FB : Dantley shines at QB after Robinson’s injury
PITTSBURGH – A cool and collected Cameron Dantley handled the swarm of media around him like a pro, much like he handled his first chance to play in a close game.
‘I actually was still comfortable in that situation for some reason,’ Dantley said. ‘I’ve been around a lot of crowds and stuff like that. I’ve been around my dad, who’s been around a lot of atmosphere like that.’
‘Dad’ is former NBA star Adrian Dantley, who retired as the ninth-leading scorer in league history at the time.
His son is considerably less seasoned. Cameron Dantley entered the game as SU’s quarterback at halftime, replacing injured starter Andrew Robinson, who left when a back injury sustained earlier in the week was too much to handle. Besides four passes late in blowouts this season, Dantley had zero experience.
His second drive was a five-play, 79-yard masterpiece punctuated with a booming 56-yard touchdown pass to Taj Smith through the seam in the middle of the field, tying the game at 10. Dantley led a Syracuse comeback in the second half and kept the Orange in the game until the very end before a last-second heave fell incomplete. Syracuse lost to Pittsburgh, 20-17.
Dantley led the Orange to its only other touchdown, a 3-yard pass to Mike Williams with 1:46 left in the game. The former walk-on Dantley finished 15-for-28 with 189 yards and the two scores.
‘I thought Cam did a real good job,’ SU head coach Greg Robinson said. ‘He showed a lot of poise. He competed. He made some fine throws. I was very proud of him.’
Andrew Robinson injured a muscle in his back during weight room lifting last Monday and last practiced Tuesday. After a first half in which he went 4-for-9 for 46 yards and had trouble following through, Greg Robinson made the call to switch in Dantley.
Andrew Robinson will undergo an MRI today to determine the extent of the injury, Greg Robinson said Sunday.
The 6-foot-1, 218-pound Dantley practiced with the first team for much of the week, and Smith said he wasn’t surprised at the smooth transition Dantley made.
‘He threw a pretty good ball the whole game from when he got in,’ Smith said. ‘He just came out with confidence, and that’s what I told him before the game. I said, ‘Just worry about what you have to do.”
Dantley’s first two passes were complete to Williams for 15 and 10 yards. Then, he was sacked twice. On the next drive, Dantley hit a streaking Smith up field for the score.
‘I saw Taj open and I had confidence in him that he could beat his man,’ Dantley said. ‘All he needed was a little bit of space, and I just needed a little bit of time to throw it – I got hit as I threw it. It was just good to see it open up, and I knew I could get him the ball.’
Dantley was sacked four times in the second half, including late on Syracuse’s final attempt to tie or win the game.
With Robinson in the game at quarterback in the first half, Syracuse managed only 60 total yards of offense and three points, a 36-yard Pat Shadle field goal with 9:01 left in the second.
Robinson said whenever he tried football activities during the week, the sore back muscle flared up and it was a struggle to play. But Greg Robinson said the staff made the decision before the game Saturday to start Andrew Robinson.
‘He couldn’t really follow through earlier in the week,’ Greg Robinson said. ‘We were hoping today in warm-ups…he was kind of trying to fight through it and say that, ‘I can get it going.”
In the second half, Andrew Robinson, wearing an orange baseball cap, stood on the sideline with offensive coordinator Brian White relaying play signals.
‘I fought it in the beginning to play in the first place,’ Robinson said. ‘You could tell I was in pain in warm-ups. I tried to gut it out and help my team out. But after the first half…I know what Cam can do and I felt like it would be beneficial to the team if I sat out the second half and let Cam go in there and play.’
Right after the near comeback, Dantley said he hadn’t heard anything from his father, but that he was probably watching the game on TV.
And the younger Dantley, while lamenting the fact he couldn’t bring the Orange all the way back, couldn’t help but enjoy being in the spotlight.
‘I wasn’t surprised at all,’ Dantley said of his performance. ‘I know what my capabilities are.
‘I thought I did great.’
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