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Third-string quarterback Jack Sears impresses in Trojan debut

first_imgRedshirt freshman Jack Sears looks for receivers against Arizona State on Saturday at the Coliseum. (Ling Luo | Daily Trojan)The life of any backup quarterback is generally filled with uncertainty. The competitions during summer and fall camp practices, the struggles to develop chemistry with receivers and backs due to limited practice time, the time spent relaying calls and encouraging teammates from the sideline, waiting for an opportunity to make their own mark.For redshirt freshman Jack Sears, the one thing he could feel certain about was his own playing ability. When he finally got his chance to take the field on Saturday against Arizona State, he made sure audiences knew that he had what it takes to play at the collegiate level.“It’s been a while since I’ve been in a game setting,” Sears said. “We did our best in fall camp and my entire time here.”Despite playing in a losing effort, Sears showed flashes of brilliance and the capacity to lead a football team.“I felt comfortable in the second half and guys never stopped believing in me,” Sears said. “It was fun to rally with them and keep competing. We fought to the very end.”On the day, Sears went 20-of-28 passing for 235 yards with two touchdowns. Additionally, Sears was a factor on the ground, participating in a number of designed roll-outs, options and runs, including a 22-yard burst to set up a touchdown drive at the end of the first half. Sears was not the most statistically impressive passer on the roster on Saturday — that title went to redshirt sophomore wideout Tyler Vaughns, who threw a 36-yard touchdown to junior receiver Michael Pittman in the third quarter. However, Sears was capable of producing when called upon for the USC offense.In fact, out of qualifying passers, Sears finished fourth among Pac-12 quarterbacks in terms of passer grade, according to PFF College. Finishing ahead of talented signal callers such as Stanford’s K.J. Costello, Utah’s Tyler Huntley and Arizona State’s Manny Wilkins, Sears clearly stood out compared to the expectations most would have of a backup quarterback.The most impressive factor of Sears’ performance, however, was his ability to lead the Trojans back from a daunting deficit. With just under two minutes left in the first half, USC trailed the Sun Devils by 17 points and had yet to show any life on the offensive side of the ball. Aside from a brilliant Vaughns punt return for a touchdown following Arizona State’s first drive, USC had been shut out. Yet, Sears was able to drive his team 90 yards down the field to cut the deficit to 10 by halftime. Coming out of the break, Sears again carved through the Sun Devils’ secondary to bring USC within 3 points, and 25 seconds later, USC took the lead.While the defense and special teams would falter and the Trojans would go on to fall for the first time at home since 2015, Sears made sure to leave a lasting good impression with a 48-yard heave for a touchdown to Vaughns in Sears’ last play from scrimmage.From the perspective of head coach Clay Helton, this type of performance was anything but out of the ordinary for the San Clemente native. “[Sears] practices like a starter, and today he played like a starter,” Helton said after the game.Helton continued to shower the redshirt freshman in praise for his performance.“I thought [Sears] did a tremendous job,” Helton said. However, Sears does not have a particularly clear path to playing time. With presumptive starter JT Daniels cleared to resume practicing following a concussion suffered on Oct. 20 at Utah, Sears will likely serve in a backup role once again this weekend when the team travels to Oregon State.This should not spell the end of Sears’ chances to contribute moving forward. Sears and Daniels both have freshman eligibility and considering how tumultuous the season has been, it is unlikely that a week-to-week starter is guaranteed, let alone one from year-to-year. Additionally, should Daniels show further health concerns, it is possible that Sears could once again get the nod over Fink.It wasn’t long ago that a San Clemente quarterback took a loss in his first start as a Trojan.While Jack Sears may not have performed as well as former USC quarterback Sam Darnold, he certainly showed enough on Saturday to make it clear that he is capable of being an effective starter when called upon for USC.“I love these guys; I’ve been with them for over two years,” Sears said of his teammates. “I believe in what [Helton is] doing here. Every down, every play, no matter what’s going on. I love this university.”last_img read more

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Syracuse struggles to score again, falls twice to Notre Dame

first_img Published on April 8, 2018 at 2:58 pm Contact David: ddschnei@syr.edu Syracuse (18-17, 4-10 Atlantic Coast) dropped both games of its doubleheader against Notre Dame (26-12, 10-4) on Sunday in South Bend, Indiana. The Orange was blown out, 8-0, in six innings in the first game, before suffering a 5-1 loss in game two. SU has now lost eight straight games in the ACC after starting 4-2.The Fighting Irish were the first to get on the board in game one when Sara White hit a two-out, three-run home run in the bottom of the first. In the third, Syracuse gave itself a chance to even the score when two singles and a hit by pitch loaded the bases, but Alicia Hansen popped out to end the inning. In the fourth, UND added to its lead after Hannah Dossett mishandled a ground ball, allowing Abby Sweet to come home from third base.Starting in the circle for the second-straight game was Alexa Romero, who, after a stellar two-hit outing on Friday, gave up three runs in the first before being replaced by AnnaMarie Gatti in the second. Gatti remained in the circle for the rest of the game, allowing five runs, three of which were unearned.After the third inning, SU’s bats quieted while the Fighting Irish’s stayed hot. In the final three innings, Neli Casares-Maher had the only hit for Syracuse, and UND added five more runs to gain an 8-0 advantage. Despite the size of UND’s lead, the Fighting Irish only outhit the Orange nine to five. All five of SU’s runners were left on base.Having used Romero and Gatti in the first game, SU turned to Miranda Hearn to make her second start of the season in game two of the doubleheader. The freshman struck out three of her first four batters and held the Fighting Irish scoreless through two innings.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAfter scoring one run in the last two games, SU’s bats woke up at the start of game two. Sammy Fernandez began the game with her 206th career hit, tying Tanya Rose for the program record. Three batters later, Casares-Maher drove in Fernandez with a sacrifice fly, giving the Orange a one-run lead.SU held its lead until the third inning, when UND tallied two runs with consecutive hits to take the lead. Two innings later, what was a close game quickly turned into another Notre Dame hitting clinic, when Katie Marino doubled to drive in another run and Sweet launched a two-run long ball, giving ND a 5-1 lead.The Orange had a chance to come back with two outs in the top of the seventh, when Gabby Teran, the only SU player with more than one home run this year, came to the plate with the bases loaded. Teran made solid contact and lined the ball to left field, but it was met by Cait Brooks, who caught it to make the final out.Syracuse will resume play on Wednesday when it travels to Siena for a doubleheader starting at 3 p.m. in Loudonville, New York. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

