Dorian Graham saw nothing but green and accelerated.
With 8:28 left in the second quarter of Syracuse’s 49-23 upset of No. 11 West Virginia, Graham took a kickoff at SU’s 2 yard line and sprinted upfield. A hole opened up on the left side and suddenly, Graham was thinking six points.
“What I saw was a hole that you could drive a truck through,” Graham said. “Coach told me to take it straight up.”
Heeding coach Doue Marrone’s advice, Graham cut back over the middle of the field to avoid defensive back Keith Tandy, and took it 98 yards for a momentum changing touchdown.
The timing of it couldn’t have been better.
West Virginia had just slashed the lead to 14-9 after West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith lobbed a pass to Stedman Bailey, who not only came down with a spectacular catch, but tiptoed the sideline all the way to a 64 yard touchdown.
Graham’s immediate response gave SU the answer it needed.
“It was a great momentum booster,” Graham said. “I’m happy to get my team up and get the morale up and keep them pushing forward.”
That’s what happened, as the Orange scored four more touchdowns after that, setting a record for most points scored against West Virginia.
And that wasn’t all for the senior receiver. Graham also had five receptions for 66 yards.
“The coaches put a lot of trust in me to line up when I’m called,” Graham said. “Just have to make the plays and that is what I did.”
For the season, Graham has 18 receptions for 207 yards and two touchdowns. Pretty good for a player who hadn’t caught a pass until this year.
“A guy like Dorian, inching his way slowly into playing time and now all of a sudden, you get him a couple (of passes), his confidence goes up,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “And that’s when it starts to roll.”
Corey Mallonee contributed to this story with reporting from Syracuse.
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