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Final Score: Syracuse 24, NC State 9

We’re going bowling, folks.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Today marked the first game on Syracuse’s campus between two Top-20 teams in the last 30 or so years. The Syracuse Orange were able to hold off the NC State Wolfpack, with a final score of 24-9, to move to 6-0 (3-0) on the year. The Orange are now officially bowl eligible for the first time since the 2018 season.

The opening drive, the Syracuse Orange set the tone and marched down the field to score. Garrett Shrader hit a few underneath passes, Sean Tucker broke a Sean Tucker-esque 38-yard run and the Orange went up 7-0 on a Shrader to Orange Gadsden fade route to the corner of the end zone and Andre Szmyt conversion.

After a back and forth of three and outs, including an MJ Morris sighting for Jack Chambers and some good Orange open field tackling, NC State converted a fourth and one via Jordan Houston run, followed by the aforementioned Houston catching a screen pass that set up first and goal for the Wolfpack. From there, the Orange defense held and forced a Chris Dunn field goal to put NC State on the board, 7-3.

Spanning the quarters, the third Orange drive featured Orande Gadsden and more Orange Gadsden, really taking advantage of size mismatches on an island. At one point he motioned into the backfield for a Shrader keeper. Tucker came up short on a swing pass that may have been better getting to him quicker, but Szmyt happened as expected and the Orange went up 10-3 to open the second quarter.

The ensuing drive, the Orange forced a three and out, but unfortunately had to see Garrett Williams helped off the field and into the injury tent without being able to put pressure on his foot. Isaiah Johnson came in at corner to replace Williams and the defense held with a Jason Simmons pass breakup to force the punt. The Orange were unable to capitalize on second, third or fourth and a yard, and had to punt.

MJ Morris took the helm for the Wolfpack on the next drive. He was able to complete a few passes, some erased by penalty and was sacked by Leon Lowery to set a third and twenty which he overthrew Darrell Jones, for another three and out. The Orange proceeded to march the field, but the red zone conversion bug bit again, as Tanner Ingle picked off Shrader on what looked to be a free play with the defense jumping, but wasn’t called, again putting the pressure back on the Orange defense before the half. They held, forcing a punt to Trebor Pena (wearing 92 since we have Marlowe Wax on punt return). After a beautiful ball on a streak to Gadsden, Shrader targeted Courtney Jackson down the sideline and again under threw him, NC State’s Aydan White coming down with the interception, Shrader’s second on the game, both inside or heading into the red zone. The two teams proceeded to run the clock out and went into the half 10-3, the Orange with the lead.

NC State received coming out of the half and strung together a few first downs, with the Orange and Kevon Darton in particular, pressuring Jack Chambers, however the soft zone in the linebackers/secondary gave up a few chunk passes to convert third downs. The ground game brought them to the 20 and into the red zone, but a botched snap and a false start forced the Wolfpack to settle for a field goal attempt. Dunn again converted, this time from 42 yards and brought the game within four, 10-6, midway through the third quarter.

The Orange responded with some offense of their own, showcasing that Sean Tucker in space is dangerous. The use of Tucker also opened the middle of the field for Gadsden to grab another huge ball. Shrader made some solid decisions, but also almost threw another pick, flying his receiver on the sideline. A broken play that Shrader ran for a touchdown was called back for a Gadsden hold, setting up a third and one. The QB scramble was stopped short, but the Orange converted on fourth and one, then tossed it to a wide open Gadsden again on a nice pre snap motion play to make it 17-6, Orange lead.

Chambers carved up the Orange defense on the ground and in the air as well as converting on fourth and two in order to set up another red zone attempt for the Wolfpack. After eating clock in each of the drives this half, NC State, and the entirety of the Syracuse linebacking corps being injured on the same drive, Dunn nailed another field goal to bring the score to 17-9 with 6:58 to play.

Syracuse couldn’t get out of their own way, with a wide receiver holding and two false starts as they tried to close the game out. Shrader came up big with a 34 yard completion to Damien Alford on third and fifteen, which put the Orange in field goal range with 2:35 to play. The field goal wasn’t needed as Sean Tucker took the handoff outside the tackles for a 25-yard score, his first of the day, to make it 24-9 with 2:20 in the game.

For the Orange on the day, a day with a lot of National media eyes on them, Spencer Hall summed up Garrett Shrader most aptly:

Shrader finished with 16 of 25 for 206 yards, 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in the air and another 16 for 86 on the ground. All in all a good day from him, with some questionable decision making that thankfully didn’t cost the Orange too much on the day.

As you can imagine, Orande Gadsden led the receiving corps with 137 yards on 8 receptions with 2 touchdowns. Alford also had that big 34-yard grab to keep the game clinching drive alive.

With Tucker at 98 yards on 14 (7.0 YPC) and a touchdown, he has to be pleased with at least the team performance and he’s also the best decoy you can ask for on the field. They have to play him honest.

Marlowe Wax led the Orange defense with ten tackles on the day, the returning Derek McDonald with eight of his own. Jatius Geer added a sack and a half, Lowery had a sack before he left the game as well. Mikel Jones’ sack with 0:12 on the clock put the dagger in a great day for the Orange defense, only giving up 265 yards of total offense against the Wolfpack. A great defensive performance all around, even with the injuries.

The Orange played a good game against a good team and are now heading to a bowl for a the first time since 2018. While they were far from perfect, they were perfect enough to walk away with the win. Let that one sink in and savor it.