Thirty unanswered points. That was Syracuse’s answer to the touchdown posted by Wake Forest less than ten minutes into their game in Winston-Salem, NC. And that was all the scoring in a 30-7 victory for the Orange (3-4, 1-2 ACC), who snapped a four-game slide while extending the losing streak of the Demon Deacons (2-5, 0-3) to three.
Behind an opportunistic defense that scored a pair of touchdowns and the guidance of freshman quarterback A.J. Long, who led the offense to scores in all four of their trips into the red zone, SU played their first laugher in six weeks. Syracuse not only more than doubled the yardage gained by Wake Forest (370-170), they held them to 76 yards over the final 50 minutes of action.
On their second drive of the game, Wake Forest marched 91 yards for a touchdown, opening the scoring at 7-0 with under 5:30 remaining in the first quarter. That was it for the hosts.
SU responded with a 69-yard drive that ended in a 32-yard field goal by Cole Murphy that cut the margin to 7-3 lead with just over a minute left in the opening session. After forcing a three-and-out, the Orange again set off on a long drive, this one going 92 yards. A.J. Long, who converted a quartet of third downs on the drive, raced in around the corner from four yards out for a touchdown. Murphy tacked on the extra point and Syracuse led, 10-7, just before the midpoint of the second quarter.
A half dozen plays layer, the Orange defense got into the scoring column. Linebacker Dyshawn Davis put the heat on the Wake Forest quarterback, altering his pass. The ball fluttered into the arms of defensive end Robert Welsh, who sprinted 42 yards to paydirt and six more Orange points. Murphy tacked on the extra point to make it a 17-7 game in favor of Syracuse with a shade over five minutes left in the opening half.
Neither team mustered a serious threat the remainder of the first half, but less than four minutes into the second session, SU extended their lead. Murphy again connected on a field goal to end a drive, this time booting home a 41-yard field goal that pushed the Syracuse lead to 20-7.
Less than two minutes later, Murphy was lined up to kick again, this time after Brandon Reddish stripped the Demon Deacon quarterback on a sack and Micah Robinson scooped up the ball, returning it 51 yards for a touchdown. Murphy’s conversion pushed the Orange lead to 27-7 just over five minutes into the second half.
The Syracuse defense forced another Wake punt, this one pinning SU inside their own ten. On the first play from scrimmage, Devante McFarlane flipped the field, racing 86 yards, only to be tripped up at the Demon Deacon five-yard-line. McFarlane’s run tied for the third-longest in the Orange record book.
One offensive pass interference flag and a handful of plays later, Murphy drove his third field goal through the uprights. His third trey of the game, this one from 27 yards out, pushed the Orange lead to 30-7 with just over five minutes left in the third quarter.
From that point on, the game was simply a battle of Wake against the Orange and the Orange against the clock. Every remaining drive ended in a punt, save for one Demon Deacons possession that ended on an incomplete pass on fourth-and-nine from the SU 28.
A.J. Long continued to display accuracy in his first collegiate start, connecting on 22-of-32 passes for 171 yards. As was the case against Florida State, Steve Ishmael was Long’s preferred target, as the two freshmen hooked up on six completions for 72 yards. Devante McFarlane paced the SU ground attack with 114 yards on ten carries.
Brandon Reddish topped the Orange defense with seven stops, including one of the team’s three sacks and added a forced fumble to his stat line. Micah Robinson scooped up that fumble and returned it for a touchdown while Robert Welsh did the same with an interception. Zaire Franklin and Donnie Simmons each added a quarterback sack while Eric Crume, Welsh, and Franklin each had two of SU’s ten tackles for loss.
The Orange face another steep challenge next week when they travel to #24 Clemson. The Tigers (5-2, 4-1) have won four games in a row, including a come-from-behind 17-13 win over Boston College on Saturday. The action will get underway at 7:00pm Eastern and the game will be televised on ESPNU.