Schafer prepares for challenge from Irish offense

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Coming off a difficult loss to Rutgers, Syracuse head coach Scott Shafer doesn’t expect things to get easier this weekend. With the Orange giving up home field advantage as they’ve moved the game to MetLife Field, Syracuse enters the game double-digit underdogs as they prepare to take on a Notre Dame team that’s ranked No. 8 in the country.

The second-year head coach faces a familiar foe across the sidelines in Brian Kelly, who coached at both Central Michigan and Cincinnati when he faced off with Shafer as a Western Michigan defensive coordinator.

“Brian is a great football coach, done a nice job with all the offenses that I’ve seen him coach over the years.  Now he’s got some great weapons to make it even more difficult,” Shafer said. “It will be a great challenge for us.”

One challenge that stands out is quarterback Everett Golson. Through three games, Golson has yet to turn the football over, while throwing for seven touchdowns and running for four.

“Everett definitely has a ton of challenges he brings to the table,” Shafer said. “Throws the ball extremely well. Quick release.  Does a good job getting out of bad plays. If he gets caught in a bad play, he can take off with it and be extremely effective with his feet.  There’s numerous things we have to do a good job of.”

Looking back at old tape, Shafer has also marveled at the transition Golson has made from the quarterback he was in 2012 to the one he has been through the month of September.

“You see him making plays down the field with some of his creativity. He’s a phenomenal athlete,” Shafer noted. “You also see him play the game on time and on schedule. Coach Kelly and his staff there have done a great job. You do see that progression.”

Syracuse’s secondary has been susceptible to the big play this year, with the Orange also failing to convert any interception opportunities. Shafer spoke candidly about the threat Golson possesses in the big-play passing game, calling Golson’s long-distance pinpoint throw to C.J. Prosise before halftime of the Rice game “freakish.”

He also praised the evolution of a quarterback that’s been asked to do far more this season than in 2012.

“There’s some things as a quarterback, you want to be a game manager early on in your career, learn how to manage the game, not get your team beat,” Shafer said. “When you take it to the next level, you continue to do those things well, but you also give your team an opportunity to be a big play‑maker.  That’s definitely what Everett has become there.  He’s a hell of a football player.”