After an opening 3 and out, the ‘Pack attacked the Orange early, surprising everyone with an aggressive deep throw and quick pitch to get into the red zone. ‘Cuse buckled down on the next three plays, holding NC State to a field goal and just a 3-0 lead.
After another 3 and out, N.C. State was able to mount a sustained drive with plenty of runs, getting back into the red zone. Once again, the bending Orange defense didn’t break, and forced a sack that forced the ‘Pack to attempt a 43 yard field goal. While the Orange didn’t look great, it was still a one position game at 6-0.
The next few positions were variations of the same theme: the Orange failed to get into any sustained rhythm, and when they did, penalties and sacks would set up a third and long and stop the Orange. Sterling Hofrichter booms a 50 yard punt that Pat McAfee would slobber over, and NC State would have a couple of first downs before succumbing to ‘Cuse pressure. It was all very frustrating.
NC State finally broke through, albeit with some trickery. After getting into field goal range with solid runs, the Orange started causing pressure up front. NC State ran a WR screen pass, finding a wide open target and a touchdown, going up 13-0.
Just when we all counted Syracuse out, Tommy DeVito uncorked a 52 yard completion to Trishton Jackson, which put the Orange in Andre Szymt’s range. And to cap off the half, Szymt hit the upright to keep ‘Cuse off the board.
The second half was just as weird. NC State’s opening drive saw them march down the field, before a botched screen play led to an Andrew Armstrong pick for the Orange. But, much like most of the night, the Orange went 3 and out, and Hofrichter pinned the Wolfpack back. This time, Hockman came out firing, and the ‘Pack got back in the redzone, inside the Orange 15. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Antwan Cordy reset downs, but the defense, once again, stepped up with a three big stops to keep the game 16-0.
Tommy DeVito finally got into a true, honest to god, rhythm, successfully hitting a check down man, to take advantage of a free play to find Taj Harris for big yards, and Moe Neal getting space on the ground for the Orange’s first redzone trip of the evening. But a sack led ‘Cuse to give Szymt another shot from 32 yards. The sophomore converted, and the Orange were on the board at 16-3.
Another defensive stop led to a ‘Cuse drive that got back into the redzone, but stalled out again, leading to a 4th and 6 with 10:04 in the game. The Orange burned a timeout to decide they wanted to go for the first down or more. The ‘Pack brought the house, and DeVito heaved a ball into the endzone, which was caught by Cameron Jordan. However, Jordan stepped out of bounds before grabbing the ball, leading to a turnover on downs for an N.C. State ball.
The Wolfpack couldn’t do anything with the ball, and ‘Cuse got the ball to midfield with 5:31 to go in the game. But two false starts put the struggling offense in a 3rd and 16. Some DeVito heroics converted the first down, but the clock was against the Orange. ‘Cuse was in the redzone with just under 4 minutes to go in the game, and a redzone pass interference on 3rd down put the ball on the 2 with 3:03 on the clock. DeVito found Jackson with 3 minutes on the dot on the clock, and ‘Cuse cut the lead to 16-10.
But the sloppiness of ‘Cuse would strike again: the ensuing kickoff was sent out of bounds by Hofrichter, giving N.C. State the ball on their own 40. However, the ‘Cuse defense did what they did all night, and stood their ground, holding the ‘Pack to just 6 yards and a punt that put the Orange on their own 23.
Tommy DeVito and the Orange offense started moving the ball quickly, clearly working against a clock as the Wolfpack gave ‘Cuse the middle of the field and most underneath routes. DeVito racked up 5 consecutive completions getting the ball to the N.C. State 39, with 33 seconds left in the game. Another false start put the Orange back five yards and led to a 10 second run off, downing the clock to 24 seconds. A sack on 3rd down drained most of the clock, and then a false start drained the final second.
There’s nothing to really feel good about on the offensive side of ball after this one. Everyone from veterans to newcombers made key mistakes. The game was ripe for the taking, as a Syracuse team who played their second worst game of the season, was driving down the field with a chance to win the game.
I’m frustrated. Everyone is frustrated. Let’s vent.