More thoughts from Syracuse’s 36-34 win over Kansas State in the Pinstripe Bowl:
How SU won: You can’t win if you can’t score. In Syracuse’s last four games, its managed only 46 points. On Thursday, the Orange found its offensive rhythm, scoring 36 points and absolutely demolishing Kansas State’s defense to the tune of 498 yards. The Orange balanced its rushing and passing attack, as QB Ryan Nassib threw for 240 yards and Antwon Bailey and Delone Carter combined for 258 rushing yards on 6.0 yards per carry. Marcus Sales had the best game of his career. After catching only one touchdown all season, Sales came up with three, all on strikes of 36 yard or more.
Key play: Everyone will be talking about this play some time. Kansas State’s Adrian Hilburn caught a 30-yard TD pass with 1:13 left to set up a potential game-tying two-point conversion. But when he ran into the endzone, he saluted the crowd and was controversially called for an excessive celebration penalty. The 15-yard penalty forced the Wildcats to the SU 18 and they couldn’t overcome the distance to the endzone.
Secondary key play: The flea-flicker on SU’s first score of the game really set the tone. Kansas State had all of the momentum as it scored on its first possession and forced Syracuse into a three-and-out on its first possession. Everything was executed perfectly from Carter selling the run to Sales running the perfect route. SU tied the game at 7 with the score and let Kansas State know that it was going to be a close game throughout.
Tertiary key play: Kansas State coach Bill Snyder made a questionable decision to go for a fake field goal. At that point, SU was leading 33-28 with 7:52 left. Snyder asked holder Ryan Doerr to try to get six yards on 4th and five, but Syracuse sniffed out the fake from the snap. Instead of only being down two points, Kansas State left with nothing, and turned the ball back to SU, which promptly added a field goal of its own.
MVP: Carter ran for 202 yards and two touchdowns, earning him the MVP award. He probably just played himself into the NFL draft – but that wouldn’t have been my choice. I would’ve given the award to Sales. He was completely lost in the beginning of the season but became Nassib’s top option with Van Chew and Alec Lemon being limited with injuries. And, boy, did he step up with 172 yards and three TDs.
Secondary MVP: Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas had 89 yards and three touchdowns. He was the Wildcat answer to Carter and was nearly enough to give Kansas State the win. Still, after that initial 51 yard score on the second play from scrimmage, Thomas only had 38 more yards. Give a lot of credit to the SU defense.
Big win for SU: This completes Syracuse’s turnaround. For the last five years, Syracuse was the doormat of the Big East and was never considered a contender for the Big East title. That all changes now. The Orange will be returning several key players from this year’s team, including Bailey, Lemon, Sales, Chew and Nassib. Now, with a Bowl Championship to take home, it’s clear that Syracuse is ready to compete again.
Wesley Cheng is the Editor in Chief for The Juice Online.