Once again, when faced with an opponent believed to be close to their level, Syracuse proved to be completely outmatched. This time, North Carolina State routed the Orange at home in a game not nearly as close as its 42-29 final score.
SU (3-8, 1-6 ACC) was nearly doubled up in total yardage, as they were outgained 511-292, en route to dropping their eighth straight game. The Orange trailed by double figures less than a dozen minutes into the contest and only briefly got within single digits early in the third quarter. Three unanswered touchdowns by the Wolfpack ended any SU comeback hopes by the opening minutes of the fourth quarter.
Syracuse failed to convert any of their first seven third down opportunities. In that time span, N.C. State converted 3-of-3 tries on fourth down. By the time SU earned a first down on a third down play, they were in a 26-point hole in the fourth quarter.
N.C. State found easy goings on their opening drive, marching 75 yards for a touchdown. Ron Thompson almost blunted the drive with a sack on second-and-goal, but the Wolfpack got an easy touchdown toss on the next play, followed by an extra point for a 7-0 lead just under six minutes into the game.
The Orange also scored on their opening possession after driving the length of the field. Ben Lewis provided the big play, slipping behind the defense down the seam for a 37-yard completion before being caught five yards shy of the goal line. SU reached the one-yard-line, but Scott Shafer sent on the field goal unit and Cole Murphy’s 18-yard kick sliced into the N.C. State lead, cutting it to 7-3.
The ‘Pack gouged the Syracuse defense again on their second drive, easily marching down the field for a touchdown, this time needing less than two minutes to score. The extra point put the hosts up, 14-3, with just over three minutes left in the first quarter.
Brisly Estime set up the Orange offense at their own 37 following a 31-yard kickoff return, but the offense could not move the ball. N.C. State again marched into SU territory, including eschewing a long field goal in favor of going for it on fourth-and-two, which they converted. Following that conversion, the Syracuse defense stiffened and the Wolfpack came up with no points when a 45-yard field goal hit the right upright and caromed away.
On their next possession, N.C. State again went for a fourth down again, this time needing a yard from their own 35. The ‘Pack converted easily and finished the drive with another touchdown, pushing their lead to 21-3 with just over three minutes left in the half.
The Orange offense came to life on the subsequent drive, moving 70 yards in four plays, assisted by a pair of Wolfpack penalties. Zack Mahoney found Erv Philips behind the defense for a 30-yard touchdown pass. SU opted to try for a two-point conversion, but Mahoney’s flip to Philips ended with the H-back getting flattened well short of the end zone, leaving the Orange trailing, 21-9, with 1:31 on the clock.
N.C. State was not done, literally running down the field against the Orange defense. Even though a penalty on the kickoff return backed the hosts up to their own 9-yard-line, the Wolfpack ran five times to get to the SU 28. The ‘Pack went to the air after that and Antwan Cordy ended their threat with a leaping interception at the SU 15.
Syracuse started out the second half in the nest possible way. Following a touchback, Jordan Fredericks took both a handoff and advantage of some strong blocking, racing 75 yards for a touchdown. Murphy tacked on the extra point and the Orange trailed, 21-16, with only ten seconds off the clock.
The Wolfpack responded with another strong drive, including converting a 4th-and-7 from the SU 36, en route to another touchdown pass. The extra point nudged them back in front by a dozen, this time at 28-16, less than three minutes into the third quarter.
Following a punt from each team, Syracuse made a crucial error. One play after George Morris II recovered his own fumble, Philips could not handle an option pitch and the ‘Pack pounced on the ball at their own 49. Ted Taylor stepped up for the Orange, thought, notching his first sack of the season on 3rd-and-12, forcing N.C. State to punt just after the midpoint of the third.
That turned out to be a positive for the hosts, though, when Mahoney threw an interception which was returned 20 yards for a touchdown. The extra point made it a 35-16 game in favor of the Wolfpack with 5:20 left in the quarter.
Syracuse drove to the N.C. State 30 on the next possession, but the offense sputtered out, eventually ceding to the special teams unit to punt from the 38. The next Orange possession was another punt, this one coming on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Less than three minutes into that fourth quarter, the Wolfpack tacked on another touchdown. It took only six plays to move 80 yards into the end zone and the conversion made it 42-16 in favor of N.C. State.
SU could not move the ball on their next possession, punting after gaining a first down. The punt worked out okay, though, as N.C State coughed up the ball on their next possession and Oliver Vigille scooped up the ball for the Orange and returned it 29 yards for a score. Murphy tacked on the conversion to draw Syracuse within 42-23 with just under six minutes on the clock.
The Orange opted for an onside kick and it worked to perfection, as Cordell Hudson came up with the loose ball at the N.C. State 40. SU was able to put together a scoring drive, cashing in when Mahoney connected with Steve Ishmael for a three-yard touchdown pass with 2:37 to play. Syracuse opted for a two-point conversion, which failed, leaving them down, 42-29.
The Orange were assessed two unsportsmanlike conduct flags after the failed conversion, backing them up to their own 10. SU still tried an onside kick, which failed, and the Wolfpack drained the clock.
Jordan Fredericks was the leading ground gainer for Syracuse, collecting 86 of the team’s 140 rushing yards on seven carries. Most of his work came on his 75-yard touchdown sprint. Zack Mahoney connected on 10-of-21 passes for 152 yards with a pair of scores and an interception. Steve Ishmael led SU with four receptions while Ben Lewis caught three passes for a team-high 62 yards.
Antwan Cordy paced the Orange defense with nine stops and an interception. Oliver Vigille had a fumble recovery and Rony Charles, Ted Taylor, and Ron Thompson each had a sack.
The SU football season will wrap up with the home finale on Saturday when Boston College comes to the Carrier Dome. Like the Orange, the Eagles (3-8, 0-7) are in a tailspin, having dropped their last seven games.
Their last loss came as BC rallied late for two scores, but still suffering a 19-16 defeat to #4 Notre Dame Saturday night. Boston College has scored a grand total of 89 points against FBS opponents and only 56 points in ACC play, good for a mere eight points per game in conference action.
Kickoff is set for 12:30pm Eastern with Senior Day events set to start at noon. The game will be televised regionally and available online at ESPN3.com.