Delone Carter ran for 202 yards and two touchdowns, and Marcus Sales racked up 172 yards receiving and three touchdowns as Syracuse won the inaugural New Era Pinstripe Bowl, 36-34.
The game featured a large assortment of trick plays, and both offenses were able to move the ball on the slippery field, but the game will likely be remembered more for a call than a play.
With Syracuse (8-5) clinging to a 36-28 lead, Kansas State (7-6) drove down the field as Wildcats quarterback Carson Coffman found Adrian Hilburn for a 30-yard strike to set up a potential game-tying 2-point conversion.
But when Hilburn ran into the endzone, he saluted to the crowd and was flagged for excessive celebration by referee Todd Geerlings. The rule penalizes any type of celebration that would draw attention to the player performing the celebration.
“These kind of excessive celebrations have been a priority in the rulebook for the last several years,” Geerlings said in a statement to reporters.
Instead of attempting the two-point conversion at the three-yard line, the Wildcats were forced back to the 18-yard line, and Coffman’s pass into the endzone sailed wide.
“I shouldn’t have done that,” Hilburn said. “But they shouldn’t have made that call.”
Kansas State recovered the ensuing on-side kick, but Ty Zimmerman recovered the ball before the necessary 10 yards, sending Syracuse to its first bowl victory since the 2001 Insight Bowl.
“Before the season, I said we had to get to a bowl game,” Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone said. “After being 6-3 then not winning the Big East we had to reestablish our goals. Winning a bowl game was crucial.”
Had it not been for the controversial penalty, the game would’ve been remembered more for its trick plays.
After Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas scored on its second play on a 51-yard run to take a 7-0 lead, Marrone reached into his playbook. Ryan Nassib handed off to Carter, who then lateraled it back to Nassib for a flea-flicker. Nassib threw a strike to the streaking Sales in the endzone.
“We’ve had those plays called in years past,” Marrone said. “You just need the right situation to run those kinds of plays, and tonight we executed those plays.”
The teams would trade touchdowns in the second quarter and head into halftime tied at 14.
That’s when Carter took over. The senior tailback, who was named Bowl MVP, rushed for two third-quarter touchdowns, the second of which gave SU a 27-21 lead with 2:11 left in the third.
“I was ready to end my career strong,” Carter said. “The team, my teammates, we came to play, and I can’t tell you how good it felt on the field afterward.”
But Ross Krautman missed the extra point after an errant snap, which allowed Kansas State to reclaim a 28-27 lead after Thomas found the endzone for the third time.
Though Thomas came into the game second in the Big 12 in rushing yards with 1,495, Syracuse’s defense mostly contained him after his initial run. Thomas would rush for only 38 more yards on 20 attempts.
A deep strike to Sales would give SU a 33-28 lead, but Syracuse failed in the two-point conversion.
“I pointed out Marcus Sales about how hard he’s worked and the kinds of practices he’s had,” Marrone said. “For him to have a game like he had tonight, that’s not a surprise to me.”
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder then took a page out of Marrone’s playbook, and called for his own flea-flicker. Coffman found receiver Aubrey Quarles for a 41-yard reception to the Syracuse 16.
SU would stop the Wildcats, forcing a 4th and five and the Wildcats set up for a field goal. Instead, Snyder called for a fake field goal, as holder Ryan Doerr tried to run for the first down. But he was stopped for a three-yard loss, and Kansas State turned the ball over on downs.
SU would then add a 39-yard field goal from Krautman for the final margin of the game.
“That’s the exact play we worked on during the week,” Marrone said. “You have to be prepared for that.”
Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for The Juice Online.