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Just for kicks

ANDRE SZMYT has hit all four of the field goals he has attempted in the 2018 season. max freund asst. photo editor

Andre Szmyt, a former soccer player, walked on to claim the starting kicking job for SU placekicker. In fall camp, Smzyt was the most accurate kicker on the team and has continued to make kicks in the team’s first two games hen Andre Szmyt lined up for a this season, splitting the uprights on four field 50-yard field goal last goals in four attempts and nailing Saturday, his mind every extra point. went blank. While “He never missed,” SU cheers echoed around the Carhead coach Dino Babers said I had no doubt rier Dome, Szmyt’s ears heard of Szmyt’s fall camp. “He kind that he had the silence. He’s taken so many of came out of nowhere.” kicks at this point in his life, Although Szmyt’s father, leg to hit the it’s simply muscle memory. Eric, grew up in Massachu50-yarder, it was setts as a Patriots fan, Szmyt’s “Sometimes I don’t even remember the kick. I don’t mother, Lala, is a first-genjust a matter hear anything when I’m out eration immigrant from St. of whether it there,” Szmyt said. “(I’m) just Petersburg, Russia, where socstaying consistent and trying cer is king. Szmyt’s great-great was going to be to make all my kicks.” uncle on his mother’s side was through the goal the starting goaltender on the Smzyt’s 50-yarder was part of a perfect 4-for-4 start Soviet Union national team, post or not. to the season. Consistency is Eric said. That was the only Dino Babers what has vaulted the preferred sport that Szmyt really grew su head coach walk-on from a redshirt in up playing competitively, he 2017 to the starting kicker for said, controlling the top of the Syracuse (2-0) this season. He replaces Cole pitch as a striker. Murphy, who played 48 games as SU’s No. 1 see szmyt page 8 By Matt Liberman staff writer

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Opponent preview: What to know about Florida State By Josh Schafer sports editor

Syracuse (2-0) welcomes Florida State (1-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) to the Carrier Dome on Saturday at noon. In week two, both SU and FSU played FCS opponents. The Orange thrashed Wagner, 62-10, while FSU defeated Samford, 36-26. Here’s what to know about Florida State headed into this week’s matchup: All-time series: Florida State leads, 10-1 Last time they played: Syracuse lost 27-24 in Tallahassee last November behind two blocked field goals by FSU. The Orange, led by Eric Dungey, who played the majority of the game on a broken foot, more than doubled Florida State’s passing yards. Syracuse totaled more than 100 yards of total offense greater than the Seminoles. FSU ran 56 plays to SU’s 95 — but Cam Akers ran 22 times for 199 yards and two touchdowns. A blocked 43-yard field goal attempt sealed SU’s fate in the game’s waning seconds. The FSU report: Florida State has stumbled under new head coach Willie Taggart, with a loss at home against Virginia Tech and then the tight win over Samford just five days later. Taggart came to FSU after the departure of former head coach Jimbo Fisher last offseason. Taggart, who coached Oregon in 2017, orchestrated two wins against Syracuse during his time at South Florida from 2013-16. The last time a Taggart-coached team played in the Carrier Dome was in 2016, when USF defeated Syracuse 45-20. Through two games, FSU’s defense has been stout. The Seminoles have allowed 10 second half points, none of which have come in the third quarter. In addition, FSU boasts the nation’s seventh-ranked third down defense, allowing a conversion 22.2 percent of the time. In the run game, which has been Syracuse’s best offensive category through two games, the Seminoles have held opponents to 2.75 yards per carry. Offensively, the Seminoles are led by

The last time Syracuse and Florida State played in the Carrier Dome was 2016. The Seminoles ran away with the game in a 45-14 FSU win. Syracuse has never beaten Florida State since joining the Altantic Coast Conference. daily orange file photo

redshirt sophomore quarterback Deondre Francois. Against Virginia Tech, Francois struggled, throwing for under 250 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions while being sacked five times. Against Samford, he led a comeback behind 320 yards passing and three touchdowns. How Syracuse beats FSU: Throughout the 11 meetings between the two programs alltime, FSU averages more than 200 yards per game on the ground. And in each of the last four meetings — all FSU victories —the Seminoles have had a 100-yard rusher. But with 10 offensive linemen playing in the first

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two games of 2018, FSU’s running game has struggled. If Syracuse can pressure the inexperienced offensive line with defensive penetration as well as strong play from the linebackers, FSU’s offense could turn stagnant. The Seminoles have been outscored 26-7 in the first quarter this season. That means if the Orange offense comes out hot, it may have a chance to get up early. After only one SU receiver caught a pass in week one against Western Michigan, five receivers reeled in balls in week two. Syracuse will need to spread the ball around like it did in week two to avoid relying on the run game

against a stout FSU run defense. Player to watch: Cam Akers, running back, No. 3 A season ago, Akers broke FSU’s freshman rushing record with 1,024 yards. With seven touchdowns and 5.3 yards per carry in 2017, Akers was named to the All-ACC third team. Though the Seminoles haven’t shredded either of their opponents on the ground so far this season, Akers has still averaged 5.6 yards per carry, which includes an 85-yard run against Virginia Tech. Akers has gained 63 percent of his yards after contact, ranking him third in the nation. jlschafe@syr.edu | @Schafer_44


