This was the last chance for the Syracuse Orange to prolong their season, and SU fought like their season depended on it for a full 60 minutes, holding off the persistent Wake Forest Demon Deacons 35-31 inside the Dome. Senior Day ended up being both a proper sendoff to the graduating class and the outlet to extend the season to a 13th game.
Today was the Garrett Shrader show - and for the first time in nearly two months, we saw THE Garrett Shrader that we love. The one who can both run and throw the ball in spurts, using both abilities to keep the defense on its heels all game long. He finished with 173 passing yards, 46 more on the ground, and four total touchdowns in the thrilling victory.
The Mob held strong on Wake Forest’s opening possession, allowing only one first down before getting a stop on a 3rd-and-15.
With Shrader in at QB, LeQuint Allen carried the load early, rushing on the first three plays to get a first down. He had another big day himself, running for 144 yards and passing 1,000 on the season. That marks the third straight year SU has had a thousand-yard rusher (Sean Tucker in 2021 and 2022).
Dan Villari threw SU’s first pass of the day, a 5-yard toss to Umari Hatcher on the sideline.
But it was the arm of Shrader that won the day, beginning with this slant to Alford that turned into a 35-yard TD.
Garrett Shrader to Damien Alford for the 35-yd TD!— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) November 25, 2023
It’s a very encouraging sign, since Shrader looked in pain just throwing a five-yard pass two weeks ago at Yankee Stadium. Here in the Dome, his arm looked to be back in good shape.
The Deacs responded in kind with a lightning-fast 4 play, 75-yard drive in 99 seconds. Wake Forest QB Michael Kern unloaded to a wide-open Tyler Morin on the visitors’ sideline for a 48-yard gain. Just a couple plays later, Kern connected with Wesley Grimes from 16-yards out to even things up.
The next drive had three more Shrader passes, but the senior QB finished the drive with a 1-yard sneak TD. The 17-play drive was methodical and took 9:30, but it worked just the same.
The Mob held Wake to a 36-yard field goal on the next drive. The Orange were stopped at the 1 to close out the first half, and a tense feeling hung in the air through halftime.
Then, it was time for Thunder.
Dan Villari lobbed it up to Alford over the middle for this 47-yard TD to give the Orange a two-score lead:
Dan Villari to Damien Alford!— Syracuse Football (@CuseFootball) November 25, 2023
'Cuse goes up 21-10 with the 47-yard TD pass.
The Deacs respond with a long TD drive, started by deep passes and finished off by a two-yard run from RB Justice Ellison.
Shrader was picked off on the ensuing drive (though the pass was tipped at the line), but thankfully the defense held strong. Even better, the enduing field goal try went wide right.
The teams traded blows to begin an absolutely crazy 4th-quarter. First, Shrader found Villari for a 13-yard TD pass - one current quarterback to another who certainly used his experience as one today. It took just two passing plays 45 seconds for the Deacs to respond - and for good measure, they converted the two-point conversion to make it a three-point game.
After another TD pass from Shrader, this time a 37-yard strike to Umari Hatcher, the Deacs again cut the deficit to one score (though they were stopped on the conversion this time), even forcing the sole SU punt right afterwards.
Thankfully, one final stand finished the job:
With their sixth win, the Orange will play on into December. Even after all the turmoil, all the letdowns, and the firing of their 8th-year head coach, this group got it done. They’ve earned the right to one final trip.
What a day it is in Syracuse - one where football really is on the rise again.