For the second straight week, the Syracuse offense got off to a flying start, but this time, their defensive counterparts added a couple big plays late in the game to help the team secure a 31-24 win at Connecticut. The Orange (2-2) reached the end zone twice in the first five minutes of action, but the defense got an interception return for a touchdown by Cordell Hudson and a goal-line stand in the fourth quarter to hold off the Huskies (2-2).
Graduate transfer Amba Etta-Tawo continued his assault on the SU record book, this time posting 270 receiving yards on a dozen catches, setting a school record for receiving yards in a game. The previous record was set by Scott Schwedes, who amassed 249 yards against Boston College in 1985. Etta-Tawo now has 40 receptions for 706 yards through four games, putting him on pace to set single-season records in those two statistical categories before the calendar turns to November.
Etta-Tawo got things going early, catching a pass downfield and eluding a pair of tacklers en route a 57-yard touchdown pass from Eric Dungey on the fourth play from scrimmage to get Syracuse on the board. Cole Murphy added the extra point and the Orange held a 7-0 lead before the game was one minute old.
The SU defense forced a three-and-out and their offensive mates showed their appreciation by scoring again. This time, it took until the fifth play of the drive for Dungey and Etta-Tawo to collaborate on a touchdown pass, this time from 30 yards out. Murphy again tacked on the extra point to make it 14-0 in favor of Syracuse with 4:12 off the clock.
Neither side could muster consistent offense after that until the Huskies strung together a 12-play, 53-yard scoring drive in the second quarter. Their touchdown halved the Orange lead with just under six minutes left in the opening half. Following an missed 49-yard field goal try by Murphy, UConn drove for another touchdown, this one knotting the game at 14 a side with 34 seconds left before halftime.
The SU offense did not go quietly into intermission, though, as Dungey connected on three passes to get into Murphy’s field goal range. The kicker cashed in on this opportunity as time ran out, booting a 47-yard field goal just inside the right upright to give Syracuse a 17-14 lead when they headed into the locker room.
Connecticut posted the first marker of the second half, notching a field goal midway through the third quarter to again this the score, this time at 17 points a side.
A pair of plays after an Orange punt backed Connecticut into the shadow of their own goalposts, Cordell Hudson picked off a deflected pass and raced 22 yards into the end zone for an SU touchdown. Murphy added an extra point for a 24-17 lead with under a minute left in the third.
The Orange drove into field goal range on their next possession, but Murphy missed to the left from 33 yards out, leaving it a one-possession game with just over a dozen minutes to go.
The Huskies set out on a longer drive, chewing up yards and eventually facing a fourth-and-goal at the SU two. UConn opted to go for it, but the Syracuse defense rose to the challenge when Zaire Franklin thwarted a quarterback sweep at the one-yard-line to gain possession.
After two run plays gave the Orange a little more breathing room, Etta-Tawo struck once more, this time hanging a 59-yard reception on the Connecticut defense. A handful of plays later, Dungey kept the ball on an option play and soared into the end zone from six yards out, capping the 99-yard touchdown drive. Murphy’s kick was true and SU held a 31-17 lead with just over two minutes to go.
The Huskies did not lay down, however, marching for a touchdown in just over 100 seconds to get within 31-24 with 33 seconds remaining. Brisly Estime, however, put their comeback attempt to bed by recovering an onside kick for Syracuse. The Orange knelt on the ball once to kill the clock and claim victory.
Amba Etta-Tawo’s huge game was also evident in Eric Dungey’s stat line. The sophomore quarterback threw for the fifth-most passing yards in a game in SU history, piling up 407 yards and a pair of scores on 26 completions in 40 passes. Dontae Strickland led the Syracuse ground game with 51 yards on 14 attempts.
Cordell Hudson had an interception while Anthony Giudice and Chris Slayton each had a sack in the game. Parris Bennett, Daivon Ellison, and Zaire Franklin were each credited with 14 tackles in the game and Franklin logged 2.5 tackles for loss.
Syracuse will travel to MetLife Stadium next Saturday to face Notre Dame in the New York’s College Classic. The Fighting Irish stand 1-3 on the season after being upset at home by Duke, 38-35, for their second straight loss. The action will start at noon Eastern and the game will be televised by one of the following networks: ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2. The game will also be available online at ESPN3.com.