It must have been something in the air in Winston-Salem, N.C. on Saturday as the temperature at sunrise was 44.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whether or not it was an omen of what was to come at BB&T Field, the Syracuse Orange seized the moment and left Wake Forest with a victory thus ending their winless streak in the ACC away from the confines of the Carrier Dome. While SU wasn’t able to air it out at the level of efficiency they did against North Carolina State, the ground attack and timely defensive plays helped shift the game in Syracuse’s favor after weathering an early 10-point deficit.
Here’s a look at some of the biggest plays of the day, with gifs:
1. (6:12 - 1st) 3rd & 6 at Syracuse’s 39-yard line: The last time the Orange made the trip down to Wake, they played in hurricane-like conditions. Given how the first three possessions for Syracuse ended, you’d have thought they were playing in one again as they all ended in punts with the assistance of questionable non calls. With the Demon Deacons already up by 10, Dino Babers’s machine began to warm up and the timing couldn’t have been better. Despite Eric Dungey not being as effective through the air as he was against N.C. State, this toss on third down to Jamal Custis finally got SU to the Wake Forest side of the field.
2. (4:17 - 1st) 1st & Goal at Wake Forest’s 8-yard line: Following an 18-yard scamper into the red zone, Moe Neal would finally get the Orange on the board with an 8-yard score.
3. (3:53 - 1st) 2nd & 8 at Wake Forest’s 27-yard line: The Syracuse defensive line is one of the better fronts in the ACC and on this day, they reminded the Demon Deacons of the fits they can give opposing quarterbacks. Using a bull rush, Kenneth Ruff manhandled Wake’s lineman and brought down Sam Hartman for one of the Orange’s six sacks to set up a third and long.
4. (2:16 - 1st) 1st & 10 at Wake Forest’s 24-yard line: In what was just a complete, unforced error, Wake’s Sam Hartman whiffed on the throw to Greg Dortch resulting in a fumble. For a defensive unit that is averaging 2.2 takeaways per game, giving them additional help isn’t recommended.
5. (0:52 - 1st) 4th & Goal at Wake Forest’s 1-yard line: Early in this one, Dino put all of his cards on the table and went all-in on the run. Jarveon Howard would make good on Babers’ bet by getting over the goal line and preventing a successful goal line stand. After minutes of review, the call on the field stood proving that football is truly a game of inches.
6. (3:07 - 2nd) 4th & Inches at Wake Forest’s 16-yard line: Two teams that aren’t typically known for their defense were in a stalemate through much of the second quarter. Despite failing earlier in the period, Dino Babers rolled the dice once more and trusted Eric Dungey to get one yard on fourth down in Wake territory. This time around, the Orange quarterback snapped the ball from under center and cleared through the hole created by the right side of the offensive line.
7. (0:58 - 2nd) 3rd & Goal at Wake Forest’s 1-yard line: After a series of short runs and catches, the Orange were knocking on Wake’s door. Howard showed off his agility and lateral quickness by leaving a defender in the dust for his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon; this one of the less controversial variety. Given all that went wrong early in the contest, it was a major victory for Syracuse to head into the locker room at the half with an 11 point lead.
8. (13:35 - 3rd) 1st & 10 at Syracuse’s 46-yard line: If there is anything that defines Eric Dungey’s legacy at SU, it will have been his ability to extend the play. On the Orange’s opening drive of the third quarter, Eric had one of those moments again where he appeared to be dead to rights in the backfield only to make something out of nothing. A quarterback without Dungey’s speed is brought down by Willie Yarbary for a five yard loss.
9. (10:47 - 3rd) 1st & Goal at Wake Forest’s 5-yard line: One of the more impressive takeaways from Saturday’s match was the versatility of the running game on full display. Whether it’s Neal, Howard, Dungey or Dontae Strickland, you give any of them the space and they’ll make you pay for it. In this instance, Chris Elmore, the FB/TE often used in the jumbo package, was fed the rock and found pay dirt in Wake’s end zone for the Orange’s fourth rushing touchdown of the day.
10. (8:24 - 3rd) 2nd & 9 at Syracuse’s 26-yard line: It would only take Wake 1:46 to go the length of the field and narrow the Syracuse lead from 18 back down to 11. Sean Riley has become a security blanket of sorts for Eric Dungey this season. While the wideout didn’t haul in a touchdown on this day, he demonstrated why he has become a favorite target by catching a pass on an out route and using his elusiveness to shake off three Demon Deacon defenders to extend the drive.
11. (5:49 - 3rd) 3rd & 6 at Wake Forest’s 26-yard line: Over the course of Dungey’s tenure at Syracuse, we’ve seen that if you give him a lane he will take full advantage of that opportunity. On a third and manageable, Nykeim Johnson’s route across the middle sucks in Ryan Smenda Jr. which causes the middle of the field to part like the Red Sea. Ensuing result was the Orange’s fifth rushing touchdown of the game.
12. (2:06 - 3rd) 4th & 2 at Syracuse’s 46-yard line: Special teams has been critical to the success of Syracuse football this season and Custis is one of the reasons why that unit is among the nation’s best. Probably making amends for a catch he could have brought in on the previous play, the receiver met Greg Dortch as he caught Sterling Hofrichter’s punt and prevented him from giving Sam Hartman and the Wake offense any breathing room to work with.
13. (0:11 - 3rd) 3rd & 1 at Wake Forest’s 37-yard line: Throughout the season, the Orange defense has been tested and often bends, but rarely breaks. As they demonstrated late against Ryan Finley and the Wolf Pack, the SU defensive unit does so again as the dynamic freshman Andre Cisco blew up the play in the backfield which forced a fumble on the hand off. Evan Foster jumped on the ball to give the SU offense prime real estate to work with.
14. (10:53 - 4th) 4th & 4 at Wake Forest’s 31-yard line: Facing a two touchdown deficit, Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson’s offense entered desperation mode as his defense had no answer for the Syracuse offense. At a pivotal moment in the game, Antwan Cordy jumped Greg Dortch’s route almost coming up with an interception off of Sam Hartman. The Orange get the ball back via a turnover on downs.
15. (5:33 - 4th) 1st & 10 at Syracuse’s 15-yard line: With the game seemingly in hand for SU, the Demon Deacons made one last effort at trying to make the contest look more competitive than the final score would ultimately indicate. Wake moved the ball down the field with minimal resistance and were set up in the Orange red zone when Christopher Frederick put any hopes of a comeback to bed by assuring Syracuse the victory with an interception in the end zone.
In the Battle of the former Bowling Green Head Coaches, Dino Babers would go home the victor and to the victor goes the spoils as his Syracuse Orange were rewarded with a ranking of 13 in both AP and USA Today/Coaches Poll. The Orange will have a short turnaround this week as they host the reeling Louisville Cardinals on Friday night in what is also Senior Day. Should SU take care of business against the team that gave up 77 points to the Clemson Tigers, all eyes will be on ‘Cuse when they take on Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium in mid-November.