Syracuse got their first win over a ranked opponent in four years on Saturday, never trailing en route to a 31-17 home victory over #17 Virginia Tech. The Orange (3-4, 1-2 ACC) scored less than two minutes into the game to take an early lead, then posted a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to break a tie and grab the win.
The Hokies (4-2, 2-1) came into the game second in the nation in passing yards allowed per game and third in total yards allowed per game, but SU was unimpressed, rolling up 405 passing yards and 561 overall. The Syracuse defense, which had been maligned in recent weeks, held VT to 4-of-13 on third downs and forced a pair of turnovers in the game, one to prevent a Hokie touchdown and the other to seal the victory.
As they often have this season, the Orange offense got off to a quick start, this time needing less than two minutes to get on the scoreboard. Eric Dungey floated a pass to Erv Philips behind Virginia Tech’s coverage. Philips caught the ball and won a footrace to the end zone for a 58-yard touchdown. Cole Murphy added the extra point for a 7-0 lead and the Carrier Dome began rocking.
Two possessions later, the Hokies got a field goal to chip into the SU lead. On the first play of the second quarter, Syracuse stretched out that lead. Dungey pitched to running back Dontae Strickland, who threw deep to Brisly Estime. The halfback pass worked perfectly as Estime pulled in the ball near the midfield stripe and bolted for an 84-yard touchdown. Murphy added the extra point for a 14-3 Syracuse lead.
The Orange defense got into the act on the ensuing VT possession, snuffing out a fourth-and-one at the SU 38 when Zaire Franklin knifed into the backfield and dropped the Tech quarterback. SU marched down to the VT one-yard-line, but the guests responded with their own fourth down stop.
On their next possession, the Syracuse offense moved into scoring territory once more, but Murphy’s 53-yard field goal attempt was deflected and fell short with just over four minutes remaining in the first half.
After the Hokies missed a field goal of their own, SU took over at their own 27 with under two minutes left. The Orange cashed in the possession, getting a 51-yard field goal from Murphy with four seconds remaining for a 17-3 halftime lead.
Tech opened the second half with a touchdown drive, but Josh Black blocked the extra point, keeping SU in front by eight points at 17-9. The Orange responded by driving into field goal range once more, but Dungey was picked off in the end zone.
Syracuse responded by ending the next Virginia Tech drive with their own interception in the end zone. Rodney Williams dove in front of a VT pass and secured it for a touchback. The Orange almost turned it into points, getting Murphy another field goal try, but his 51-yard attempt was wide to the left.
Just over a minute into the fourth quarter, the Hokies tied the game with a touchdown and two-point conversion.
That mattered not to the Orange, who methodically drove 75 yards in 17 plays for a touchdown. Dungey finished the march by sneaking in from a yard out and Murphy tacked on the extra point for a 24-17 SU lead with under eight minutes on the clock.
The Syracuse defense forced a three-and-out and Estime returned the ensuing punt 20 yards to the VT 37. On the fourth play of the drive, Strickland hammered through the Hokies from 16 yards out for a touchdown. Murphy added on the extra point and SU held a 31-17 lead with 5:23 to play.
A handful of plays later, Chris Slayton jarred the ball free from Tech quarterback Jerod Evans and De’Jon Wilson emerged from the pile with the ball for the Orange with 4:08 to play. SU, who had trouble moving the ball on the ground all night, ran the ball on their next seven plays, earning three first downs and running out the clock to seal the victory.
Eric Dungey connected on 28-of-53 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown while adding 106 yards on 24 rushing attempts with another touchdown. Dontae Strickland added 69 yards on 16 carries and a rushing touchdown to go with his 84-yard touchdown pass. Erv Philips had 11 catches for 139 yards and a score while Brisly Estime had eight receptions for 131 yards a touchdown.
Daivon Ellison had 11 tackles while Zaire Franklin ten stops or the second straight outing. De’Jon Wilson had a fumble recovery and a quarterback sack while Rodney Williams had an interception and Chris Slayton forced a fumble.
SU will travel to Boston College next Saturday in search of their first win streak of the year. The Eagles (3-3, 0-3) had their bye this week. Kickoff is set for 12:30pm Eastern with the game to be televised regionally by the ACC Network, as well as available online at ESPN3.com.