Saturday afternoon, the expected result of the game between Syracuse and #17 Florida State turned out to be the actual result as the Seminoles cruised to a 45-21 victory in Tallahassee. In spite of the hosts missing multiple starters on offense, including at quarterback and running back, the ‘Noles offense performed at peak levels, amassing 575 yards in the game.
The Orange (3-5, 1-3 ACC), who dropped their fifth consecutive decision, were nearly helpless on defense throughout the contest. FSU (7-1, 5-1) lit up the SU secondary for 302 yards passing in the first half, including touchdown passes of 75 and 45 yards and another pass of 35 yards. Then, Florida State rolled up 149 yards in the ground after intermission and the scoreboard clock evolved into their primary opponent.
The game actually started out very well for the Orange, who forced a three-and-out on Florida State’s first possession, highlighted by Antwan Cordy blowing up a screen pass and Ron Thompson ending the drive with a sack.
After holding the Seminoles again, SU showed some offensive explosiveness. Eric Dungey slipped a routine screen pass to Dontae Strickland, who caught a couple blocks and streaked down the right sideline for 62 yards before being brought down at the FSU four-yard-line. Two plays later, Dungey was pressured up the middle and scooted to the right, then into the end zone for a touchdown. Cole Murphy connected on the extra point and Syracuse held a 7-0 lead with just over six minutes off the clock.
Things quickly disintegrated for SU, as the Seminoles only needed one play to tie the game. The ‘Noles covered 75 yards through the air, needing a mere 15 seconds to match the Orange touchdown, and was the first of three straight drives that ended in the end zone for the hosts. The last of those three touchdowns put Florida State in front, 21-7, just over two minutes into the second quarter.
While FSU was scoring touchdowns, SU had issues simply moving the sticks, getting only one first down during that time. Florida State’s next possession gave the Orange a little life, as they missed a field goal, but after two first downs, the Syracuse offense stalled out and punted again.
Following a three-and-out, the Orange offense came to life. Brisly Estime gave SU strong field position at the FSU 45 with a good punt return. Syracuse got first downs on each of their first two plays, then gained another first down at the Seminoles’ seven-yard-line. The Orange reached the one on their next play and called time out with 1:01 left in the opening half. Dungey kept the ball on the option on the next play and stretched the ball across the goal line with :56 showing on the clock. Murphy booted the extra point to pull SU within 21-14.
Those 56 seconds proved to be too much time, as FSU needed only 45 seconds to reach the end zone. After a miscommunication between the coaching staff and Ryan Norton on the type of kickoff to be used, Norton ended up with a bad kick that gave Florida State possession at their own 42. Two plays had them just outside the SU 20 and the ‘Noles eventually scored a touchdown for a 28-14 lead just before the half.
After each team punted following their opening possession of the third quarter, the Orange gifted the ball to Florida State when Dungey fumbled and the hosts took over at the SU 23. Three plays later, FSU stretched the lead to 35-14 with another touchdown.
Neither team did much the rest of the third, but the Seminoles scored early in the fourth quarter to go up by a 42-14 margin, then tacked on a field goal after their next possession to grab a 31-point lead.
The lone highlight the remainder of the game for Syracuse was provided by Estime. With under two minutes to play, the junior wide receiver ran up to collect a short punt and returned it 59 yards through the Seminoles’ special teamers for a touchdown, his second punt return of the season. Murphy added the extra point to make it 45-21, but the return was too little, too late for the Orange.
George Morris led the Orange ground game with 55 yards on six carries. In addition to his two rushing touchdowns, Eric Dungey was 11-of-24 through the air for 120 yards. Tight end Josh Parris was the leading receiver for Syracuse with four catches.
For the second straight week, Zaire Franklin topped the Orange in tackles with nine. Ron Thompson had a sack, his team-leading sixth of the season.
The Orange will be on the road next week again, this time visiting Louisville. The Cardinals (4-4, 3-2) have won four of five, including their last two, a pair of close wins over ACC Atlantic Division bottom feeders Boston College and Wake Forest. The Cards won those two games by a combined four points and needed five turnovers to pull out a 20-19 win over Wake on Friday night.
Kickoff is set for 12:30pm Saturday and the game will be televised regionally by the ACC Network. ESPN3.com will also stream the game online.