The number game

Linebacker Josh Kirkland lets in on why he decided to change his number, talks about what the coaches are saying about his play and more inside.

It's a minor detail that many may not notice, but for linebacker Josh Kirkland, the number change from No. 27 to 10 is somewhat sentimental.

"The No. 27 ran in the family," he said.

Kirkland is from a big household, five brothers and three sisters to be exact.

"All of my brothers wore No. 72 at one time in their football career," Kirkland said. "I never did because I was a skill player, so I chose No. 27 from sixth grade into high school."

Laughing, he said, "If I couldn't wear No. 27, it was a multiples of three. I'm a little superstitious."

Despite his affinity for 27, Kirkland ventured away from the number out of total respect for his teammate, George Morris. Both players play on special teams and are unable to sport the same number.

The Butler Community College (KS) transfer, who enrolled in January, made his Division I debut for Syracuse on special teams and encountered a few snaps on the defensive end, recording one tackle.

"I would say it was good," Kirkland said about his play "I did my job in every play. There was one play I was close to sacking the quarterback. I could have gotten a better start on the blitz... that's the only thing I can think of I could have done better."

Defensively, as a whole, the unit fared better than its counterpart – the offense – however, Kirkland was in the same boat with the coaching staff, pointing out that there is always room for improvement.

"There are always areas to get better," Kirkland said. "That's what the coaches told us. They said we played OK, but ‘let's get better.'"

When pressed about the areas to get better on, the linebacker said it was all about creating even more turnovers and getting more players applying pressure on ball.

The defense forced four Penn State turnovers (two fumbles and two interceptions) and held the Nittany Lions to 1-of-16 (.063) on third-down.

The jump from JUCO to Division I has been somewhat of a smooth transition for Kirkland, but he notes there are some differences when it comes to the caliber of play, specifically as it pertains to the linemen and skill position players.

"When it comes down to it," he said, "it's just another player and they are all treated the same. It definitely helps my confidence; it shows that I'm just as good as all the rest of these guys."

He continued, "The skill players I went against in JUCO, like (Cordarrelle) Patterson (the now Minnesota Viking went to Hutchinson Community College and then attended Tennessee), are really, really good. The offensive and defensive linemen at the (Division I level) are much better, too"

While Kirkland mentioned that they haven't looked at Northwestern game film yet – something that the team will start with tomorrow – nothing is going to be taken for granted.

"Northwestern is a good team," he said. "They are ranked in the top 25 and I know they play with a lot of heart. The defense needs to come together as one."

Syracuse will look to avenge last season's 42-41 loss to the Wildcats, this time on the road. Game time is slated for 6 p.m. EST on Saturday and will be broadcasted on the Big Ten Network.

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