Bye weeks aren't so bad, especially when the losses are mounting and the injury report has too many entries.
Syracuse's Scott Shafer certainly knows all about that as he tries to piece together a lineup for Saturday's game at Pittsburgh (4-6, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference).
The injury-riddled Orange (3-7, 1-5 ACC) have lost three straight games and seven of eight. Despite missing a dozen players — including quarterbacks Terrel Hunt and AJ Long, three offensive linemen, and middle linebacker Marqez Hodge — Syracuse played then-No. 22 Duke even for three quarters before fading in a 27-10 loss on Senior Day in the Carrier Dome.
Having a week off after that was long overdue. Nine straight games had taken a toll.
"The benefit to the week was probably trying to get some of the kids rested up ... and maybe getting a couple of guys back," Shafer said Tuesday. "We'll see."
Shafer said any injured players who do come back would be used "in a limited capacity."
Against Duke, redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Wilson made his second career start, and fourth-string sophomore Mitch Kimble kept the Orange in the game. Kimble finished 6 of 13 for 37 yards passing, tied for the team high with 42 yards rushing on 10 carries, and scored his first career touchdown.
Shafer said Long, a freshman, Wilson and Kimble would be getting reps in practice but was noncommittal on Long's availability going forward. Wilson, who suffered a concussion against Florida State five weeks ago, is listed as the starter on the depth chart for Pitt and Kimble is the backup. Long is dealing with a nerve issue in his right (throwing) shoulder.
"AJ was limited a little bit. We'll see how he does today," Shafer said. "But all three of them have been getting reps. We've held back on a couple of things that AJ was doing to try to get him feeling better."
With the chance to play in a bowl game for the fourth time in five years gone, Syracuse will finish its season with two road games — against the Panthers and the season finale against Boston College — aiming to finish with five victories.
The games also will serve as an opportunity to evaluate the younger players who have been pressed into action earlier than anticipated.
"First and foremost (the goal) is to win ... play to win and play to win together for these seniors that'll be leaving us in a couple of weeks," Shafer said. "The other thing is to see ... if we can continue to grow those kids. You find out a lot about kids when they're on the field playing as opposed to just practicing, especially those quarterbacks.
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