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Danny Varello’s more than year-long faceoff struggles contribute to upset loss

first_imgDanny Varello slapped his stick against his hand as he jogged off the field and found his spot in the corner of SU’s sideline. There, as he did many times in the game, he placed his hands on his hips. At that point, he still could wait for his turn to go back in, make something happen. It’s a luxury that followed him through much of last season. But in the Orange’s 12-9 upset loss to Colgate — their first season-opening loss since it joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014 — something was different.His wait grew longer, then it stopped, and he found himself a spot deeper in the corner, as Jakob Phaup took the last six faceoffs for SU. Varello had no chance to make another play.For Varello, who was not made available after the game, a 2018 season of struggles confounded with a continuation of the cycle, contributing to the No. 10 Orange (0-1) entering the loss column after Friday night. The junior lost seven of his 12 faceoff attempts and eventually surrendered his position as the most-frequent contributor on the faceoff to the much more efficient Phaup, who was 8-of-13. In another weak performance from Varello, the Orange perhaps found another option. But as Syracuse reflects on the loss, the positives are kept to a minimum.“Some of the stats were starting to even out in the second half and it felt a little better when we got within one (goal),” SU head coach John Desko said, “and then we had a couple of penalties and we jumped over at the end and (would) lose possession.”Last season, Varello was given a majority of the reign on faceoff opportunities. Following the departure of SU great Ben Williams, who in his senior year became Syracuse’s all-time leader in faceoff wins with 669, Varello was named the successor. He showed promise with big, quick hands and built strength and quickness starting his sophomore year at Smithtown West (New York) High School. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textHe responded in the season-opener last year with a dominant showing, winning 15-of-17 attempts in the Orange’s 21-4 shellacking of the Bearcats. But the rest of the season, he experienced struggles. Varello won 134-of-279 of his times at the X. SU’s lack of a second-option, though, had Varello take 207 more attempts than the next highest faceoff contributor.The belief going into the season was that the Orange would employ a similar strategy, but against the Raiders the losses began to add up. Varello was mismatched in first four attempts and Phaup won three on the same amount of tries. The Orange still went to Varello. He’d win his fifth, but then lose a few more. Colgate head coach Matt Karweck said faceoff stats are “arbitrary,” but as long as losses aren’t turning into breakaways at the other end, then that’s a win. When asked about the lack of possessions, SU starting goalkeeper Drake Porter said he didn’t feel his defense was frustrated, but multiple times a lost faceoff led to a Colgate scoring opportunity on the other end.The Raiders jumped out to an early lead, and Syracuse needed possessions to turn it around. But Varello still struggled to string multiple wins together.“Yeah, frankly, we weren’t quite sure how good Malcolm (Feeney) was gonna be,” Colgate head coach Matt Karweck said of his lead faceoff specialist. “It’s funny because you just don’t know. Everybody’s got their kryptonite in the faceoff game, right?”Syracuse began experimenting. It entered Phaup in for a few tries in a row. Then went back to Varello. But, eventually, Varello’s efforts proved futile. As the Orange started to go on a mini-run midway through the fourth quarter, Phaup took the faceoff each time. After a few Varello losses, Phaup won possession for the Orange and Jared Fernandez greeted him with a hug on the sideline. He won two more to spark a two-straight scoring run for the Orange. As he jogged back to the sideline, Brendan Curry squared tracked him, stomped, flexed and yelled. With SU down by two goals, under 10 minutes remaining, impending doom on the horizon with a team that’d only previously lost 19 season-opening games in it 103-year history, the Orange found a sign of life in their second faceoff specialist.“I thought he was really competing on the ground balls,” Desko said of Phaup, who was not made available after the game. “He does a really good job of just kind of sticking his nose in there and fighting for it.”As the final buzzer sounded, Phaup’s contributions were not enough. The Orange couldn’t recover from the quick start the Raiders had. Varello jogged onto the field as the Colgate bench hopped and screamed its way to Colgate goalkeeper Connor Mullen. After a year guiding the Orange in the X through his own struggles, Varello walked off the playing field Friday with a sign of uncertainty.“My hats off to Colgate. We throw two poles out there, those are good ground ball guys and Colgate’s got some ground ball guys, too,” Desko said. “They did a great job.” Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 8, 2019 at 11:42 pm Contact Michael: mmcclear@syr.edu | @MikeJMcClearycenter_img Commentslast_img read more