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Dino Babers: ‘We’re on the cliff now’

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The Orange’s second half struggles quickly evaporated a double-digit lead.

Wake Forest v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Up 17 late in the first half, the Syracuse Orange (4-6, 2-4) appeared to be in prime control against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (6-4, 3-3). Senior quarterback Zack Mahoney was performing admirably, already totaling over 200 yards and two scores, and the defense appeared to have figured out the Wake Forest defense.

Instead, a quick drive down the field pushed Wake Forest into field goal range, changing a three-score Orange halftime lead into a two score one.

Syraucse never recovered. Perhaps the turning point of the game, Wake Forest entered halftime with momentum, a fire they utilized to push a 14-point halftime deficit into a three-score win.

“Wake played a great second half,” senior quarterback Zack Mahoney said. “They had a great scheme to not let us get as many big plays as we did in the first half.”

NCAA Football: Wake Forest at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

After dropping 38 points in the first half, Syracuse only scored five in the second, resulting from their initial drive of the half. Still, SU found themselves winning entering the fourth quarter.

Yet, after senior Cole Murphy missed a field goal, and Wake Forest responded with a touchdown, the Orange found themselves down four points with under 12 minutes remaining.

In perhaps the biggest drive of the game, Mahoney threw an interception, allowing the Deacons to drive down the field and push the game to two scores.

Just 14 minutes before kickoff, Mahoney was notified he was going to be the starter. While it is admirable to see how he responded, someone can not be expected to win the game on his own. Babers said Eric Dungey was not able to play at the peak of his ability, so he didn’t get the ball. Through three seasons, the junior has yet to play through a full schedule for the Orange.

“(We) just didn't feel like (Dungey) was able to totally defend himself, so we'll see about next week,” Babers said.

NCAA Football: Clemson at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

In the second quarter, the Orange defense was dominant, holding their opponents to only three points. Yet, it appeared as though they simply ran out of gas, as Wake Forest scored on every single possession, other than the last where they ran out the clock. Allowing over 700 total yards in the game, they had no answer for senior quarterback John Wolford, who threw for 363 yards and ran for another 136.

“A lot of the big plays came from the tempo,” senior linebacker Zaire Franklin said. “The quarterback was very decisive. Whether that was pulling the ball and getting yards for himself or him just making good throws down the field.”

All in all, this was a game that looked like Syracuse was going to dominate. They looked like they had the answers for the Wake Forest on both sides of the ball. Instead, the lack of depth and overall injuries hurt them in the long run, as they were not able to respond to any sort of adversity.

“We’re up on the cliff now. There’s no more room for error,” Babers said. “We have to find a way to bounce back and get a win on the road next week,”

Syracuse has yet to win a road game this season, going 0-for-4 against LSU, NC State, Miami and Florida State. They’ll face Louisville on Saturday after the Cardinals beat Virginia by 17 today to earn bowl eligibility.