Syracuse dominated in the trenches throughout the game and made it pay off late with a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns that keyed a 24-10 victory over North Carolina State. The offense of the Orange (3-3, 1-1 ACC) rolled up over 300 yards on the ground for the second straight week, while the defense punished the Wolfpack (3-3, 0-3), holding them to 2.9 yards per rush and logging 13 tackles for loss, including four sacks.
Both defenses dominated the opening period, as each team punted on their first three drives. The Orange started their fourth possession at their own 23 and got two big plays from Terrel Hunt to eat up a lot of turf. The first, a 39-yard completion to Ashton Broyld, jump-started the drive, and the latter, a 17-yard dash, set up Syracuse with a first-and-goal at the Wolfpack one-yard-line. Jerome Smith bulled in on the next play and Ryan Norton tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 Orange lead with just under four minutes elapsed in the second quarter.
The ensuing NC State drive was kept alive by a pair of Orange penalties. The first, a roughing the kicker call, moved the ball into SU territory and the second, a shaky pass interference flag, set up the Wolfpack inside the 20. The SU defense, however, withstood the attack, forcing an incomplete pass on fourth-and-two at the Orange eight-yard-line. Syracuse, however, gifted the ball back on an intercepted deep pass on the next possession.
A couple plays later, Durell Eskridge returned the favor for SU, picking off an errant NC State pass and returning it 32 yards to near midfield. Hunt, however, gave the ball back three plays later. His pass was behind an open Christopher Clark and the ‘Pack got their second pick in under two minutes. NC State converted this turnover into points, needing only five plays to move 36 yards for a touchdown. The extra point knotted the score at seven with 1:15 on the clock. The Orange were content to run out the clock and went into the locker room.
The Wolfpack threatened on the opening drive of the second half, moving as far as the SU 30, but a sack backed them up and forced them to try a 51-yard field goal. The kick sailed well wide, never having a chance, and Syracuse took over on downs. The Orange moved 40 yards and were lined up for a 43-yard field goal try, but a delay of game penalty moved them back five yards. Head coach Scott Shafer opted to kick the ball, only this time as a punt to NC State. The SU defense rose to the challenge, forcing a three-and-out, then Prince-Tyson Gulley gave the Orange a jolt, ripping off a 55-yard gain that set up SU three yards from paydirt. Three runs only earned two yards, so Syracuse settled for a 19-yard Norton field goal and a 10-7 lead with just over four minutes left in the third.
The Wolfpack threatened on their next possession, reaching the Orange 31. On fourth-and-four, State lined up for a field goal, but opted to fake the attempt. The ‘Pack quick-snapped the ball directly to their kicker, but he lofted a pass over the head of his receiver near the sideline. Syracuse took over at their own 31, but their possession ended in the first of three punts combined from the two teams.
Just under five minutes into the fourth quarter, NC State tied the game with a 27-yard field goal. After each squad punted another time, the Orange offense surged to life, needing only three plays to roll up 80 yards and reach the end zone. On the second play of the drive, Smith chewed up 57 yards on the ground. Gulley took a handoff on the next snap and bolted around the right edge, then bowled through a couple would-be tacklers for an 18-yard scoring run with just over six minutes left. Holder Charley Loeb could not cleanly handle the snap on the extra point. He attempted a hurried pass, but it fell well short of the end zone, leaving SU with a 16-10 lead.
The ensuing Wolfpack possession ended abruptly when Jay Bromley hit the NC State quarterback in the backfield, jarring the ball loose. The quarterback recovered, but the play lost 15 yards and forced the ‘Pack to punt. Gulley broke off another huge run for Syracuse, bolting 48 yards to the NC State five-yard-line on the first play for SU. A couple plays later, Hunt stretched the ball across the goal line to complete an eight-yard touchdown run. Scott Shafer opted to fake the extra point and it worked to perfection. Loeb took the snap and bolted toward the left side of the line, then delivered a perfect pitch to Norton, who cruised into the end zone untouched for the two-point conversion and a 24-10 Syracuse lead with 2:35 remaining.
The Wolfpack frantically tried to come back, but four incompletions from the Orange 18 gave the ball back to Syracuse with seven seconds on the clock. Hunt took a knee and the Orange claimed their first victory in ACC play.
Jerome Smith topped his 125-yard effort from last week, finishing with 140 yards and a score on 19 carries. Prince-Tyson Gulley joined Smith in the century club, rolling up 132 yards on only nine attempts. Quarterback Terrel Hunt added 92 yards on 11 carries. Hunt’s effort in the passing game, however, left a lot to be desired once again, as he completed 10-of-20 passes for 74 yards and an interception. 39 of those yards came on one pass, a connection with Ashton Broyld.
The SU defense was overflowing with standout performances. Cameron Lynch set a personal record with 14 tackles, including a pair for loss, and Durell Eskridge also set a career high with 13 stops and added an interception. Marquis Spruill also finished in double figures with ten tackles, including a team-high 2.5 for loss and a sack. John Raymon, Ron Thompson, and Robert Welsh each chipped in with a sack and Welsh batted down a pair of passes, as well. Jay Bromley also forced a fumble for SU.
Syracuse has their second straight road game on tap next Saturday when they travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets (3-3, 2-2) are mired in a three-game slide, including a 38-20 loss at Brigham Young on Saturday night. Kick-off is set for 12:30pm Eastern and the game will be available online at ESPN3.com, as well as on television through the ACC Network.