It was the battle not many people were talking about during SU football preseason camp...the contest for the backup quarterback position to Terrel Hunt.
Freshman AJ Long, redshirt freshman Mitch Kimble and fellow redshirt frosh Austin Wilson jockeyed for position on a daily basis, every practice, every single snap. Eventually, it was Wilson and his cannon arm that got the job just a few days before gameday. Still untested, it was clear Terrel Hunt would have to stay healthy if the Orange wanted a chance to win.
Everything changed when Hunt threw a punch during the second quarter of the Villanova game, getting himself ejected and pressing Wilson into duty. Until that point, the young QB was signaling play calls into Hunt and the offense, not exactly throwing passes against the swarming Wildcats defense.
"I wasn't sure if [Hunt] was going to get taken out or not," Wilson said. "...If I was going to play, or whatnot, really I was focusing on what the next play was going to be, ya know, to signal it in, but then I just had to react."
Offensive Coordinator George McDonald took it easy on Wilson at first, giving him a screen pass to get comfortable and into the flow of the game. That trend continued as the Orange threw several wide receiver screen passes in the first half. But, still, Wilson was accurate and looked solid when McDonald called some vertical passing plays in the second half. Wilson ended up 11-17 for 89 yards passing, completing one more pass than Hunt in the process. But, it was what he did on the sidelines, cheering his teammates on, acting like the starter, which turned heads.
"He definitely took over a leadership role," Kendall Moore, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Punter Riley Dixon, said. "After a while he got it, it started to click in his head, he definitely stepped up and took over the leadership role."
While the offense sputtered at times, Wilson didn't turn the ball over, managing the game, and leading the Orange to the 27-26 victory.
"Yeah he found a way to win the game, not always the prettiest thing, he had a couple throws that were errant," Scott Shafer said. "I'm sure his butterflies were at an unbelievable level, but I'm proud of him."
With no further ramifications from the punch, Hunt will be back at the helm in two weeks at Central Michigan. But, in case something ever happens to Hunt, Wilson does give the Orange an option as a viable backup for the future.