Before A.J. Long made the drive up north to see Syracuse place Clemson over the weekend, he had his own business to attend to on the field. While his Friendship Academy squad didn't play as well as he had hoped, they did come away with a convincing victory.
"The starters, we won 41-0," Long said. "Then the final score was 41-7. In the game, I was 3-5 for 70-something yards and no touchdowns. Then I had seven carries for another 70-yards and one touchdown. I had one (touchdown) called back that was about 40-yards. I did OK. I didn't really touch the ball as much as I would've liked. But we won and that's the most important thing. The team did well, but we played a team that we should've beat by more than what we did. We came out slow and lethargic because we knew we could beat this team half-heartedly.
"The week of practice didn't feel good. Then when we came out in the first quarter, we didn't handle business like we should have. This week is basically getting back on track to where we should be so that we don't let the level of our opponent determine how we play."
Right after the game, Long hopped into a car and immediately started the long trek. The trip was well worth it, as Syracuse's quarterback commit was able to take in a game day atmosphere at the Carrier Dome.
"The game day atmosphere is second to none," Long said. "It was great and just what I expected it to be. They don't call it ‘The Loud House' for no reason. That place was rocking at all times. Win or lose, it's amazing. The game itself, the score doesn't translate well into how I think that game was played. Being in the redzone three times and not scoring, that really hurt us. If you think about, we score in the redzone in the first half, you go to halftime and it's 35-14.
"You come out of the second half and you get the ball. You go down and you score. Now it's 35-21. They (Clemson) got the ball and they punted. Then we get back down to the redzone again. You score that drive, it's 35-28 and you're back in the ballgame. Especially with Tajh Boyd throwing the interception. You score after that, and you're tied up at 35. It was just those small things that made the big difference. Being able to watch the film with coach (George) McDonald the next day, seeing how those interceptions were not Terrel's fault like everyone was saying.
"One receiver stopped running because he thought he was going to get a back-shoulder throw," Long continued. "That's something you can't do because that's not the decision of the receiver it's always the quarterback. The other two interceptions, his tackles were right in his front leg. He was either going to have his leg broken by following through on the ball or he had to throw off his back leg. He just couldn't get enough oomph on it to get the ball there. The game was better then people think."
After the game, Long's attention turned to the biggest reason he was on campus. To help the Orange add talent to their 2014 class. While they only landed one of the two targets over the weekend in Aaron Roberts, Long believes Beau Benzschawel isn't far behind.
"Aaron's commitment, I was the happiest person on earth," Long said. "Because now I know that the o-line is getting built. That's a happy site for a quarterback to see what's going to be in front of me for the next four or five years. His commitment was a big one. That's a big sigh of relief for me.
"With Beau, he just has to talk to his dad. I think he'll be committing within the next week and a half probably. It's us and North Dakota State really. They want him to play defensive end and he wants to play tight end. I talked to Beau a lot because I knew Aaron's commitment was coming. It was just getting to know Aaron and meeting him for the first time. Beau, I wanted him to know what we were building and what's going to happen with our time in the ACC.
"Telling him about K.J. (Williams), Steve (Ishmael) and Jamal (Custis)," Long continued. "To hear that Jamal is 6-foot-6 also. K.J. and Steve are both pushing 6-foot-3. So he's not the odd ball out being 6-6, 6-7. Showing him the offense and how they plan to use the tight end. He left the game thoroughly impressed and I wouldn't be surprised if we have a commitment from him in a week or two."