The Wagner Seahawks enter Saturday's contest against Syracuse knowing they are up against a strong opponent. Head coach Walt Hameline is looking forward to the challenge.
"Obviously, we're one and one right now," coach Hameline said. "This week is a tremendous opportunity for our program and our kids. I know we're all excited. Saying that, we understand we're playing a heck of a football team. They played well against Penn State. They played a real good football team and hung in there against Northwestern.
"It'll be a highly competitive game for us. Obviously we'll be challenged from a speed standpoint. That defense for those guys, their defensive line is very big and very good. Their backers are very good back there. It'll be a real good test for us. At the end of the day, it's a great thing for our program and we're excited about having the opportunity to play Syracuse."
Offensively, the Seahawks are planning to run their normal system which features the read option. But don't be surprised if you see a few tricks to catch the Orange off guard.
"At the end of the day, we're not going to be able to stay on blocks up front with those guys," coach Hameline said. "We're just going to have to play like the dickens to hang in there with them. As far as the (read) options goes, when you look at Northwestern, the thing that really opened things up was that they threw the ball so well. As the clock ticked, they threw some option at them and did some pretty good things.
"I thought it was the passing game that opened things up for them. When you get back to the Penn State game, there were, I think maybe four times when it was third and one and they stuffed them right up. They're a really good defensive football team. I know they put some points up, meaning Northwestern. At the same, they're a good team. We'll run our offense and we'll run our option. We're going to have to mix it up and throw the football. We'll have to keep people honest and keep it wide open."
Defensively, coach Hameline knows they key is to shut down the Syracuse running backs. They might even blitz a little more than normal in order to keep the Orange offense under wraps.
"The most important thing is we have to take the run game away if we can," coach Hameline said. "At the same time, not give up big plays. They're going to move the ball. There's no question about that. The running backs are excellent. They had a situation where maybe they had to throw it more than they wanted against Northwestern. But they have the capabilities of moving the football. The kid (Jerome) Smith is excellent. They've got good people on the perimeter that can really go.
"So we're going to bend but we have to do what we can to not give up big plays. Obviously, also run the clock and try to keep the ball out of their hands as much as possible. I think they've struggled a little bit with turnovers. From our standpoint, we've given up a lot of yards and points in the last two weeks. We're going to have to mix things up. We're not going to be able to just sit in one vanilla type scenario with them. We're going to have to go after them a little bit. In the secondary, there too. Give them different looks and try to get them to be somewhat questioning what's going on a little bit."
Coach Hameline believes if a team like Wagner is to upset a team like Syracuse, they have to get some unexpected big plays. Sometimes those can come on special teams.
"If you're going to win one area in a game like this and have success, it has to be special teams," coach Hameline said. "We've got to shore that up. We had a touchdown run back against us last week. But I think overall, we have the ability to be pretty good on special teams.
"And I think we have the ability, with our kicker, to put points on the board. That's going to be a key area for us. There again, not give up big plays. They have the capability, when they get their hands on the ball, to make some big plays with the athletes they have. We've got to win that battle for sure. No question about it."
Despite being large underdogs entering the contest, Coach Hameline says the Seahawks are coming to the Carrier Dome to win.
"I've been doing this a long time and the only time I've ever been successful is with a win," coach Hameline said. "That's the bottom line. When you line up, it doesn't matter who you're playing. At the end of the day, you play the game to win the game."