Lightning may strike twice, but it seems that Thunder didn’t follow it this week. Despite the Syracuse Orange running the same power run gameplan as their previous win, and having a stretch of 19 unanswered points late in the game, they couldn’t quite manage to swat away the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, falling 31-22 in downtown Atlanta.
The first half was all GT, as the home team began the game with a methodical 11-play, 75-yard drive. The Yellow Jackets had a healthy run/pass split that kept the Syracuse defense guessing, and it was finished off with a 15-yard catch-and-go from Haynes (King) to (Jamal) Haynes. There was also some help from SU’s defenders who missed several chances to tackle the Tech wideout.
Garrett Shrader stayed on the sidelines when the Orange took the field for their first possession. It was mainly LeQuint Allen in the wildcat, along with a pair of Dan Villari passes, one to third-string QB Braden Davis. However, an Umari Hatcher double penalty cost SU 25 yards and stalled out the drive. A Villari wildcat run on 3rd & 24 at least got enough ground back for a Brady Denaburg 44-yd field goal.
After trading three-and-outs, some miscommunication between King and his target (who ran a curl instead of a drag) led to an easy pick by Isaiah Johnson, his first this season.
PICKED OFF!— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) November 19, 2023
Isaiah Johnson with his first interception!
SU regrettably failed to capitalize - though this time it is squarely on Dino Babers. After LeQuint Allen gets it from 3rd and long to 4th and Villari, Dino sent out Denaburg to attempt a 57-yard field goal. Apparently he didn’t learn his lesson from the Clemson game because Brady missed, giving GT great field position.
Then the dumb penalties returned again, with Anwar Sparrow jumping on a 4th down play that was never going to be snapped otherwise. The Orange had 12 for 84 yards on the night - but I’m sure that will be addressed any day now.
Jason Simmons was then beat badly in man coverage on a deep route, and Dominik Blaylock hauled in a lob pass for a 53-yard TD.
Myles Farmer took a penalty on the ensuing kickoff and SU was pinned back at the 9. Despite consecutive completed passes for a first down (bless you Dan Villari), ‘Cuse still had to punt.
Dino did not use any of his three timeouts near the end of the 2nd half, except for one to try icing the opposing kicker. It didn’t work, and GT went into halftime up 17-3.
95 yards of 1st half offense doesn’t look pretty (and it wasn’t), but things got marginally better in the second half.
(Just ignore the fumble on the initial kickoff that led to 7 more GT points.)
An attempted trick play with Villari throwing a backwards pass to Davis didn’t work, as Braden’s throw was deflected for an incompletion. That at least finally woke up the ThunderCat offense, and Dan the Man powered his way into the endzone for his second rushing TD of the season.
Dan Villari refuses to be stopped!— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) November 19, 2023
Here’s where things get super interesting. Another fumble on a kickoff, this time by GT, was recovered by SU... but Davis got stopped on an ensuing 4th and 1.
The Mob stood their ground, and Allen decided that he had to take over scoring duties himself. It started with a 53-yard punt return all the way to inside the redzone at the 18, and then finished with Allen punching it in from a yard out.
But of course, since this game was absolutely cursed, a low snap led to the PAT never being kicked.
GT’s offense had gone cold, and LeQuint took advantage, adding another rushing TD, but his game-tying two-point pass attempt fell incomplete.
The defense could not manage one final stand after this, as GT charged down the field and King ran the dagger through the heart of the Orange faithful with a 19-yard scramble TD.
Down two scores and with 2:22 to go, walk-on Luke MacPhail came in to try running a hurry-up offense... and threw a pick on the first play.
Allen finished with 141 total yards of offense, along with his return, in the loss, while Villari was both a perfect 14/14 for 59 yards passing - setting a program record for completion percentage - and had 81 more on the ground. Shrader had only one rush for two yards and was otherwise absent from game action.
SU (5-6) is now in a must-win situation with Wake Forest (4-7) coming to the Dome next Saturday. If they can’t get it done then, heads need to roll.