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Slotting in After two years with limited reps, Sean Riley is becoming a focal point in the slot By Andrew Graham senior staff writer

S

ean Riley transitioned from running back to wide receiver during his freshman year at Syracuse. He returned kicks and punts but didn’t have as many catches as games played. His reception total dropped by three in his sophomore season. While the SU offense churned out two 1000-yard receivers, Riley watched and learned. “I kind of had to wait my turn,” Riley said. But the two years weren’t wasted. Riley learned head coach Dino Babers’ intricate playbook back to front, studied defenses and refined the necessary skills for a 5-foot-8 receiver. Syracuse (2-0) is starting to lean on the inexperienced, yet veteran, Riley — who caught his first career touchdown pass against Wagner last weekend — as Florida State (1-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) visits the Carrier Dome on Saturday. “Really just have to run good routes,” Riley said. “My position, they go to that a lot. Just good route running and getting open.” Riley’s potential emergence can provide more balance to the offense by complementing No. 1 Jamal Custis and the run game. The harmony isn’t just in production but in play style and size, too. Custis stands nine inches taller and weighs 43 pounds more than Riley. Without the size so coveted at the wide receiver position, Riley has learned to maximize other parts of his game, namely his speed, route running and vision. “Sometimes when you’re in a big man’s game, to be the small guy can be an advantage,” Babers said on Wednesday’s Atlantic Coast Conference coaches teleconference. Straight-line speed has been a con-

SEAN RILEY didn’t record a catch against Western Michigan. His only touches came in the return game. Against Wagner, Riley caught six passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. josh shub-seltzer staff photographer

stant in Riley’s game since high school, where he reportedly ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash. That speed, coupled with injuries to Antwan Cordy, landed Riley as SU’s primary kick and punt returner the past two seasons. Now, Riley said, he applies speed in different ways, whether it’s winning a foot race with a defensive back on a deep ball or taking a sweep around the edge. With time, he’s learned speed isn’t enough. Riley credits his field vision to his high school days of playing running back. He’d read the whole field coming out of the backfield, to prevent against getting blindsided coming through the hole or missing a blitzer in pass protection. When split out wide or back deep trying to evade a kickoff unit, he reads the field like a runner, gunning for a seam and calculating where the 11 defenders might go. Riley’s route running has developed steadily. He played some wide receiver in high school and ran routes out of the

backfield, but never encountered a route tree as complex as Syracuse’s. He figured it out by combining his vision and speed, Riley said. He ran fine routes, but he excelled once he started studying and understanding defenses. “He brings a lot of speed, he brings a lot of savviness with him,” starting quarterback Eric Dungey said of Riley. “He’s very witty with his routes. What he lacks in height, he makes up for with the quickness and the speed that he gets open.” Defensive film study wasn’t new to Riley at SU, but the level of detail and wealth of film available changed. As years went by, he grew more confident in recognizing defenses on tape — fronts, coverages, even the occasional blitz. “When you know your defenses and who you’re going up against,” Riley said, “It’s not that hard to find those spots to get open, and Eric is good at finding me.” With his insights into opposing

defenses, Riley dissects the opposing team defense, then runs countless reps against that defense in practice. By game time, the looks, and what to do against them, are muscle memory. The trio of vision, speed and defensive knowledge leads Riley into good routes and open spots on the field. Against a zone, he has studied that defense well enough to run his route directly into a soft spot. Against man defense, he knows his defenders’ tendencies and has a reserve of speed to fall back on. “I gotta be perfect,” Riley said, “Because guys that are bigger than me, (they) can probably make more mistakes than me.” On a team searching for its most consistent options at wide receiver and trying to defeat the Seminoles for the first time since joining the ACC, Riley has a chance to make his patience pay off. aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Graham


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szmyt “He had played soccer since he could remember … since he could walk,” Eric said. “He did all the travel teams and all that good stuff through most of high school. By the end of his junior year of high school, he thought he could go further as a kicker than playing soccer. But it was a transition that Lala didn’t understand. She knew soccer, not American football. She’d never watched it, Szmyt said, so she assumed that the switch would mean that he would be getting hit and tackled.

