Returning to the scene of the crime

Tom Savage had a memorable performance for all the wrong reasons when he faced Syracuse in the Carrier Dome four years ago. Now as a senior on a different team, he returns to face the Orange.

In 2009, Rutgers freshman quarterback Tom Savage was enjoying a strong season. He led the Scarlet Knights to seven wins in eight games as the nationally ranked Rutgers squad entered the Carrier Dome to face the 3-7 Syracuse Orange.

Coming in, Savage had thrown 10 touchdowns to just one interception. What transpired on the Dome turf that fateful November evening is what many point to as the downfall of Savage within the Rutgers program.

Syracuse dominated the Scarlet Knights 31-13 on November 21, 2009, but that wasn't the worst of it. Savage was sacked a total of nine times, including being harassed by linebacker Doug Hogue, who had 3.5 of those nine sacks.

Savage never appeared to be the same after that, and it led to him losing the starting job as a sophomore. He then transferred to Arizona, where he never saw the field. After another transfer, this time to Pittsburgh, he finds himself back where it all went wrong. Back where his career trajectory drastically changed course.

Savage completed only 7 of his 17 pass attempts and threw two interceptions without a scoring toss on that night.

The man responsible for drawing up the game plan that rattled Tom Savage? Current Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer, who was the defensive coordinator of the Orange in '09.

"There are some similarities," Shafer said. "He's better than he was back when he was a young guy."

Four years ago, Syracuse blitzed Savage repeatedly. This time around, Shafer says the game plans are different because of the teams surrounding the senior signal caller.

"I do think it's drastically different because the schemes are different," Shafer said. "The protections are different. So from a game planning point of view, the scheme changes who that guy is."

Dyshawn Davis is playing the role that Hogue played the last time Savage took the Carrier Dome field, and Syracuse's scheme is even more aggressive this time around. Davis is also a better pure pass rusher than Hogue was.

Not only that, but the numbers suggest Savage may once again becoming all too familiar with the turf. He has been sacked 37 times on the season through 10 games, while Syracuse is 12th in the country with 30 sacks of their own.

Savage has two very good receivers coming in, with Tyler Boyd and Devin Street. But he also had two good ones four years ago in Mohamed Sanu and Tim Brown.

Similarities aside, Saturday's game could come down to how well the Panthers can pick up the exotic Orange blitzes. If they fail to do so, history could be repeating itself inside the Dome, much to the chagrin of Tom Savage.

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