As is customary for football games between the Syracuse Orange and Wake Forest Demon Deacons, this was a weird one — a weird one that ultimately (stunningly) ended in a 39-30 overtime win for Syracuse.
After forcing four turnovers in the first half, but failing to capitalize much, Syracuse’s defense showed some holes in the second half as the Deacons came back from a 17-6 deficit to make it 20-20, 27-27 and then 30-30 at the end of regulation.
Though Nick Sciba had a rare missed field goal (he came in making 34 straight tries), he did hit as time in the fourth expired to knot the game at 30. That was just 44 seconds after Andre Szmyt hit his own critical field goal to give SU a three-point lead.
Syracuse received the ball first in overtime, connecting on another Szmyt field goal to make it 33-30. But it was Trill Williams, who stripped Wake Forest inside the 10 and returned it for a touchdown to take home the 39-30 victory.
Wake came in with a high-powered offense, but it was handcuffed at times by the glut of injuries the team’s dealt with. QB Jamie Newman was added to that list as well, unfortunately for the Deacs, relieved by Sam Hartman early — though it was Hartman who made some key plays to lead the comeback, including a key fourth down throw to Kendall Hinton to tie the game at 27 late in the fourth quarter.
The offense, while effective in spurts, just couldn’t keep up consistently with redshirt senior Clayton Welch at the helm in place of a hobbled Tommy DeVito. That’s not to say Welch didn’t contribute on offense, however.
He was 21-of-36 passing for 234 yards and two scores, and also picked up 29 yards on the ground. Trishton Jackson caught the first score — just one of his 10 catches for 111 yards on the day. Luke Benson hauled in the other on a really nice 29-yard pitch and catch.
Though he just missed the end zone on a really nice run after the catch in the first quarter, Taj Harris was still a huge part of the passing attack, with seven grabs for 70 yards on the day.
Perhaps the more important aspect of the offense was the run game, though. Neal put together his third straight quality performance on the ground, picking up 98 yards and a touchdown on 20 rushes. Jarveon Howard ran 13 times for 51 yards, and Harris also picked up 10 on the ground. When the ball was moving well on the ground, SU certainly looked poised to score the upset.
Defensively, things started well with picks from Andre Cisco, Christopher Frederick and Ifeatu Melifonwu, plus a fumble recovery by Cisco as well. But the Orange allowed over 180 yards in the third quarter and found themselves increasingly susceptible to big plays. That continued later in the fourth, as Wake kept mounting its comeback.
Lakiem Williams, topped 100 tackles on the year after tallying 11 in this one to lead Syracuse. Mkiel Jones, Frederick and Alton Robinson had 10 apiece, while Kendall Coleman had nine stops. Robinson had the lone sack for Syracuse. Lakiem Williams also recorded a tackle for loss.
So Syracuse wraps up the season at 5-7 (2-6 in the ACC). And while it’s not the year we were looking for at all, there’s some promise there in winning two of three, including a nice upset over Wake to close things out. Plenty more on what this might mean and the season as a a whole in the next week. Hell of a close, considering the season we otherwise couldn’t wait to end.