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Distance of Andre Szmyt’s furthest field goal of the season

Szmyt and Eric eased Lala’s anxiety by explaining the role of the kicker and showing her videos. “She was like, ‘Okay. It’s kind of like soccer,’” Szmyt said. At the end of that year, Szmyt and his friends on the football team went to the field to film him kick. The year before, Vernon Hills (Illinois) High School had some difficulty kicking, Eric said. Then their coaching staff saw a video of Szmyt drilling three consecutive 50-yarders, and he immediately had a spot on the team. His senior season, Szmyt connected on 75 percent of his field goals, earning all-state honorable mention honors. Additionally, he earned a four-star rating from Kohl’s Professional Camps, the top training camp in the country for kickers, punters and long snappers. His performance at Vernon Hills and in camps earned him recognition from Division I schools around the country. Much of his senior year was spent talking to coaches, just a few months after he decided to give up soccer.

“It was pretty sudden,” Eric said. “It was obvious that he had the talent and ability to do this right from the get go.” Less than a year and a half after deciding to play football, Szmyt found his place at Syracuse as a preferred walk-on, redshirting his freshman season. Heading into 2018, Sterling Hofrichter appeared to be the starter, and when Eric dropped Szmyt off at SU for fall camp, Szmyt hoped to compete for the kicking job, Eric said. Soon, he surpassed his competition. “We keep numbers on all our kickers … his numbers were extremely high,” Babers said. “Based off of those numbers, we wanted to exercise some drills that we could do to see if he could handle the pressure, added pressure in practice and still kick with the same high percentage, which he did.” Those numbers earned Szmyt the right to start against Western Michigan, which he didn’t even know he’d be doing until he saw the depth chart the week before. Two games later, he has yet to miss a kick, whether it be a field goal or an extra point. The 50-yard field goal he kicked against Wagner split the uprights with several yards to spare. “I had no doubt that he had the leg to hit the 50-yarder, it was just a matter of whether it was going to be through the goal post or not,” Babers said. “It may not have been straight down the middle. But it wasn’t very far off from straight down the middle. Fantastic kick by him.” Babers nearly sent Szmyt out for a 54-yard kick against Western Michigan, but Szmyt had been perfect on the day and Babers didn’t want to potentially spoil his debut with a miss. Babers said after the game he met Lala, who was “going crazy” with pride. “It was like the excitement of him coming on the scene in high school all over again,” Eric said. For Szmyt moving forward, the mindset remains the same as it was entering this season: just stay consistent. “Staying focused, level-headed and not letting misses affect you,” Szmyt said. “Gotta do my job. I’ve been working all fall camp to get this opportunity, just have to take advantage.” mdliberm@syr.edu


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Q&A with FSU beat writer Tashan Reed of The Athletic By Josh Schafer sports editor

Syracuse (2-0) enters its matchup against Florida State (1-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) coming off a 62-10 win against Wagner. Eric Dungey threw for five touchdowns while SU had four players rush for over 40 yards. After being dismantled, 24-3, by No. 13 Virginia Tech, Florida State snuck by an FCS opponent in Samford, 36-26, last weekend. The Orange will host the Seminoles at noon Saturday. The Athletic’s Florida State football beat writer Tashan Reed answered a few questions for The Daily Orange ahead of the game.

The Daily Orange: How much stock do

you put into Florida State’s first two games with a Virginia Tech loss and the close Samford win?

Tashan Reed: I don’t think you can really write either one off. Against Virginia Tech, they pretty … much got thoroughly outplayed in that game. They made a few plays here and there where it could’ve been close. But either way they would have probably went on to lose that one. Early on against Samford, it was just

losing one-on-one battles both on offense and defense. In the secondary, they couldn’t stick with Samford’s receivers as crazy as that sounds. The offensive line has so many injuries with bunches of less experienced guys playing there. The Samford guys were giving them a lot pretty much on the offensive line. When you’re struggling on both ends of the ball with positions, it makes it tough. It’s hard to overlook that going forward. Heading into this week looking at the depth chart, it doesn’t look like Florida State’s offensive line is going to be any different than it was. Obviously, they can improve and get better in certain areas, but they’ll probably end up having some similar issues that they had the first two weeks. It just comes down whether or not they can execute.

The D.O.: Florida State’s run defense has been relatively solid through the first two games. How do they normally try to stop a running quarterback like Eric Dungey? What do you expect to see from them Saturday?

T.R.: You can kinda pull from week one when they went against Josh Jackson. They didn’t

have a ton of success running. Yet he didn’t look to run too much. Florida State was looking for that. Leading up to that game, they talked about how much Jackson likes to run and how to prepare for it. They said similar things this week, too. They’re pretty athletic up front, inexperienced with the linebackers. They might be able to find success in the second level, but up front it’s probably, along the defensive line, that’s their strongest overall position in the defense. They have guys like Brian Burns and Demarcus Christmas up the middle, so I think it could be a little bit difficult for a quarterback to run against them. It’ not impossible by any means, but they’re definitely looking to key on that.

