Syracuse football’s bowl hopes fade into distance with loss to NC State

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Reserve quarterback Zack Mahoney struggled to help SU score points

Without starting quarterback Eric Dungey, the Syracuse offense had trouble moving the ball consistently, leading to the Orange eventually falling to North Carolina State at home, 35-20. The Orange (4-6, 2-4 ACC) got impact plays from both their defensive and special teams units, but only mustered 218 total yards on offense, holding the ball for less than 19 minutes. The Wolfpack (5-5, 2-4) were able to convert their domination of the clock into 544 yards of offense, essentially playing keep away as much as they did football.

NC State drove into Syracuse territory on their first possession, but the Orange blunted that march when Kendall Coleman notched a quarterback sack on fourth down. SU took advantage of that big play on their ensuing drive, converting a fourth down of their own on the edge of field goal range and eventually getting into the end zone when Dontae Strickland took a direct snap and ran into the end zone from ten yards out. Cole Murphy’s extra point gave Syracuse a 7-0 lead with just over seven minutes left in the opening quarter.

The Wolfpack matched the score when a drive late in the first quarter was converted into a touchdown on the first play of the second. The Orange struck back, getting a 46-yard pass from Zack Mahoney to Alvin Cornelius to set up a 48-yard field goal for Murphy. The kick was good and SU again had the lead, this time at 10-7 less than three minutes into the second.

» Related: The amazing one season story of Syracuse football’s Amba Etta-Tawo

NC State added another touchdown to their side of the ledger a few minutes later to take their first lead of the day at 14-10. When the ‘Pack threatened to score again late in the second quarter, Rodney Williams intercepted a pass in the end zone for Syracuse to retake possession. That possession turned into a three-and-out and the Orange were forced to give the ball back with four seconds remaining. With time for just a single play, the Wolfpack opted for a deep pass, but Keilan Whitner picked off the jump ball for SU, sending them to the locker room still down four points.

After Syracuse started the third quarter with a punt, NC State scored two plays later on a long pass to make it 21-10. The Orange responded on their second play from scrimmage when Mahoney dropped a perfect deep ball to Amba Etta-Tawo for an 81-yard touchdown pass. Murphy added the extra point to draw SU within 21-17 less then two-and-a-half minutes into the third quarter.

Sean Riley got the ball back quickly for Syracuse, blocking a punt on the Wolfpack’s next drive, and Ted Taylor recovered the ball at the State 17. The Orange offense could not take advantage of the great field position, but Murphy booted a 39-yard field goal to slice the NC State lead down to 21-20 with more than ten minutes left in the third.

The Wolfpack added a touchdown in the waning seconds of the third to extend their lead to eight points, then tacked on another with just under five minutes left on the clock. The second touchdown gave them a 35-20 lead.

SU got the ball back, but could only muster a single first down before ceding possession to the visitors, who ran out the remaining time on the clock.

Zack Mahoney finished the day with a modest stat line, completing 13-for-24 passes for 190 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Amba Etta-Tawo led the team with 84 yards and a score on his three receptions.

Parris Bennett and Zaire Franklin each had 11 tackles in the game, while Daivon Ellison and Rodney Williams each had ten stops. Williams and Keilan Whitner each had an interception, while Kendall Coleman and Chris Slayton each posted a sack in the game.

The Orange close the home portion of the schedule on Saturday when they welcome Florida State. The Seminoles (7-3, 4-3) have won their last two contests, including a 45-7 romp over Boston College on Friday night. Game time and television coverage will be announced on Sunday.

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Jim Stechschulte

About Jim Stechschulte

A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade, where he currently resides. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSafetyGuy.
Zack Mahoney fills in, but Syracuse can't overcome NC State
Instant Juice: Syracuse 20, North Carolina State 35

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