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Syracuse Football: With 2 WRs out, Damien Alford breakout game was big

Syracuse football, Damien Alford (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)
Syracuse football, Damien Alford (Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports) /

Damien Alford, the junior wide receiver from Canada, was a pivotal reason why Syracuse football stormed back in the second half on Saturday afternoon to defeat Army at home, 29-16, and keep its 2023 record unblemished.

The 6-foot-6, 210-pound Alford, against the Black Knights, set career bests with nine catches for 135 yards, including 27 yards after the catch, according to SU Athletics.

After the Orange conquered Army by 13 points on the Hill to move to 4-0 so far in the 2023 season, head coach Dino Babers said in his post-game press conference that he was excited for Damien Alford, calling his performance versus the Black Knights a breakout afternoon.

Alford’s output came at a critical time for the Orange as it relates to the team’s wide receivers room. Star junior Oronde Gadsden II, a preseason All-American candidate, is out for the remainder of the 2023 stanza after suffering a Lisfranc injury during the squad’s home win over Western Michigan earlier this month.

Additionally, Babers says that redshirt junior Isaiah Jones, due to injury, will be “down for a while,” according to reports from Syracuse.com’s Emily Leiker and others. Jones didn’t suit up versus Army this past weekend.

Syracuse football junior Damien Alford may have emerged as the team’s top wide-receiving target.

In all fairness, even without Gadsden and Jones, senior quarterback Garrett Shrader does have several talented wide receivers to throw to, including Alford, redshirt freshman Donovan Brown, redshirt sophomore Umari Hatcher, and sophomore LeQuint Allen Jr., the Orange’s starting running back who also is a solid receiver.

Versus the Black Knights, the ‘Cuse also got back junior wide receiver/return specialist Trebor Pena, which is an encouraging sign.

Alford, a Syracuse football captain who is from Montreal, Quebec, has played well over the past two games. In a recent road victory versus Purdue, he caught four passes for 70 yards, before producing that stellar performance against Army.

According to ESPN statistics, for the entire 2023 season to date, Damien Alford has hauled in 17 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown. By the way, his previous high for receiving yards came in November of 2022, when the Orange beat Boston College on the road and Alford caught four passes for 83 yards.

During the 2022 stanza, Damien Alford had 17 receptions for 372 yards and two receiving scores. In 2021, he totaled 13 catches for 249 yards and two touchdowns through the air. In his true freshman season, in 2020, Alford had one catch for three yards.

Alford was a three-star prospect in the 2020 class, competing for McArthur High School in Hollywood, Fla., before joining Syracuse football. Several recruiting services rated him as a top-800 overall player and a top-185 wide receiver in this cycle.

I’m happy for Damien Alford, and his recent performances have proven big-time for an Orange team that has seen its depth at wide receiver diminish to some degree.

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