Opportunity, as they say, is fleeting, and for the Syracuse football team, one more chance just went out the window. Saturday afternoon, the Orange (5-6, 1-5 Big East) dropped their fourth straight conference game with bowl eligibility on the line, this time getting dropped by Cincinnati at the Carrier Dome, 30-13. SU’s chances for their sixth win were eradicated by 20 unanswered points by the Bearcats (8-3, 4-2) that bridged the second and third quarters.
The game started on the right foot for the Orange, who moved 53 yards in nine plays before settling for a 40-yard field goal by Ross Krautman and a 3-0 lead. Cincinnati responded with their own drive that ended in a field goal attempt, but their try sailed outside the goalposts. The two squads combined for three punts before the next score, which was a Bearcat field goal that tied the game at three apiece. Syracuse answered in kind, capping a 10-play, 64-yard drive with a 32-yard field goal from Krautman to take a 6-3 lead with just over five minutes left in the second quarter. Cincinnati responded with a touchdown drive and held a 10-6 halftime lead.
The Bearcats quickly expanded their lead after the break, scoring a touchdown one play after a 74-yard kickoff return to take a 17-6 lead. After SU punted on their next two possessions without gaining a first down, Cincinnati tacked on a field goal for a 20-6 lead before the midpoint of the third quarter. Once again, the Orange could not muster a first down and, once again, the Bearcats added a field goal to extend their lead, this time to 23-6. On their next possession, the Syracuse offense found its footing and broke into the end zone. Nick Provo capped a ten-play, 76-yard drive by catching a short pass from Ryan Nassib and turning it into a 13-yard touchdown. Krautman’s conversion sliced the Bearcat lead to 23-13 with 43 seconds on the clock. The Orange defense forced a quick Cincinnati punt, but their offensive counterparts could not capitalize, ending the ensuing drive when a fourth down pass fell well short of the yard marker. Two plays later, a short Bearcat pass turned into a 69-yard roundhouse punch of a touchdown. Cincinnati led 30-13 with just over nine minutes left in regulation. SU’s next drive crossed the visitors’ five-yard-line, but Nassib’s fourth down pass was swatted away in the end zone, blunting Syracuse’s hopes. The Orange had the ball one more time, but that possession ended when a pass was tipped and intercepted.
Antwon Bailey had his best game of the season in his home finale, racking up a personal-best 135 yards on 27 carries and adding five catches for 42 more yards. The rushing yards put Bailey at 998 for the season as well as over 2,000 for his career and past Jim Brown into 17th place all-time on the school’s list. Ryan Nassib had a terrible stretch in the middle of the game, which limited him to a 19-for-38 game for 203 yards and an interception. Van Chew led the receivers with six catches for a total of 77 yards, while Alec Lemon snared three passes, giving him 60 receptions on the season, which ties the SU record held by Kevin Johnson and Mike Williams. Chandler Jones led the SU defense with eight stops, including one of the team’s eight tackles for loss.