With loss to Notre Dame, Syracuse completes its football nightmare

Dec. 5, 2020; Syracuse defensive back Garrett Williams speaks to reporters via Zoom following the Orange's 45-21 loss to Notre Dame.

Football coaches constantly harp on limiting penalties and turnovers. On Saturday, Syracuse showed why.

The Orange held the lead in the second quarter, then buried themselves in a flurry of mistakes that allowed #2 Notre Dame to score three touchdowns in the final four minutes of the first half. Those scores gave the Fighting Irish (10-0, 9-0 ACC) a comfortable 24-7 halftime lead en route to a 45-21 victory over SU (1-10, 1-9).

The first mistake by Syracuse in that brief fateful span was a roughing the passer flag that extended an Irish drive. Three plays later, Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book scrambled for a 28-yard touchdown with 3:18 left in the first half. The extra point gave them a 10-7 lead.

The Orange started their next drive with a pair of pre-snap penalties, then turned it over on a Rex Culpepper fumble. The Irish got a touchdown pass on the next play, gaining full control of the contest behind their 17-7 lead with 1:30 left on the clock.

SU registered a three-and-out in under a minute, then added a fair catch interference penalty on their punt, gifting Notre Dame 15 yards. The Fighting Irish used the free yards to their advantage, scoring another touchdown in just 32 seconds to blow the game open.

Syracuse received the kickoff to start the third quarter, but Aaron Hackett fumbled after a reception and the Irish recovered. Fortunately, The Orange was able to avoid giving up any more points when the Irish botched their first snap and Marlowe Wax recovered the loose ball at the Orange 43.

SU used the fumble to show they could take advantage of turnovers also, converting a fourth down, then getting a touchdown when Sean Tucker took a handoff off right tackle, made a cut outside, and exploded down the sideline for a 40-yard run. Andre Szmyt added the extra point, cutting the hosts’ lead to 24-14 with 11:20 left in the third quarter.

The Syracuse defense tried to keep things going when Ja’Had Carter intercepted an errant deep pass, but Culpepper fumbled the ball back to the Irish on the first play from scrimmage. Notre Dame converted on that gaffe, driving for another touchdown that extended their lead to 31-14 shortly after the midpoint of the third. Culpepper committed his third turnover of the game on the next possession, but the interception did not hurt the Orange on the scoreboard, as Notre Dame missed a 50-yard field goal try.

Despite that missed kick, the Fighting Irish were not done on offense. They started their next possession by receiving another roughing the passer penalty and finished it three plays later with another touchdown pass. The extra point made it 38-14 with 1:07 on the clock, which held until Notre Dame added a 94-yard touchdown run and conversion to make it 45-14 after the midpoint of the fourth quarter.

Cooper Lutz did provide one last highlight for the Orange, taking a handoff, making a cut, and taking off up the right sideline on an 80-yard touchdown run. Szmyt added the extra point to cut the gap to 45-24 with 5:33 remaining.

All of the mistakes clouded a strong effort from the Orange in the first 25 minutes of the game. Notre Dame had a workmanlike drive to open the game, but the SU defense stiffened when near their goal line, forcing the Irish to settle for a 25-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

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Neither team scored until Syracuse got on the board in the second quarter. The Orange strung together a ten-play, 62-yard drive, capped when Culpepper hit Anthony Queeley on the left side. Queeley shook the initial defender, then sprinted down the sideline for an 18-yard touchdown. Szmyt’s extra point gave SU a 7-3 lead just over five minutes into the second quarter.

Rex Culpepper finished the game 18-of-29 through the air for 185 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Sean Tucker and Cooper Lutz each passed the century mark on the ground, as Tucker had 24 carries for 113 yards and Lutz six for 102, each adding a score. Taj Harris led the Orange receivers with eight grabs for 69 yards.

Geoff Cantin-Arku logged a pair of sacks in the game and Ja’Had Carter had an interception to go with Marlowe Wax’s fumble recovery. Lee Kpogba and Garrett Williams led the SU defense with eight tackles apiece with Williams also breaking up three passes in the game.

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About Jim Stechschulte 894 Articles
A 1996 graduate of Syracuse University, Jim has reported on Syracuse sports for the Syracuse University Alumni Club of Southern California on nearly a decade. He has also written a fantasy basketball column published by NBA.com. He currently resides in Syracuse.