For the first time in the 2022 season, the Syracuse Orange played under the “Friday Night Lights” of the Dome as they hosted the Virginia Cavaliers for game two of a four game homestand. From the first quarter this one was a game you knew you’d remember, for all the wrong reasons. Thankfully for the Orange they were able to hold on and defeat the Cavaliers by a final of 22-20.
After a 57-yard Trebor Pena return to start of the game, the Orange took over on the Virginia 41 yard line. First drive of the game, the Orange started in 10 personnel with only Tucker in the backfield, hit Orange Gadsden over the middle two times to march into the red zone and ultimately score on a Shrader 17 yard scramble out of a coverage play, opening the scoring and allowing Andre Szmyt to open his account for the day giving the Orange a 7-0 lead.
First defensive drive saw Anwar Sparrow get the nod for Derek McDonald who is out with an unknown injury. The drive looked like a standard Syracuse opening drive, not giving up too much, but Tony White feeling out the offense. The Cavaliers ultimately missed a 51-yard field goal attempt to give the Orange the ball back on their own 33-yard line. Unfortunately Sean Tucker coughed the ball up, giving the Virginia offense another crack at it from about the same spot they turned it over. Marlowe Wax, contained Armstrong on a broken pass play and held them to a three an out, setting up a 48-yard attempt, which Brendan Farrell also sent wide right.
Trebor Pena made a deceivingly tricky catch across the middle to start the second drive, which was kept alive by Gadsden making a great snag on a post route for a big chunk across the middle from the slot. The drive stalled in the red zone, but Szmyt did his due diligence and knocked home his fifth on the season to make it a 10-0 ballgame. The Orange got back on offense after an Armstrong fumble trying to run a QB sweep that Garrett Williams grabbed out of the air. The Syracuse offense stalled out and Szmyt hit his second of the game to bring it to 13-0 Orange early in the second quarter.
The Orange proceeded to force a three and out, however Garrett Shrader promptly threw his first pick of the year to Jonas Sanker. Defense held again though, as Garrett Williams made a great play to breakup an Armstrong to Keytaon Thompson pass on fourth down to give the Orange the ball back on the Syracuse 25 yard line.
After a drive only notable for another Tucker injury scare, Max Von Marburg cross-fields his first punt 40-yards to the Virginia 25-yard line. After two drops by Virginia receivers on catchable balls, Wax and Caleb Okechukwu sacked Armstrong.
Gadsden, Pena and Tucker all got in on the pass-game action on the ensuing possession, but a series of missteps led to Szmyt kicking his third of the game to make it 16-0 on the last Orange possession of the first half. A penalty filled last UVA drive sent it to the locker room with that score.
Unfortunately for Syracuse, the first drive of the second half included Justin Barron being ejected for targeting, and Terry Lockett sustaining what looked to be a knee injury. Keytaon Thompson capped the drive with a one yard rush, putting Virginia on the board, 16-7 after the Will Bettridge extra point.
Virginia capitalized on a Pena fumbled kick return, forced by Johnathan Horton, taking over in the red zone and scoring on a Perris Jones rush. The extra point was blocked by Jatius Geer, leaving it at 16-13 in the middle of the third quarter. A three and out for Syracuse followed by a forced three and out had the Orange taking over on their own 20-yard line. A few chunk plays and a Nick Jackson targeting on Shrader put the Orange in decent field position but the offense couldn’t get out of it’s own way and settled for another Andre Szmyt field goal, his fourth of the day to bring the score to 19-13.
A fumble by Courtney Jackson gave the Virginia offense a shot again, which Armstrong quickly passed directly back to Garrett Williams who high-pointed a long heave, starting the Orange on the 20-yard line. In what was a repeated issue on the night, penalties killed any momentum the drive had. Virginia took to the ground on the next drive, with Jones getting six carries en route to a Lavel Davis reception that put the Cavaliers up for the first time in the ballgame, 20-19.
On the last drive, the Orange drove into the red zone, a poor decision to hold onto the ball by Garrett Shrader led to Andre Szmyt’s fifth field goal of the evening, putting the Orange ahead 22-20 and giving Virginia 1:14 of clock to work with.
Shrader finished the day 22 of 33 for 277 yards and a rushing touchdown, getting the better of the matchup with Brennan Armstrong on the day. Gadsden led all receivers with 7 for 113 yards and without getting the running game going, Sean Tucker was only able to run for 21 for 62 yards on the ground, only 2.9 yards per carry.
Mikel Jones led the Orange with 8 tackles on the day, Caleb Okechukwu added 3 tackles and two sacks and Duce Chestnut had five for the Orange. Garret Williams’ fumble recovery and interception added to the tally.
Penalties didn’t do either team any favors, with Syracuse amassing 11 for 86 yards and Virginia 10 for 85. The return of Syracuse to week one form in this department is disappointing. Some were inevitable, but others are extremely disappointing, including Barron’s targeting and the Clark unsportsmanlike early in the game. Add this to the pile of things that need to be cleaned up before Wagner.
Ultimately with Wagner coming up next week, followed by the bye week, this team has a good amount of work to do and needs to use that time wisely, but a win is still a win and the team is 4-0 on the year, 2-0 in the ACC.