A quick take on Syracuse’s 24-17 loss to NC State at the Carrier Dome on Saturday afternoon:
WHAT HAPPENED: Syracuse appeared to be in control, up 14-9 late in the third quarter, with the Orange driving deep in Wolfpack territory. But freshman QB AJ Long threw a back-breaking interception to Pharoah McKever, who returned it 82 yards for the go-ahead score. A two-point conversion put North Carolina State up 17-14 and deflated a once raucous Orange crowd. With a shot to tie or take the lead, Long then fumbled with 3:54 left trying to scramble from pressure, and Jacoby Brissett hit Shadrach Thornton for an 18-yard touchdown shortly after. Syracuse had one final opportunity to tie with 13 seconds left after the Orange had kicked a 50-yard field goal and recovered an on-side kick, but Long was intercepted for the second time with one second left. The win gave coach Dave Douren picked up his first conference win in his second year at NC State.
ANALYSIS: Long’s growing pains continue. On the plus side, Long finally got the SU offense going in the second quarter, throwing a strike to Ben Lewis, who sprawled for a 15-yard touchdown to close the first half. He also threw a nice 25-yard fade to fellow freshman Steve Ismael, who gave the Orange a brief 14-9 lead. But Long also accounted for two momentum killing plays, including just the third lost fumble on the season. It now appears to be a lost season for the Orange, who desperately needed a win to stay in line for the postseason. Barring a miracle (running the table against Boston College, Pitt and Duke), the Orange will miss the postseason for the first time since 2011.
HERO: Syracuse’s defense kept the Orange in the game again. SU’s defense only allowed a late Wolfpack touchdown off the Long fumble, and was otherwise flawless, allowing three field goals when NC State was consistently given favorable field position. On offense, Jarrod West (who was often mentioned as the cousin of Long) led the Orange in receiving with seven receptions for 161 yards.
ZERO: Syracuse’s depleted offensive line was predictably leaky against the Wolfpack. The Orange couldn’t get its running game going (38 yards) and Long was under duress for much of the afternoon (eight sacks).
WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse stays home host Duke in its regular season home finale on Saturday, Nov. 8 at 12:30 p.m. TV: ESPN3.