Syracuse dropped a 44-38 triple overtime game at Virginia on Saturday, but they may regret the first quarter most of all. The Orange (3-3, 1-1 ACC) had three drives in the opening quarter, reaching the Cavaliers’ 42-, 20-, and 1-yard lines, but came away with zero points. Instead of building a multiple score lead, SU committed a mistakes on each drive and allowed Virginia (2-4, 1-1) to stay in the game.
The Orange quickly reached the Cavs’ 42 on the first possession of the game, but a botched handoff on a jet sweep turned into a fumble that Virginia recovered. After the Syracuse defense forced a three-and-out, the offense moved to the hosts’ 20, but a holding call backed them up to the 38 and out of field goal range.
After another quick three-and-out by Virginia, Brisly Estime returned a punt 26 yards to the UVA 31. Two first downs had the Orange at the two, but a high snap went through Eric Dungey’s hands and backed up SU to the nine. Syracuse got down to the one on the next play, but could not punch it in on third or fourth down, giving the Cavaliers the ball at the end of the first quarter.
The SU defense forced a third quick punt, but after getting a single first down, the Orange settled for a 48-yard field goal try. Murphy’s kick from the right hash mark had plenty of leg, but he pushed it past the left upright, keeping the game scoreless.
Three plays later, the Syracuse defense got on the board. Julian Whigham blew up a screen pass, allowing Donnie Simmons to jar the ball free on the tackle. Antwan Cordy scooped up the ball, juked one Cavalier, and raced 44 yards for a touchdown. Murphy tacked on the extra point and the Orange led, 7-0, less than five minutes into the second quarter.
Three plays after Virginia responded with a touchdown drive to tie the score, Dungey was hit while attempting to pass. The ball came free and Virginia got their own fumble recovery return for a touchdown. The play stood after replay and the Cavalier extra point gave them 14 points in a span of 1:18 and a seven-point lead with under four minutes left in the half.
Facing a 4th-and-four from their own 43, the Orange opted for a fake punt and, for the third consecutive game, punter Riley Dixon was able to run for a first down, this time gaining 15 yards. SU made the gamble pay off when Jordan Fredericks rumbled in from a yard out to cap the drive. Murphy’s extra point knotted the game at 14 a side with 1:02 remaining in the quarter.
Virginia attempted to get a drive going, but on third down, SU defensive tackle Chris Slayton batted a screen pass up in the air and defensive end Qadir Sheppard came down with it, giving the Orange possession at the Virginia 26 with 32 seconds on the clock. Dungey made quick work of the possession, finding the middle of the field open after dropping back to pass and taking off into all that green. Dungey hurdled one defender inside the five, then bounced off another tackler, falling into the end zone for the second Syracuse touchdown in 38 seconds. Following Murphy’s extra point, the Orange held a 21-14 lead and went into the locker room one play later.
Cornerback Corey Winfield ended the first Virginia possession of the second half, blitzing for a blindside sack and causing a fumble. The Cavaliers recovered, but were forced to punt on the next play. SU took possession and drove 75 yards in 13 plays, settling for a Murphy field goal from 22 yards out to take a 24-14 lead with 2:26 left in the third quarter.
The Cavaliers responded with a methodical drive of their own, using almost seven minutes of clock to get into the end zone and clip the margin to three points. The Orange could only get one first down, but downed Dixon’s punt at the Virginia four-yard-line with under seven minutes left.
The Cavaliers used the rest of the clock to move the length of the field and make a short field goal to send the game to overtime.
Syracuse got the ball to start the extra session and, while suffering a big hit, Dungey slipped a seven-yard touchdown pass to Erv Philips for a touchdown. The hit drew a targeting penalty that would cost the Cavs 15 yards on their possession and Murphy booted the conversion for a 31-24 Orange lead.
Backed up to the 40, Virginia needed only three plays to tie the game again, getting a 36-yard touchdown pass and extra point. Four plays into the second overtime session, the Cavaliers scored again, this time earning an unsportsmanlike conduct flag following the touchdown. The score stood, the extra point gave UVA a 38-31 lead, and the penalty meant Syracuse’s possession started just outside the 12-yard-line.
The Orange cashed in their chance on the next play when Dungey rolled right to avoid pressure and found Steve Ishmael just inside the pylon for a touchdown. Murphy connected on the extra point to tie the game at 38 a side and sent the game to a third overtime session.
SU could do nothing with their possession, though, and were forced to settle for a second 48-yard field goal try from the right hash. This time, however, Murphy’s kick remained outside the right upright and the contest remained tied.
Five rushes later, Virginia got into the end zone for the winning score.
Eric Dungey was the primary offensive weapon for Syracuse, completing 16-of-22 passes for 150 yards with a pair of touchdowns in extra time. Dungey was also the top runner, finishing the game with 18 carries for 85 yards with a touchdown. Steve Ishmael and Erv Philips each had four catches, including a touchdown grab.
Parris Bennett was a force for the Orange defense, tallying 13 tackles. Corey Winfield posted a pair of sacks and a forced fumble. Donnie Simmons was also credited with a forced fumble while Antwan Cordy had a fumble recovery and Qadir Sheppard snagged his first interception.
The Orange will return home to face Pittsburgh next Saturday on Homecoming. Pitt (5-1, 3-0) sits atop the Coastal Division of the ACC and will carry a three-game win streak into the Carrier Dome. Kickoff is slated for noon and ESPNU will televise the game.