Saturday night, Syracuse clinched bowl eligibility for the second time in three seasons by scoring the winning touchdown with 20 seconds remaining to defeat Missouri, 31-27.
The Orange (6-5) fell behind the Tigers (5-6) less than two minutes into the game and never took the lead until the dramatic final drive put them on top for good. Once again, SU piled up impressive numbers on offense, this time running up 508 yards of offense, including 385 passing yards by Ryan Nassib, 244 of which went to Alec Lemon.
Four plays after the opening kickoff, Missouri got onto the scoreboard with a 70-yard touchdown pass, taking a 7-0 lead less than 100 seconds into the game. The Orange mustered a scoring drive of their own in response, using a dozen plays to move 52 yards before settling for a 44-yard Ross Krautman field goal to trim the margin to 7-3 with just over six minutes off the clock. The Tigers struck back with another touchdown drive and held a 14-3 lead with less than five minutes on the clock in the first quarter.
The defenses controlled the next several minutes until Missouri knocked home a chip shot field goal to stretch their lead to 17-3 with 6:30 left in the second quarter. SU responded by eating up 75 yards in 11 plays, scoring a touchdown when Prince-Tyson Gulley exploded through the pile on a one-yard touchdown run. Krautman tacked on the extra point to get Syracuse within 17-10 with just over three minutes remaining before the half. That would prove to be the final tally before the break.
The two teams played a scoreless third quarter, but the last drive starting in that period turned into an SU touchdown less than two minutes into the fourth quarter when Alec Lemon took a Ryan Nassib pass in stride and beat two defenders to the end zone by diving to the pylon. Following the 13-yard scoring pass, Krautman’s conversion knotted the score at 17. The Tigers responded with a strong drive, but their field goal attempt stayed to the left of the upright and kept the game tied. After a Syracuse three-and-out, Missouri drove for a touchdown and a 24-17 lead with just over seven minutes remaining. Undeterred, the Orange drove 75 yards in seven plays for a touchdown, scoring when Jerome Smith bolted in from eight yards out. Krautman tied the game again with his extra point, making it a 24-24 affair with 5:33 on the clock.
SU forced a quick punt, but on the first play after regaining possession, Nassib’s pass caromed off the shoulder pad of Beckett Wales and into the arms of a Tiger defender. Missouri converted the turnover into a field goal and held a 27-24 lead with 1:52 left in regulation. Nassib had a chance at redemption and took it, driving the Orange 81 yards in seven plays, all through the air, including converting a 4th-and-10.
The senior quarterback relied on Lemon, trying to hook up with the wide receiver on six of the seven passes. They connected four times on the march, including a 17-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds on the clock. Krautman tacked on the extra point for a 31-27 lead. On the second play of Missouri’s final drive, Keon Lyn intercepted a deep pass, securing the SU victory.
Ryan Nassib was the driving force for the Orange, hitting on 26-of-40 passes and racking up 385 yards with a pair of touchdowns and an interception. Alec Lemon had simply the best game of his career, hauling in a dozen passes for 244 yards and both Nassib scoring tosses. Marcus Sales caught eight passes for 85 yards. While they were gashed for almost 500 yards, the Syracuse defense picked up four quarterback sacks, led by Jay Bromley’s pair. Marquis Spruill had a sack of his own and Micah Robinson and Brandon Sharpe split the other. Keon Lyn’s win-sealing interception was the lone SU turnover.
- Ryan Nassib became the all-time leading passer in Syracuse history with 8,845 passing yards. He passed Marvin Graves, who amassed 8,466 yards in his career. Nassib also set an SU record for touchdown passes in a season with 23. His pair of scoring tosses gave him 67 in his career, which is third in Big East history.
- Alec Lemon now stands second in Syracuse history with 2,515 receiving yards. His 244 receiving yards in the game are second in school history behind Scott Schwedes’ mark of 249, set in 1985 against Boston College. He also has caught at least one touchdown pass in five consecutive games, which is the second-longest stretch in school history.
- Syracuse set a pair of offensive records previously set in 1997. The Orange have rolled up the most yards in a season in school history with 5,206 (the previous mark was 5,127) and 276 first downs in a season, besting the prior mark of 259.
- The Orange will close out their schedule on Friday with an early kickoff in Philadelphia when they take on Temple. The Owls (4-6, 2-4 Big East) snapped a four-game slide on Saturday by routing Army, 63-32. In that game, tailback Montel Harris piled up 351 yards and seven touchdowns, both Big East records. The game gets underway at 11 am and ESPN2 is handling the broadcast.