The up-and-down 2012 season for Syracuse continued its course as they snapped a modest two-game win streak with a sloppy performance on Saturday afternoon that netted a 35-24 loss at Cincinnati. The Orange (4-5, 3-2 Big East) committed two fumbles, missed a pair of field goals (including one being blocked), racked up a dozen penalties, had a shanked punt, and dropped an easy interception that would have likely been returned for a touchdown, nearly gifting a win to the Bearcats (6-2, 2-1) who were almost as sloppy (three turnovers, eight penalties).
The SU offense did its usual damage to the stat sheet, racking up 479 total yards, but still had holes, completing less than half their passes and finishing 9-of-21 on third down conversions, and the defense permitted 470 yards to the hosts, whose second half comeback was guided by their second string quarterback.
The game started just about as poorly as possible for the Orange, as Jeremiah Kobena fumbled the opening kickoff and Cincinnati recovered at the SU 28. Four plays later, the Bearcats were in the end zone and held a 7-0 lead. Neither team could do much with their next two possessions, but when the Bearcats muffed a punt, Lewellyn Coker covered it up for Syracuse, setting them up at the Cincy 11. Four plays later, SU was on the board when Ryan Nassib snuck the ball in from a yard out. Ross Krautman tacked on the PAT and it was a 7-7 game with just under four minutes left in the first quarter. Syracuse kept momentum on their side when Ri’Shard Anderson picked of a Cincinnati pass on the first play of the ensuing Bearcat drive and gave SU the ball at the Cincy 45. After eight plays, the Orange offense stalled and Krautman came on for a 24-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead.
Cincinnati struck back on their next possession, using some trickery to get into the end zone. On 4th-and-2 from the Orange 37, the Bearcats handed off to a running back headed into the center of the line. The back stopped suddenly, jumped, and floated a short pass over the line to a tight end who cruised into the end zone. The Bearcat extra point put them up, 14-10. SU responded with a strong drive, moving 67 yards in eight plays, but Krautman’s 25-yard field goal attempt was blocked and fell harmlessly in the corner of the end zone. The Bearcats took advantage, moving nearly the length of the field, but Eric Crume forced a fumble, then pulled in the ball at the Orange 11 to end the threat. The turnover gave SU some momentum and they drove 89 yards in ten plays for a touchdown, breaking across the goal line when Nassib threw a beautiful pass to Alec Lemon in the end zone, Lemon tapping both his feet in the end zone before falling out of bounds. Krautman’s conversion gave Syracuse a 17-14 lead with just over five minutes left in the opening half. The two teams traded punts, but Jonathan Fisher’s effort for the Orange traveled 16 yards, giving Cincinnati a chance to score right before the half. The Bearcats failed, however, and SU held that three-point lead at the break.
Cincinnati opened the third quarter in strong fashion, marching for a touchdown to take a 21-17 lead, but the Orange responded in kind with their first possession of the second half. Syracuse chewed up 75 yards in 11 plays, the drive punctuated when Jerome Smith soared over the pile for a one-yard touchdown run. Krautman tacked on the extra point and SU held a 24-21 lead shortly after the midpoint of the third. On the second play of the ensuing Cincy drive, Brandon Reddish cut in front of a Bearcat receiver and had a pass hit him in the breadbasket with nothing but green turf in front of him, but could not hang onto the pigskin. Cincinnati punted to the Orange and things went south from there. On third down, Nassib was blindsided in the pocket and fumbled. Cincy pounced on the ball, taking over at the Orange 15. Four plays later, the Bearcats, now led by their backup quarterback, scored a touchdown, taking back the lead for good at 28-24 with just over two minutes left in the third. Cincinnati strengthened their hold on the lead on their next possession, scoring another touchdown to go up 35-24 just seconds into the fourth quarter. Syracuse marched 50 yards on their next possession, but Krautman’s 42-yard field goal attempt stayed just outside the left upright, leaving SU down by 11. The Orange only had two more possessions in the final dozen minutes and never got farther than the Bearcat 42. Nassib could not recapture the magic he showed last Saturday at South Florida, completing only 2-of-11 passes on the two possessions.
Ryan Nassib finished the game 23-of-47 for 286 yards and a touchdown pass. Jerome Smith passed the century mark in rushing yards for the third straight outing, converting 21 carries into 116 yards and his first touchdown of the season. Alec Lemon and Beckett Wales were Nassib’s primary targets in the game, each catching seven passes. Lemon gained 101 yards and had a touchdown while Wales amassed 87 yards. Shamarko Thomas spearheaded the Orange defense with a forced fumble and several big hits sprinkled through his 14 tackles. Dyshawn Davis also registered double figures with ten stops. Eric Crume also had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery while Ri’Shard Anderson had an interception.