Dino Babers Sends Message to Team after Pitt Loss
The clock at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh read 0:00, but Dino Babers and his team remained on the field. The Orange lost to the Pitt Panthers 21-10 and fell to 0-2 to start the 2020 season. The game ended with Pitt running the final 4:14 off the clock despite Babers having timeouts at his disposal. He opted to let the clock run and made sure he was heard loud and clear as the team gathered on the field after the game.
“Well, I think the biggest thing is, with the locker rooms and stuff like that, I thought it was better to get it out of the way,” Babers said during his post-game press conference on Saturday.
“Sometimes when these guys come in here, they scatter. I didn't want them to scatter. I wanted them to stay together and obviously deliver them a message that was extremely private and something that the family needs to take to heart if we're going to be all that we need to be.”
171 yards of offense and ten total first downs was not all Syracuse needed to be against twenty-fifth ranked Pitt. The defense, however, played well enough for an Orange upset. They forced 2 turnovers and held Pitt to only 21-points after they piled on 55 last week against FCS Austin Peay. Babers has said that the greatest growth from a team typically comes in between weeks one and two. Who would have thought that the defense could get even better after going toe-to-toe with high-powered North Carolina?
“Our defense has just been playing outstanding,” Babers said. “If you, if you cut off the fourth quarter, when you start adding up how long they've been out there, and they've probably been out there too doggone long, their first six quarters of football has been outstanding versus two really strong opponents.
“You would like to think that if we can get something going on offense and special teams, that we're going to have a defense that we can really be proud of when the smoke all clears. But obviously, we've got to make some changes. We've got to start getting that ball moving in the right direction.”
Babers was forced to make a change in the second quarter when starting QB Tommy DeVito limped off the field after being sacked for the fourth time in the first half. Red-shirt senior back-up Rex Culpepper took his place and wasted little time before initiating murmured rumblings of a potential quarterback controversy. His 68-yard strike to Taj Harris signaled Syracuse’s first touchdown of the season and appeared to be the spark this offense had been sorely missing. It was evidence of why Babers had play-calls designed for Culpepper heading into Saturday’s game, and could possibly serve as justification for a switch behind center in the future.
“We've got some packages for him,” Babers said of Culpepper’s involvement within the offense. “He can do some things. And based off of how we've been moving the football, he needs to have some packages. So, yeah, we've got some packages in for him. And we think there's some things that he can do to help us get first downs and score points.”
Scoring points and sustaining drives is something the incumbent signal-caller has struggled with through the first two weeks of the season. His biggest problem, however, may be staying healthy. DeVito returned to action to start the third quarter, but would be replaced by Culpepper once again to finish out the fourth. He played long enough, though, to be sacked seven times for the second consecutive week. It’s hard to imagine how much longer DeVito can hold-up under this kind of abuse, but his head coach says he’s not hurt yet.
“That young man is healthy and he's one of the strongest cats we have,” Babers said commenting on DeVito’s status. “He's got New Jersey's arms on him. He's more than strong enough.
“But but the big thing is this: that's coaching, too. We've got to find a way to make sure that either we can protect him or that he's capable of protecting himself. And then if he doesn't do that, then we have to do other things. But this is not we're not going to get that young man hurt.
“Having 14 sacks at this stage of the game, we're going to set the record. I don't plan on setting the record in 2020, so we'll just have to see what happens going down the road.”
Down the road is Syracuse’s home-opener against Georgia Tech on September 26th at the Carrier Dome. It was asked by a member of the media what kind of momentum would the Orange be riding heading into the game. Coach Babers’ answer was pretty simple.
“If you're a football player, you're 0-2. That better be motivation enough.”