Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib and his receivers engineered a dramatic final drive in Syracuse’s 37-36 win over USF on Saturday night.
Down 36-31 with 1:23 left, the Orange started on its own 25 with no timeouts. SU got two large gains when Nassib found Jarrod West and Marcus Sales for 19 and 20 yard gains to get the ball to the USF 36 yard line.
Facing a third and 10, Nassib fired again to Sales on the same out route, and his favorite receiver managed to haul in the ball at the USF 20 yard line despite being shoved out of bounds by safety Mark Joyce moments later.
On the ensuing play, Nassib found Alec Lemon for a 10 yard strike to the six yard line.
“We went through stuff that we’ve practiced,” Nassib said to reporters following the game. “There was a big emphasis on getting the ball out of bounds and some guys made some big catches.”
That’s when things got even more interesting.
The Orange was whistled on a five yard illegal formation penalty, and then Lemon was flagged on the next play for a false start. That set Syracuse back to the 20 yard line.
But Nassib found Sales over the middle at the 1 yard line with six seconds left. The quarterback hurried his team to the line of scrimmage, and appeared to score on a sneak.
“I thought we were in,” Nassib said. “I kind of called my own number and I thought I was in.”
But he wasn’t.
USF coach Skip Holtz had called a timeout to prevent an offside on his defense and the play was reset to the 1 yard line.
SU, which has struggled running on goal line situations, opted to go to the air for the game winner, and Nassib found Lemon on a quick out for the go ahead score.
“Your good players have to play well for you to win,” Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. “And that’s what happened.”
It capped an incredible drive, and an even more improbable comeback. The Orange trailed 23-3 at halftime, and 33-24 with 10:43 left. The win gives the Orange just its second win over the Bulls since USF joined the Big East, and its third conference win on the season.
“We made some plays and worked together tonight,” Marrone said. “I thought Ryan Nassib was outstanding down the stretch. I thought he really had a good game.”