The D.O.: Which player might surprise

Syracuse fans and have a big impact game that may not have known going into the game?

T.R.: I think Tamorrion Terry — he might not

be a household name yet. He’s somebody that’s been really impressive throughout camp. He’s a 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman, so it’s his first year playing. First game, he had a really nice jump ball against Virginia Tech, and in the

last game both of the catches he had went for touchdowns. He’s a really big guy who’s fast and is a pretty good route runner and blocker. The thing is (Deondre) Francois likes to go to him when he needs somebody who can go up and get the ball. I can see him making a few big games other than a Francois or a (Cam) Akers.

The D.O.: Who do you think wins the game? T.R.: It’s hard to call it because on Syracuse’s

end they’ve had a great offensive start. They played lower-tiered opponents, though. With Florida State, given how they looked against a FCS opponent and how Virginia Tech outplayed them, it’s kinda hard to judge them. Florida State’s first road game of the year — last three years even though it was under a different coach — they’ve been kinda up and down on the road. I believe they’re 7-6 in road games in the ACC the last three years. They’ve really been hit or miss on the road, so it’s hard. I think it’s going to be a close game, something like a threepoint game or so with Florida State pulling it out because I think they have a little better defense. If it ends up coming to an offensive battle, I think Florida State would be better. jlschafe@syr.edu | @Schafer_44

CHRISTOPHER FREDRICK has started both games for the Orange this season. A starter since the end of his frehsman season, Fredrick, now a junior, has two career interceptions and 72 tackles. In 2018, Fredrick has five unassisted tackles. josh shub-seltzer staff photographer


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Beat writers conflicted over outcome of Syracuse-Florida State By The Daily Orange Sports Staff

Florida State trailed Samford for much of their meeting in week two. But the Seminoles eventually pulled away to win, 36-26. Syracuse is coming off a 62-10 shellacking of Wagner. FSU still opened as three-point favorites in Vegas, but ESPN’s FPI gives SU the better odds of winning the matchup Saturday. Here are The Daily Orange beat writers’ predictions.

Andrew Graham (2-0)

Long time coming Syracuse 34, Florida State 28 The last — and only — time Syracuse beat Florida State in football, Floyd Little started at running back and the Orange won, 37-21, at Archbold Stadium. It’s been a while, to say the least. But Saturday presents a good opportunity for the Orange to pick up an elusive conference win against the Seminoles. Florida State got destroyed by Virginia Tech in week one and squeaked past Samford last weekend. It’s probably not the start Willie Taggart hoped for in his inaugural season, and it’s probably about to get worse. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Orange a 57 percent chance of getting the win, but it’s a coin toss if you ask me. Syracuse will get the win by relying on Eric Dungey. SU’s offensive line keeps him upright to pass and exploit FSU in the run game, and SU stays undefeated, but it’s going to be close.

Matt Liberman (2-0)

Waiting game Florida State 31, Syracuse 27 It’s been a long time since Syracuse beat Florida State, and that wait will have to go on a little longer. FSU has struggled

so far this season, but we’re still talking about Florida State. Dino Babers said it himself: FSU has bigger, stronger, faster, more talented athletes who are almost all four and five-star recruits. Syracuse has not faced that type of talent this season, and while the offense has been terrific for the Orange thus far, it hasn’t had to play against an opponent with this defensive potential. Jamal Custis can’t be the only option if SU is to beat the Seminoles. Plus, the linebackers have struggled so far in the run game, and Cam Akers is one of the best in the nation. This game’s going to be close, but ultimately Akers is the difference.

Josh Schafer (2-0)

Becoming the big guy Syracuse 34, Florida State 31 Earlier this week, Dino Babers referred to Florida State as the big guy in school. The Seminoles have won 10 or more games in five of the last six years, including three Atlantic Coast Conference Championships. But that’s not the Seminole team that comes to the Carrier Dome on Saturday. FSU has struggled so far this season with a loss against Virginia Tech and a close win over Samford. Cam Akers, arguably FSU’s best offensive player, has had half of his runs stopped before reaching two yards. The Seminoles’ offensive line has been a revolving door due to injuries and has featured 10 different contributors. If Syracuse can stop FSU’s run game and force Deondre Francois to beat SU through the air (as VT did), the Orange has a shot to win. Through two games, FSU has started slow and been outscored 26-7 in the first quarter. Look for Syracuse to jump on the visitors early and hang on for a victory. sports@dailyorange.com

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS The D.O.’s high school football coverage There will be features, game coverage and previews. It’s our leap into covering what’s got the Syracuse-area buzzing every weekend.

After allowing an early first quarter touchdown, Syracuse’s defense held stout against Wagner in a victory over the Seahawks last Saturday. max freund asst. photo editor

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