett, their quarterback, Terrel Hunt, is a talented rusher who has shown limitations in the passing game. But what the Orange lack in high-end offensive talent, they hope to make up for with depth.
Hunt spread his 20 completions against Central Michigan to 11 different receivers. None had more than four caches or 42 yards, but Syracuse still managed 40 points. Tailback Adonis Ameen-Moore ran nine times for 106 yards, while Hunt scored three touchdowns and ran for 92 yards on 13 runs. Starting tailback back Prince-Tyson Gulley ran just seven times for 16 yards against the Chippewas, but he's nonetheless averaging 6.3 yards per carry, in total, through two games.
Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said Maryland views Gulley as a slashing, cutting back and Ameen-Moore as a big back who will "pack a punch when he runs downhill." Making Ameen-Moore move laterally, he said, will key Maryland's effort to stop him. Ameen-Moore is 5-foot-11 and over 230 pounds. Three other rushers have figured regularly into head coach Scott Shafer's rotation so far.
"They run the same things. Regardless of the back, it gets down to fundamentals," Edsall said. "If you take the proper angle and when you go to tackle the guy, you keep your head up, run your feet and go through the guy rather than trying to arm tackle -- the best way to prepare for anybody is knowing what they do and going out there and practicing it."
"I think anytime you step on the field playing a formidable opponent, it is going to be a test," Stewart said. "I believe if you prepare well, which I believe our guys have, they've been practicing and preparing well, you'll be able to pass that test.
Gulley, Ameen-Moore and Hunt have gotten plenty of help from a veteran Syracuse offensive line. The unit, comprised of four seniors and a junior, has not allowed a sack of Hunt through two games, making Syracuse one of just four teams in FBS whose quarterback has not been sacked. As a team, the Orange average 5.1 yards per rush.
"That's a great challenge to try to get to their quarterback and be the first team, but the main thing we want to do is we want to prevent them from scoring, stop their run game and win the special situations," Stewart said. " If we do those things, maybe he'll get sacked, maybe he won't, but we'll give ourselves the opportunity to win the game."
Hunt isn't regarded as an excellent thrower, but he hasn't been intercepted in two starts and is completing 63 percent of his passes, almost 3 percent better than last season. His most accomplished receiver so far is Ashton Broyld, with nine grabs for 99 yards. Nobody else has more than five receptions or 59 yards over the Orange's two games, but 12 men have made at least one catch.
"West Virginia had some pretty good guys. Syracuse has some pretty good guys as well," defensive back Zach Dancel said. "They're on scholarship just like us. At the end of the day, we've just got to focus on what we've got to do, what we're supposed to do in the game, where we're supposed to line up."
For Dancel, that could mean lining up against tight ends in the slot or over the top at safety, depending on Maryland's defensive set. Regardless, he said the defense's effort to contain the Syracuse attack would start with containing the dual-threat Hunt.
"Their quarterback's a pretty good player, so we've just got to focus on containing him and making sure what happened last week doesn't happen again," Dancel said.