Football coaches often speak of turnovers and special teams play determining who wins games. Saturday afternoon, Syracuse and Rutgers proved this was the case with terrible efforts in both facets during the contest. The Orange (3-2, 0-1 Big East) committed five turnovers and had two kicks blocked, enabling the Scarlet Knights (3-1, 1-0) to escape the Carrier Dome with a 19-16 win in double overtime in spite of their own four turnovers and three missed field goals. SU also failed in the red zone on both sides of the ball, allowing Rutgers to score all four trips while only scoring on two of their five times inside the 20-yard-line.
The Orange got off on the wrong foot as Antwon Bailey fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. The defense responded two plays later, though, when Dyshawn Davis drilled a Rutgers ballcarrier in the backfield, forcing a fumble that Rishard Anderson scooped up and raced 66 yards for a Syracuse touchdown. Ross Krautman added the extra point and SU led 7-0 with just 42 seconds off the clock. Rutgers threatened with field goal attempts on two of their next three possessions, but a 51-yard attempt caromed off the upright and a 47-yard attempt missed. Early in the second quarter, the SU defense got another turnover when Torrey Ball pounced on a loose ball at the Rutgers 26. On the next play, however, Ryan Nassib threw an interception and the Scarlet Knights converted it into a field goal to cut the Orange lead to 7-3 just after the midpoint of the session. Each team punted once after that and the game went to half with the same four-point Syracuse lead.
The SU defense forced a three-and-out to open the third quarter and the offense came to life, driving 93 yards in six plays to score a touchdown. One play after he burst for 36 yards on the ground, Bailey crashed into the end zone from three yards out for the score. Krautman’s extra point attempt was blocked and the Orange held a 13-3 lead. Philip Thomas ended the next Rutgers possession with an interception at the Scarlet Knight 31, but SU couldn’t take advantage when Krautman’s 39-yard field goal attempt sailed wide to the left. On the next possession, Mikhail Marinovich jarred the ball loose while sacking Rutgers’ quarterback and Marquis Spruill recovered the ball at the Scarlet Knight 16. The Orange offense couldn’t cash in the turnover when Nassib was picked off at the one-yard-line. Rutgers’ first possession of the fourth quarter ended in a field goal, making the score 13-6 in favor of SU with just under 11 minutes remaining. Syracuse drove to the Rutgers 26, but Krautman’s 44-yard field goal was blocked and returned for a touchdown. Fortunately for the Orange, the Scarlet Knights were penalized on the return, wiping out the score. Rutgers was undeterred, however, and drove for a touchdown that tied the game at 13 with just over two minutes remaining. The Orange tried to drive for the winning score, but Nassib was picked off again and this time it was returned inside the Orange 35. This enabled Rutgers to attempt a field goal from 44 yards to win in regulation, but it missed, forcing overtime.
The visitors won the coin toss to start overtime and gave Syracuse the ball to start the extra session. Syracuse moved as close as the one, but could not punch it in and settled for a 19-yard field goal to take a 16-13 lead. Rutgers matched the field goal with one of their own from 27 yards, sending the game to a second overtime period tied at 16. The Scarlet Knights had the ball to start the session and took a 19-16 lead on a 47-yard field goal. On SU’s second play on offense, Bailey had the ball knocked away again and Rutgers recovered to seal the win.
Ryan Nassib had his worst game of the season, completing only 15-of-32 passes for 169 yards on the day and had a trio of passes picked off. Antwon Bailey racked up his second straight 100-yard game, this time carrying the ball 23 times for 124 yards and a touchdown, but the two lost fumbles stand out. Alec Lemon and Nick Provo led the receiving corps with four receptions apiece, Lemon gaining 54 yards and Provo amassing 50.
Linebacker Dan Vaughn had a career day, stacking up 15 tackles, including registering 1.5 for loss. The team as a whole had 11 tackles for loss, led by Dyshawn Davis who had 3.5 tackles for loss, including a pair of sacks and a forced fumble, and Jay Bromley and Mikhail Marinovich with two apiece, Marinovich registering both of his as quarterback sacks and also forcing a fumble.
The Orange travel to New Orleans to take on Tulane on Saturday night. The Green Wave (2-3) have lost their last two games, including a 45-6 defeat by Army this past Saturday. The game will get underway at 5:00pm Pacific and television coverage in the Los Angeles area is uncertain at this time.