The Syracuse Orange football team certainly made things interesting on Saturday, but fell to the No. 19 Wake Forest Demon Deacons in overtime, 40-37 at the Carrier Dome. It didn’t look like that would be the outcome early on, however.
After Syracuse held Wake Forest to a field goal on the first drive of the game, Sean Tucker punched in a touchdown midway through the first quarter, then Garrett Shrader followed that up with a TD toss to Anthony Queeley early in the second to earn a 14-3 lead. Sam Hartman hit a 46-yard touchdown throw for Wake to make it 14-10, but Shrader ran one in on his own afterward to extend the lead to 21-10 with about six and a half minutes to go in the second quarter.
And then things got weird...
After stopping Wake on a third and long, Dino Babers elected to accept a penalty instead of force a 51-yard Nick Sciba field goal. Wake would convert and get into the end zone a few minutes later to narrow things to 21-17 at the break. They made it 21-10, and then grabbed a 26-21 lead late in the third. But ‘Cuse put together a quick drive just a couple minutes later to regain the advantage at 27-26 (with a missed two-point conversion).
Andre Szmyt missed a field goal in the fourth quarter, then Wake marched down the field efficiently to set up their own scoring opportunity, as Christian Beal-Smith put it into the end zone with around three and a half minutes to go to take a 34-27 lead. Syracuse got the ball back and seemed to be driving until Cooper Lutz had the ball stripped to basically seal things for the Deacons. SU’s final drive of regulation started pinned back at the five-yard line. but despite that, they drove the field in about two minutes, finishing up the game-tying drive with a 28-yard Tucker touchdown catch-and-run.
In overtime, the Deacs brought a ton of pressure on the Orange, and forced them to settle for a Szmyt field goal to make it 37-34. But Hartman hit the game-winning touchdown throw just a couple minutes later, to take home the 40-37 victory.
The defense had its rough moments in this one, as the secondary’s man coverage was beat a few types downfield for big gains and a couple long scores. Stefon Thompson led the way with nine tackles, while Cody Roscoe had a sack, and Geoff Cantin-Arku and Caleb Okechukwu each had a half-sack. Jason Simmons also recorded an interception on the afternoon. Overall, though, the defense still was more effective than not and forced Wake to try a lot of different things on offense.
For Syracuse’s own offensive part, things looked interesting to start as the gameplan was based solidly on Shrader and Tucker’s respective strengths running the ball, and setting up short passes. Once they hit 21 points, though, things stalled out considerably — save the aforementioned quick TD drive late in the third.
Shrader was 15-of-27 passing on the day for 160 yards and two TDs, though those were easier to come by in the first half before the offensive line lost just about everyone to injury (leading to a ton of pressure as the game wore on). Despite the passing questions, Shrader’s legs did a lot of heavy lifting for Syracuse, with a career-high 187 yards on the ground (plus a TD). Tucker had 153 yards and two scores on 26 attempts.
Courtney Jackson emerged as the top receiver in the first game since Taj Harris entered the transfer portal (though Harris didn’t play last week either), grabbing five passes for 64 yards — including a 29-yard grab that helped set up Tucker’s second TD. Queeley had two catches for 32 yards and a touchdown, while Tucker had three catches for 29 yards, including the game-tying TD with 21 seconds left.
So that was yet another game that came down to the wire, and unfortunately, a second straight infuriating result. While you love to see them battle with a ranked team, this Orange squad could’ve easily won the last two games, and could be 5-1 or 6-0 right now, with all the national love that Wake’s getting. But they’re not, and instead sit at 3-3 and are in real danger regarding a bowl trip now as the schedule will remain tough down the stretch.
More recaps coming. Be nice to one another, please.