Duke-Syracuse again - in football
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Syracuse has faced a gauntlet of a schedule, and it isn't over just yet.
The reeling Orange (3-6, 1-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) host No. 22 Duke on Saturday, and the injuries continue to mount.
Syracuse needs a victory to keep its bowl hopes alive, and its top two quarterbacks are hurt. Starter Terrel Hunt is out with a broken calf bone and now freshman AJ Long, who emerged as Hunt's replacement, has a nerve problem in his throwing arm and is doubtful for the Blue Devils (7-1, 3-1 ACC) .
Coach Scott Shafer said Long was injured last week against North Carolina State, but the severity of the injury didn't manifest itself until practice Tuesday when Long started feeling numbness in his right hand and was forced to the sideline.
Redshirt freshman Austin Wilson will start unless Long is able to play. After sharing time with Wilson in the Orange's loss to then-No. 1 Florida State last month, Long had started the last three games and completed 72 of 128 passes for 727 yards and four touchdowns with six interceptions and also rushed for a touchdown.
The injury-riddled Orange - 11 players are out this week, including three offensive linemen and middle linebacker Marqez Hodge - have lost six of seven. The Orange are coming off a 24-17 loss to North Carolina State in the Carrier Dome, which dropped their record at home to 1-4.
''We've been battered up, and the kids have fought back,'' Shafer said. ''We've played one of the most difficult schedules in the country ... and they've never had excuses when we've come away from the losses. They've just gone to work. There's never been any cracks in the cup. They just kept fighting.''
Still, if they lose on Senior Day, playing in the postseason for the fourth time in five years is gone.
''Obviously, (bowl) is on everybody's mind,'' Long said. ''We want to get a win. The last thing you want to feel is, `Man, I lost in front of the hometown crowd in the last game of my senior year.' That's not the way you want to go out feeling.''
There's a lot at stake for Duke, too, as the season winds down. If the Blue Devils win out, they'll play for the ACC championship.
''We know there's more at stake as we continue to move forward this season,'' Duke tight end David Reeves said. ''So we want to make sure we're better than we were the week before. We try not to get too caught up in looking ahead, just take care of business in front of you like right now.''
Other things to know when Duke visits Syracuse on Saturday.
DUKE RISING: Duke coach David Cutcliffe, ACC coach of the year in 2012 and 2013, has led the Blue Devils to 38 victories since arriving in Durham in 2008. That's more wins than the Blue Devils had in the 15 seasons before Cutcliffe. Duke has won 15 of its last 18 and already is assured of going to a third straight bowl game for the first time in school history.
UNFAMILIAR RIVALS: Duke and Syracuse have only played twice, and the Blue Devils won both games, though they came before World War II. In 1938, seventh-ranked and undefeated Duke visited Syracuse and shut out the Orange 21-0 at old Archbold Stadium. The next year Syracuse lost in Durham, 33-6, to the 13th-ranked Blue Devils. George McAfee scored three touchdowns for Duke.
STINGY DEFENSE: Syracuse is on pace to surrender just eight rushing touchdowns in 2014, which would be the lowest total for the team since 1996. Just two opponents - Florida State and Notre Dame - have topped 400 yards of offense, and both have been fixtures this season in the top 10 of the AP poll. Syracuse also has at least one sack in every game.
SURGING DEVILS: Duke's only loss this season showed what can happen if the Blue Devils aren't on top of the details. Duke, which leads the nation with just five turnovers and four sacks allowed, committed three of those turnovers, allowed one sack, and had eight penalties for 50 yards in a 22-10 loss at Miami in late September.
SPECIAL TEAM: The Blue Devils lead the FBS in kickoff return average (29.06 yards). Devon Edwards is ninth nationally in yards per kick return (30.4) with one touchdown.
AP Sports Writers Aaron Beard and Joedy McCreary contributed.
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