“When you beat yourself, do you get credit for a win?” If the answer to that question is “yes”, the Syracuse football team is all ears, as they committed four turnovers and allowed #20 Rutgers to block a field goal and return it for a touchdown as part of a 23-15 road loss.
The Orange (2-4, 1-1 Big East) held momentum early in the third quarter after a pair of strong drives had them threatening to take the lead, but the Scarlet Knights (6-0, 3-0) blocked a field goal and ran it back for a score for a sudden ten-point turnaround. Things spiraled out of control for SU, squandering another strong performance by their defense, who only allowed 242 yards in the contest.
After each team punted at the start of the game, Rutgers broke through with a 93-yard drive that ended in a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead with under five minutes left in the opening quarter. Two possessions later, Syracuse was sitting pretty starting at the Rutgers 30-yard-line following a short punt and a penalty.
The Orange offense could do nothing with the ball, though, and settled for a 50-yard field goal attempt from Ross Krautman. The kick, which was the longest of Krautman’s career, fell short and to the left, keeping SU scoreless. Two possessions later, Syracuse put together their best drive of the half, marching 80 yards in a dozen plays for a touchdown. The points went up for the Orange when Adonis Ameen-Moore plowed in from three yards for his second touchdown in as many games. Krautman tacked on the extra point for a 7-7 score with under 90 seconds left on the clock. The Scarlet Knights were content to take the tie score to the half.
SU started the third quarter with the offensive momentum they had in the second, rumbling 51 yards in 11 plays before settling for a 32-yard field goal attempt by Krautman. Rutgers snuffed out the kick and scooped up the ball. 75 yards later, Syracuse trailed, 13-7, and the extra point made it a seven-point deficit. Ryan Nassib ended the next possession by fumbling while being sacked and the Scarlet Knights turned it into a field goal for a 17-7 lead with under four minutes left in the third. After punting to Rutgers, SU forced a punt, but Steve Rene fumbled the return, setting up the Scarlet Knights at the Orange 14.
Three plays later, the hosts scored again, extending their lead to 23-7. Nassib turned the ball over on the next possession, throwing an interception. Three plays into the following possession, the Orange had a first-and-goal at the ten, but could not score, even with the benefit of a pass interference call on fourth down giving them a fresh set of plays from the two-yard-line. On the next SU possession, the offense broke through, getting a 40-yard touchdown pass from Nassib to Christopher Clark. Marcus Sales caught the two-point conversion pass from Nassib and the Orange were within 23-15 with just over four minutes left. The Orange defense forced a punt, but Nassib threw a back-breaking interception on the first possession of the ensuing drive. The defense got the ball back with 21 seconds on the clock by not allowing the Scarlet Knights a first down, but Syracuse could only advance to their own 45 before time ran out.
Ryan Nassib threw for 361 yards on 25 completions in 42 attempts, but the two interceptions more than canceled out his lone touchdown pass. Marcus Sales notched his fourth 100-yard receiving game of the season, reaching the century mark on the nose on four receptions. David Stevens led the squad with five catches totaling 60 yards. Jerome Smith led the Orange ground game with 67 yards on 15 carries.
Siriki Diabate led a strong defensive effort with 13 tackles, including 2.5 for loss. Deon Goggins added 11 stops and 1.5 tackles for loss as part of the team’s nine stops behind the line. Keon Lyn added a forced fumble to his stat line.
The Orange return to the Carrier Dome for a Friday night contest against Connecticut. The Huskies (3-4, 0-2) have lost their last two games, both in Big East play. The action will get underway at 8:00pm and the contest will be televised by ESPN.Jim Stechschulte