Football

Timing his shot: Hunt attempts to snap touchdown drought, bring SU to bowl eligibility against Pittsburgh

Luke Rafferty | Video Editor

Terrel Hunt hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in two months. He'll look to lead Syracuse to its sixth win on Saturday against Pittsburgh.

The last time Terrel Hunt threw a touchdown, it was still baseball season.

Syracuse was only one week removed from the Drew Allen era. And the temperature peaked at 72 degrees.

The sophomore who took Central New York by storm with seven scoring strikes in two games hasn’t thrown for a score since SU beat Tulane two full months ago.

“Our passing game isn’t where we want it to be,” Hunt said.

It hasn’t been since nonconference play. In Syracuse’s six Atlantic Coast Conference games, Hunt is averaging 92.2 passing yards per game and has been intercepted seven times. With a chance to send Syracuse (5-5, 3-3 ACC) to its third bowl game in four years, Hunt will look to nail down his drops and timing when the Orange hosts Pittsburgh (5-5, 2-4) on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in the Carrier Dome.

“Just put everything on the line because this is all or nothing,” Hunt said. “Even though we have two games left, we want to win those two games to have a winning season. It’s not just making a bowl game.”

The drops are the first concern. Hunt and quarterbacks coach Tim Lester have been working on it all season, but the consistency isn’t there yet.

Lester said he can tell when Hunt misreads a play in practice just by the drop he takes. In games, though, there are no do overs, and Hunt found that out the hard way in the Orange’s 59-3 loss to No. 2 Florida State last Saturday.

On a first-half screen play, Hunt took a three-step drop instead of a one-step. As the offensive linemen pulled out to get in front of the running back, Seminoles linebacker Christian Jones burst through the middle. He leveled the exposed Hunt mid-release.

The result of the crushing blow was an incompletion, but also an important lesson when Lester and Hunt went over the play on Monday.

“Are you ever going to do that again?” Lester asked.

“No, Coach. My ribs still hurt,” Hunt replied. “My body can still feel it.”

“That’s really where you learn,” Lester said. “Next time you have that play, that screen, he’s not going to take three steps. I promise.”

Lester said Hunt completed 90 percent of the passes on which he took the proper drop and read. He completed 30 on the plays he flubbed.

That 90 percent, though, also includes timing — arguably the bigger problem, and one Hunt is not alone in sharing the blame.

Despite staying after practice to get extra reps with many of his receivers, Hunt still hasn’t quite timed out releasing the ball before each receiver breaks.

Lester called that the hardest thing for a young quarterback to do — especially with a rotating door of wide receivers.

“It’s the hardest thing to learn from high school to college,” Lester said. “You’ve just got to break your hands and start to throw before the guy’s actually into his route. And that’s really uncomfortable.”

H-back-turned-wide receiver-turned-H-back Ashton Broyld said he still has to guess when to expect the ball.

“Sometimes we be open and he’s not ready to go, or he’s ready to go and we’re not open,” Broyld said. “Right now, this is the hard time. This is frustrating because we’re just all new. It’s all new.”

For Hunt, the Pittsburgh game presents an opportunity, though. Starting safety Jason Hendricks is out with a shoulder injury. Broyld and Jarrod West are developing into more reliable targets. And coming off facing one of the best defensive back corps at FSU, the Panthers pale in comparison.

Maybe this will be the week Hunt finally finds a receiver in the end zone.

“One of these days we’re going to be lights out,” Broyld said. “I trust him more than anybody. That’s why he’s our quarterback.

“One day it’s going to click, and when it does we won’t be surprised.”

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